Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 42, No. 1, 100–122, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The present paper reports on a two-year study of a self-study research group facilitation.
The context for this study was a two-year collaborative project of Flemish teacher training programs.
Participants included six experienced teacher educators.
The research group was designed as a professional development project in which teacher educators investigated their practices using a self-study approach.
Research data included: audiotapes of the research group meetings, journal-writing of the facilitators, written reports on the meetings between the facilitators and document analysis.
The pedagogical rationale of the facilitation consisted of four pedagogical principles that served as the theoretical background for the actual facilitating actions and interventions. This was highlighted by formulating these principles as a series of propositions (‘if … then …’) providing clear guidelines for the authors' interventions.
The interpretative analysis served as an analytical refinement of these propositions, resulting in a number of amendments to the original phrasing in terms of conditions for successful facilitation of professional development on the one hand and possible pitfalls or unintended and counterproductive side-effects on the other.
First, facilitators need to bear in mind that teacher educators’ primary concern and commitment lies with their practice, its smooth evolvement and improvement. Combining this commitment with the agenda of reflective practice and scholarship is not self-evident. The tension between both agendas cannot be easily resolved.
The conclusion is that facilitators need to be aware of this inevitable tension in order to properly ‘read’ potential resistances and find ways to insert it into reflective conversations in order to negotiate a realistic balance between both agendas.
Second, although teacher educators’ professional development is always motivated by their personal aspirations, goals and beliefs, they inevitably also involve their teacher training institute. Teacher educators have a clear sense of what is important for them as valuable working conditions, but also of possibly conflicting normative ideas about good teacher education.
Third, close collegial ties might hinder authentic and open discussions in which the participants can constructively engage in the exchange of different viewpoints. As a facilitator, it is important to create the preconditions for trust, but also organize for productive discomfort.
Finally, a clear division of labor might nevertheless develop. The teacher educators felt primarily responsible for and prioritized their teaching, while the facilitators focused on the research and the professional development initially aimed for. Neither party felt completely comfortable on the others’ terrain. This limited teacher educators’ sense of ownership and responsibility toward the process.
The authors conclude that these findings demonstrate that by documenting and understanding these complexities, as well as phrasing the theoretical principles in a more balanced and refined way, they can still build an evidence-based knowledge-base to guide facilitators’ actions. Contextualized analyses of cases such as these provide exemplary illustrations of what the enactment of general principles from the literature in particular instances of practice might look like and what factors influence that enactment and the possible outcomes.