Entangling Our Thinking and Practice: A Model for Collaboration in Teacher Education

August 2020

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 45(8)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The question addressed in this paper is:
How can we enact and understand our teaching and teacher education practice as a collaborative self-study group?
The authors share their collaboration model that reflects their refined research practice, along with evidence from their metareflective strategy and data from collaborative activities, to exemplify and justify each of the components of the model.
They discuss some of the successes and failures they experienced in doing this kind of research.

Self-study Methodology
Self-study methodology was used to develop insights into the authors’ teaching scholarship and to enact reflection through practice (Russell, 2010).
They used self-study of teaching and teacher education practice methodologies because they engaged each of them in personal inquiry (Samaras, 2011), yet scaffolded them to operate in collaboration with one or more of their colleagues.
The methodology implied the study of one’s self, one’s actions, one’s ideas, as well as the ‘not self’ (Hamilton & Pinnegar, 1998, p. 265) allowing for growth, development, and changes in the authors’ practice.
Working in collaboration to unpack their ideas afforded a sense of authenticity and intentionality to their research and scholarship.
Central to this self-study research is collaboration and the establishment of critical friendships (Loughran, 2007).

Data Collection
While this study was exploratory, it built theory from themes and patterns that emerge through careful exploration of the development of collaboration within the group.
Data was drawn from:
1. Recordings of the authors’ monthly video-conference meetings;
2. Discussion threads and documents lodged on their learning management site;
3. Interviews with all members of the group; and
4. Reflections on the interview transcripts by:
a. individual annotation; and
b. group discussions.

The overarching collaborative research project aimed to examine transformative development within the CREPE Faculty Research Group, asking:

• What were the values brought to the participation in the The Collaborative Reflective Experience and Practice in Education (CREPE) Faculty Research Group and how did these develop during and through their collaboration?

• How did the social and communicative structures of the group mediate the co-construction of their research narratives?

• How did the interaction between the collaboration and personal reflection mediate the development of identity?
The overarching research project included three phases of interviews.
Data was drawn from semi-structured half to one-hour interviews with each group member; individual annotation to the transcripts as part of the checking process; and subsequent audio-recorded group discussions.
The initial interviews provided a baseline for documenting the development of values and identities of members of the group.
By focusing on reflection, the second round of interviews sought to identify practices that had been enacted over the preceding year which had both arisen from and contributed to reflection. The third round of interviews were conducted focusing on the outcomes of the CREPE collaboration, values and contradictions.

Discussion and Conclusion
The authors set out with a desire to work collectively to support innovation and improve their students’ learning and thus explored how their values and beliefs informed their professional practice and how they could disrupt their present practices and ideologies.
As they developed and enacted their model of collaboration and sought to enact scholarship, enhance their teaching, and produce research outputs, a number of issues emerged:
• maintaining devolved and flexible leadership;
• remaining open and flexible to the group’s evolving strengths and interests; and
• dissemination and networking beyond the group to enrich their collaboration and research.

Leadership, initially, was not tightly scripted.
The idea was to organically nurture a devolved platform of co-research/co-researchers.
However, it became easier if one person managed the coordination and organisation; if only for the Research Assistant to receive consistent instruction and to report to one person.
In their research enactments, leadership has remained devolved.
At different times, different group members have stepped up to take responsibility for presenting seminars; taking on lead author of a writing project; acting as mentor/critical friend to the CREPE group; or organising the arts-based inquiries.
The model, operating at multiple levels, empowered and connected academics new to the university and those isolated in distant campuses.
Additionally, working in collaboration allowed for natural synergies and connections between their inquiries to be explored.
The success of the focused research projects (applying critical friend method) was an example of how collaboration at differing levels was beneficial across the model and to the group as a whole.
The model was organic as it grew and developed to suit the actions and developments of the group, drawing its power from the participants in a living theory (Whitehead, 1995).
Although this model of collaboration was contingent in its history and social context, it has implications for the practice of collaboration across teacher education more generally.
The overarching collaborative research project worked to create safe spaces and critical friend relationships through which the authors immersed themselves into the focused research projects, as well as providing a meta-analysis and deeper reflexivity that gave voice to their practices as teacher educators.
It generated new knowledge about the nature and process of collaboration and the development of epistemic agency both collectively and individually (Damşa, Kirschner, Andriessen, Erkens & Sins, 2010; Raphael, Hannigan, & White, 2016).
The mix of social and professional engagement both lightened and enlightened the experience and generated stronger relationships.
This playfulness gave freedom to experiment with arts-based inquiries during their monthly meetings and research and writing retreats.
In turbulent times, these arts-based inquiries became not only something that all coresearchers looked forward to and enjoyed, but also generated data to reveal their individual voices, at times in contrast and often in harmony, but always provoking thought and conversation.
Together with data generated in their individual and overarching projects, new understandings of their praxis were revealed in response to the challenges they faced as teacher educators.
At the heart of their community of practice is the crossing of discipline boundaries and ‘speaking back’ to their practice, they opened the door to their classrooms and invited their colleagues in and this created a third space (Gutiérrez, Baquedano‐López & Tejeda, 1999), one in which they discovered new possibilities and potential, always with a commitment to advancing their teaching practice and improving their students’ learning.

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Gutiérrez, K. D., Baquedano‐López, P., & Tejeda, C. (1999). Rethinking diversity: Hybridity and hybrid language practices in the third space. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 6(4), 286-303.
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Raphael, J., Hannigan, S., & White, P. (2016). Drawing out understandings of collaborative self-study in teacher education. In D. Garbett, & A. Ovens. (Eds.). Enacting self-study as methodology for professional inquiry. 109-118.
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Updated: Apr. 07, 2021