Teacher Education in Schools as Learning Communities: Transforming High-Poverty Schools through Dialogic Learning

May 2017

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 42, Issue 4, 2017
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to analyse how teachers' specific professional development is built in four cases in South American countries. Furthermore, the study examines the main features of this training.

The authors used communicative methodology of research. 

The authors examined the professional development programme ‘Raising Awareness’, which conducted in primary and secondary schools from February 2014 to October 2014. These schools were located in disadvantaged areas in Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Brazil, and between 25 and 50 teachers participated in the sessions. Two researchers conducted communicative observations during the five-day training and registered interactions (questions, comments, and reflections) initiated by the participating teachers. At the end of the training, four communicative focus groups were conducted with teachers who were willing to join the discussion and provide their feedback on the training.

Two main categories were defined: (1) dialogic learning and (2) evidence-based findings.
Data from the observations and focus groups are coded under this category.

The authors note that the importance of this exploratory study lies in identifying key components that may enable the transfer of the project to other schools and contexts. 

This professional development provides teachers, families and their communities with research-based knowledge and tools to improve students’ learning, social and emotional development.

The findings show that the ‘Raising Awareness’ professional development led the teachers to take a critical stance. They critically engaged in a training characterized by using a dialogic approach to learn and discuss the theoretical basis of dialogic learning. The teachers also used evidence-based findings to make decisions regarding their pedagogical practices in collaboration with the community. These features have been found to be transversal across different schools and countries participating in the training. As a consequence, this is not a top-down approach, but it creates a dialogic stance that contributes to the transferability of the Learning Communities.

The authors argue that evidence-based findings lead to teachers’ reflection on their own practice and eventually to changing some of their previous assumptions on education. With this perspective, teachers must analyse and reflect on their daily practice to improve the realities where they intervene and for this purpose the relevant knowledge available must be considered.
However, building on the principle of egalitarian dialogue during the training, researchers’ views or knowledge was not imposed on teachers nor were teachers’ views or knowledge imposed on families or students based on their status. Instead, dialogues and decisions relied on contrasting the available scientific knowledge with the existent knowledge in each context provided by the teachers and the community. In addition, it opened the opportunity for the teachers to develop more egalitarian relationships.

The authors note that transnational and collaborative research is currently tackling the global challenge of providing a better quality education for high-poverty schools and their communities. Hence, gathering more evidence of how teacher training may change teachers’ assumptions and attitudes, and how their resistances can be overcome justifies these efforts. 

Updated: Feb. 13, 2018