Collaborative teacher learning : settings, foci and powerful moments

J.J. Doppenberg

    Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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    Conclusion and discussion Some general conclusions could be drawn from the three studies of the research project. First, it is noticeable that the findings across the three studies mostly underline the complexity of collaborative teacher learning processes. It was found that these learning processes varied between teachers during a similar moment in collaboration, between different types of interactions (moments) within a collaborative context, between collaborative contexts (e.g. collaborative settings and foci of collaboration), as well as between schools. Nevertheless, our findings showed some interesting relationships, which may help to understand collaborative teacher learning better. Across the three studies, the findings underline the effect of context on collaborative teacher learning. The dimensions of teachers’ everyday contexts of collaboration - foci of collaboration and collaborative setting - both influence the learning activities undertaken by teachers in collaboration with colleagues and, to some degree, their perceived learning outcomes as a result of this collaboration. More specifically, it could be concluded that the frequency of occurrence of collaborative learning activities is strongly related with the foci of collaboration, which have both a unique as well as joint effect on learning outcomes, and together they explain to a large extent between-school differences in learning outcomes. Furthermore, it could be concluded that joint work activities were especially powerful, as this type of activity had a positive effect on all types of learning outcomes. In addition, exchange activities were also found relevant, especially for shared learning outcomes. During exchange activities teachers can develop close interpersonal relationships, involving characteristics such as trust, and by doing so they create and facilitate opportunities for more high-quality collaborations and learning processes which seem rather important for shared learning. It is possible that exchange activities may be preliminary to and exist alongside joint work activities in relation to shared learning outcomes. Based on the third, in-depth study it could be concluded that within teachers’ perceived powerful moments for learning in a specific context of collaboration, different types of interactions can be observed that appear related with different individual and shared learning processes. Interactions between teachers and their learning processes during these interactions show both observable as well as non-observable learning. Moreover, in the context of an innovation, teachers’ collaborative learning processes are characterised by sense-making processes, whereby teachers are searching for confirmation of self, as well as by the exchange of successful experiences. Finally, when differences between teachers with regard to the topic interacted on become too large, this constrains the collaboration between teachers and diminishes the chance for shared learning outcomes. Obviously, the research of this dissertation had some limitations. A common limitation was that all three studies had an exploratory character. A strong point of the methodology in the first and second study was that it was possible to compare different collaborative contexts between schools with reference to collaborative teacher learning by focussing on one dimension of collaborative contexts at a time; collaborative setting or foci of collaboration. Nevertheless, limitations of both studies were that data were collected by either interviews or questionnaires and thus focussed on self-perceptions. An important advantage of the third study was its mixed-method and repeated measurement approach. The detailed and descriptive approach of the learning processes in this study helped us to show their complexity and variety, but on the other hand limited us in making claims with respect to more general patterns in collaborative teacher learning within the case, as well as to generalise our findings across cases and contexts. The dissertation finally brings some implications for research and practice. The findings showed considerable variability in collaborative teacher learning processes between contexts of collaboration with regard to the two dimensions of collaborative setting and focus of collaboration. As most researchers have investigated (collaborative) teacher learning within one particular context of collaboration, we suggest that it would be worthwhile that they more explicitly and comprehensively take into account the context of collaboration, as well as realise themselves that this particular context provides a partial picture of teachers’ learning. A major implication for practice we suggest is that to stimulate teacher learning, teachers have to be facilitated and encouraged to collaborate with colleagues in a broad sense, e.g. across a range of settings within the everyday school context, as well as with different foci (aims) of collaboration in mind. During collaboration teachers may improve their relationships, and by doing so, they can create opportunities for high-quality collaborations, such as a critical and reflective dialogue. These high-quality collaborations may be further stimulated by protocol-guides as these help teachers to talk more openly about their differences. In addition, facilitating the collaboration of teachers in formally organised settings seems to enhance the quality and variety of learning processes of individual as well as groups of teachers. Finally, collaboration that focusses on the implementation of a new teaching approach can act as a particularly powerful context, as was shown in the results of several studies in this dissertation.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Eindhoven School of Education
    • den Brok, Perry, Promotor
    • Bakx, Anouke, Copromotor
    Award date24 Oct 2012
    Place of PublicationEindhoven
    Print ISBNs978-90-386-3259-9
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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