Background: This paper discusses teachers’ perspectives on learning networks and their motives for participating in these networks. Although it is widely held that teachers’ learning may be developed through learning networks, not all teachers participate in such networks. Purpose: The theme of reciprocity, central to studies in the area of learning in networks, is often approached from a rational exchange perspective. This study attempts to extend this approach with reference to the concept of symbolic interactionism. The study was guided by the following research question: What is the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of learning networks and their motives for participation or non-participation in these networks? Design and methods: In order to address this research question, semi-structured interviews among 25 teachers in secondary education in the Netherlands were carried out. The semi-structured interviews consisted of three parts: background information, perspectives on learning networks and personal experiences with those networks. Data were analysed qualitatively and analyses consisted of within-case analysis, and cross-case analysis of interview fragments. Three themes were considered: (1) perspectives on learning networks, (2) motives for participation perceived as rational exchange, (3) motives for participation perceived as related to social order. Findings: The findings are presented around these three themes. Each theme is discussed in relation to relevant aspects from the literature. Findings indicated that teachers perceived learning networks to be organised both within-school and outside school, and mostly focused around specific content knowledge. Reasons for participation or non-participation were related to rational costs and rewards (such as time, technology, self-efficacy); in symbolic motives (such as joy, sharing and mutual understanding), and also in a sense of meaning that resulted from networking activities. Conclusions: We conclude that, in addition to social exchange motives, the data suggest that symbolic aspects of communication and interaction play an important role in considerations for participation in learning networks. This may be described in terms of four ‘types’ of networking teachers: the Community focused networking teacher, the Locally focused networking teacher, the Not-yet-networking teacher, and the Non-networking teacher. It is hoped that these exploratory findings could be helpful in supporting the development of learning networks for all teachers.
- Rational exchange theory
- qualitative analyses
- symbolic interactionism
- teacher networks
- teacher professional learning