Learning, identity and agency: Secondary mathematics professional developers' lived experiences of participation and collaborative inquiry in professional learning communities
This study of professional development for professional developers used a narrative inquiry design to understand the lived experience of two professional developers as they participated in professional learning communities (inquiry groups), and learned to improve their practice as inquiry group facilitators. The study's purposes included: investigating professional developers' experience and practice in inquiry groups; amplifying professional developers' voices in the professional development field; and suggesting recommendations for educational leadership.
A literature review developed a framework grounded in social, situated learning theory. It revealed that professional development needed to provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate in inquiry groups to solve problems arising in practice (e.g., Ball & Cohen, 1999; Thompson & Zeuli, 1999), especially as these problems related to teaching mathematics to marginalized students (e.g., Boaler, 2002b; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1999). Instead, most professional learning involved workshops that attempted to transmit pedagogical principles and skills (e.g., Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1999; Lieberman & Miller, 2001). This study analyzed professional developers' stories to understand professional development in the context of inquiry groups. Connections between learning, participation, context, practice, identities and exertion of agency were found.
Six conclusions about inquiry group participation emerged. (1) Facilitators' participation in a professional learning community with other inquiry group facilitators was a vital factor in learning to initiate, design, facilitate and sustain teacher leader inquiry groups. (2) Facilitators ensured that all voices and sharing of personal practical knowledge were encouraged and appreciated. (3) Participants in a facilitator inquiry group sustained and supported one another's professional identities and, at the same time, encouraged one another to question and change practices. (4) Participants in inquiry groups were encouraged to direct their own learning and, at the same time, facilitators framed group tasks to encourage participants to examine and improve their practice. (5) Participants found it was initially difficult to change practices and develop new professional identities. (6) Facilitator inquiry groups flourished when they operated in supportive contexts. Inquiry groups thrived when supervising administrators supported facilitators to engage in professional learning community practices. Learning and leadership were enhanced when administrators valued and negotiated with facilitators around solutions their inquiry generated.
0530: Teacher education
0533: Secondary education
0727: Curriculum development