Knowledge resources at work for improving instruction
A current trend in the effort to improve schooling is to provide teachers opportunities to work in teams with other teachers to improve instruction. This increased emphasis on collaborative work is evident in the professional communities movement, various standards for professional development, and in many whole school reform programs, where time for teachers to work together is a fundamental feature. However, the factors that influence how teachers can make effective use of collaboration time for improving instruction are not well understood.
The research site for this dissertation was a school that had been using teacher collaboration teams for six years. Various factors affecting teachers' collaborative efforts to improve Reading comprehension instruction were discovered. The factors included the instructional guidance available to teachers, teachers' prior experiences teaching Reading, the composition of teams, team leadership, and teachers' teaching assignments. For this study these factors were identified as knowledge resources and were categorized as (1) technical resources, (2) experiential resources, and (3) social/organizational resources.
The research methods used to explore the interaction between these knowledge resources and their effect on teachers' efforts to improve instruction included: (1) teacher interviews, (2) extensive observations of four teams of teachers, during their weekly collaboration meetings, (3) observations of and participation in three week-long professional development sessions, and (4) classroom observations of teachers teaching Reading comprehension lessons. A framework for analyzing instructional improvements was devised and used to measure surface, conceptual, and fundamental changes in instruction.
The analysis revealed that one team of teachers had a particular array of knowledge resources and were better able to engage in systematic and productive use of those resources during their weekly meetings, resulting in significant improvements in comprehension instruction. This team utilized their technical resources as the core element around which they organized their collaborative practice-based work. The other three teams lacked various knowledge resources and were less effective in their use of collaboration meetings for improving comprehension instruction. The study provides implications for designing policy for school wide instructional improvement.
0514: School administration