Mathematics teacher change and identity in a professional learning community.

Chauraya, Million
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Professional learning communities are receiving attention in research on in-service teacher professional development. Arguments for professional learning communities emphasize teacher learning as a long-term, continuous, developmental and collaborative process. Such learning is viewed as necessary for supporting sustained improvements in teachers’ teaching practices and learners’ learning. The study reported in this thesis drew on these ideas to investigate how mathematics teachers learned in a professional learning community, and how their learning influenced changes in their teaching practices and identities. The study was a pilot for a larger, on-going project at the University of the Witwatersrand. Using the ideas of situated learning theory and data-informed practice, the case study involved a professional learning community of five mathematics teachers and the researcher. The study was conducted in one township high school in Gauteng, South Africa. The professional learning community participated in a year-long professional development intervention, which consisted of a set of developmental and structured professional learning activities. The activities involved analyzing learner errors in mathematics, identifying learners’ learning needs, planning and teaching innovative lessons for addressing the learning needs, and reflecting on how the lessons supported learners’ learning. The study investigated how teacher participation in the opportunities for learning was linked to shifts in their teaching practices and identities. The results show changes in teachers’ practices and their identities. Two teachers made shifts in their mode of teaching, task selection and implementation, and in their ways of engaging with learners’ ideas. Two other teachers made shifts in task selection. The shifts were sustained by one teacher in her teaching of the post-intervention lessons. All the teachers shifted in their ways of identifying themselves as members of communities. During and after the intervention, the teachers identified themselves as members of the professional learning community, and expressed visions of progressively learning together and improving their practice together. The shifts in teaching practice and teacher identity are explained by the opportunities for learning in the professional learning community. The results show how the links among teacher learning, teachers’ teaching practices and teacher identity were supported or constrained by features of the professional learning community.
Professional Learning Community, Teacher Learning, Teacher Practice, Teacher Identity