Collaborative teacher learning: Findings from two professional development projects

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Teaching and Teacher Education 21Collaborative teacher leatwo professional devthe project and decide on its direction, and (c) a structure that allows teachers and teacher educators to meet regularly inof discussion in the teacher education literature forwell over the past 10 years (Bickel & Hattrup,ARTICLE IN PRESSfax: +1604 822 8234.E-mail addresses: (G. Erickson), (G. Minnes Brandes),1995; Clark, Herter, & Moss, 1998; Cole &Knowles, 1993; Erickson, 1991; John-Steiner,0742-051X/$ - see front matter r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/ (I. Mitchell), (J. Mitchell).an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding.r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Keywords: Collaboration; Practical knowledge; Professional development communities; School-University partnerships; Teacherlearning; Teacher inquiry1. IntroductionThe theme of collaboration between school anduniversity educators has been a prevalent subjectCorresponding author. Tel.: +1604 822 2867;aUniversity of British Columbia, CanadabMonash University, Victoria, AustraliacBrentwood College, Victoria, AustraliaAbstractThis article discusses two projects that were aimed at enhancing the opportunities for professional development of theparticipants through collaboration between classroom teachers and teacher educators. The two projects, the AustralianProject for Enhancing Effective Learning (PEEL) and the Canadian Learning Strategies Group (LSG), focused on theteaching and learning practices in secondary school classrooms. We examine those features that we contend haveresulted in long-term sustainability and the success of these partnerships. An analysis of our own experiences and otherempirical data from both projects illustrate our claims that these small-scale projects have: improved the learningenvironment in classrooms for students and teachers; created models of professional development for school andteacher educators; and provided valid knowledge about learning and teaching issues in classroom settings. The potentialof such projects to achieve these aims depends upon: (a) a mutually held understanding of what types of classroompractices nurture good teaching and learning, (b) a setting where teachers have a strong commitment and control overGaalen Ericksona,, Gabriella Minnes Brandesa, Ian Mitchellb, Judie Mitchellc(2005) 787798rning: Findings fromelopment further insight into the creation andARTICLE IN PRESSTeachWeber, & Minnis, 1998; Hoban, 2002; McCotter,2001; Seixas & Brandes, 1997). The contexts andthe accompanying rationale for the establishmentof these collaborative partnerships have variedsignicantly from the formation of new institu-tional structures such as the creation of Profes-sional Development Schools (Darling-Hammond,1994) or other large-scale consortia (Fullan, 1995;Sirotnik & Goodlad, 1988; Watson & Fullan,1992; Yeatman & Sachs, 1995) to much moreinformal partnerships and local initiatives occur-ring between groups of teachers and universitypersonnel (Crockett, 2002; Hoban, Hastings,Luccarda, & Lloyd, 1997; Hollingsworth &Gallego, 1996; Jenlink & Kinnucan-Welsch,2001; Olson & Craig, 2001). More recently, thenature of collaborative relationships has beenexamined as an important factor in contexts andprograms specically focused on teacher develop-ment and teacher learning. Thus, in reviewing anumber of teacher development projects, Putnamand Borko (2000) argue that bringing togetherteachers and university-based educators couldcreate new forms of discourse about teachingand learning. These discourse communities arepowerful contexts for improving the practices ofall of the participants. However, Putnam andBorko (2000) caution us that these types ofdiscourse communities:y also may introduce new tensions into theprofessional development experience. For ex-ample, the university teams in all three projectsstruggled with the question of how muchguidance and structure to bring to the con-versations, seeking an appropriate balancebetween presenting information and facilitatingteachers construction of new practices. Inconsidering these issues of balance, we arereminded of what Richardson (1992) labeledthe agenda-setting dilemma: The staff developerwants to see teachers practice change inparticular directions while empowering theteachers themselves to be meaningfully involvedin determining the changes (p. 9).Other commentators have put forward similarclaims about the importance of establishing strongG. Erickson et al. / Teaching and788collaborative relationships between university andmaintenance of the structural features of twosmall-scale professional development commu-nities and how they functioned to promotelearning on the part of all of the participants.Our approach, then, has been to initiate smallerscale, local projects (typically at the school or evenclassroom level) for the purpose of determiningthose intra- and inter-institutional arrangementsthat appear to be most fruitful. While the smallerscale does not eliminate all of the problems (suchas some value conicts between school anduniversity-based educators), we think that theunderlying structures and the professional normsfor discourse that we have established in thesegroups result in more effective strategies formanaging these dilemmas (in the sense of Cubans(1992) discussion about the importance of mana-ging dilemmas).The projects that we describe, then, entail thecreation of professional development communitiesof teachers and university-based educators. Theseschool-based educators but have pointed out howlittle systematic research has been conducted inthis area. For instance, Little (2002), claimed thatresearch spanning more than two decades pointsto the benets of vigorous collegial communities,yet relatively little research examines specicallyhow professional communities supply intellectual,social and material resources for teacher learningand innovations in practice. (p. 917). And along asimilar vein Crockett (2002), in discussing herwork with a teacher inquiry group, commentedthat recommendations for professional develop-ment call for an alternative structure known asteacher inquiry groups. However, little is knownabout the contents of these structures. Many ofthe collaborative projects documented in theliterature have been of the large-scale, inter-institutional type that we think leads to some ofthe problems and dilemmas identied by Richard-son (1992) and Putnam and Borko (2000).2. Problem areaOne of the aims of the present article is toer Education 21 (2005) 787798communities of learners have variously beenthisbeeWhBortionteaMit. (p. 197).ARTICLE IN PRESSTeachdescribed as an approach to teachers professionaldevelopment that is grounded in teachers experi-ences and includes activities at the school site,whereby teachers learning is intertwined withtheir ongoing practice, making it likely that whatthey learn will indeed inuence and support theirteaching practice in meaningful ways (Putnam &Borko, 2000, p, 2). Our collaborative work withteacher groups could also be characterized in termsof our efforts to create:(1) a classroom learning environment that is bothfruitful and enjoyable for all of the partici-pants;(2) a functional and cost-effective model ofprofessional development with a focus onlearning for all of the participants involved(i.e. teachers, students, and teacher educatorsalike);(3) a professional development setting that yieldsfunctional and purposeful knowledge for all ofthe participants.While the rst two of these aims are importantoutcomes of our work, our focus in this article isprimarily on the third aim. In doing so, we discusstwo collaborative projects that we believe havebeen very successful in meeting the above aims.Our purpose then, is to draw upon our collectivepropersexpore specically, our approach to meaningfulfessional development highlights a situativepective of teacher learning and could besimtains to student learning in classroom settings.ereas Olson and Craig (2001) and Putnam andko (2000) have drawn upon a similar concep-of learning to interpret the ndings fromcher development projectsa purpose that isilar to our own.malperconception of learning in a community haven explored extensively by Bereiter and Scarda-ia (1993) and their colleagues, particularly as itdescribed as: a knowledge community (Bereiter,2002; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993; Craig, 1995;Olson & Craig, 2001); a professional learningcommunity (Jenlink, Kinnucan-Welsch, & Odell,1996; Little, 2002); or a discourse community(Putnam & Borko, 2000). The general features ofG. Erickson et al. / Teaching anderience to examine and analyse the structural3. Two collaborative projectsThe rst of these projects was initiated inMelbourne, Australia in 1985 and involved acollaborative partnership between a group ofteachers in a state secondary school and severalteacher educators from the education faculties oftwo Melbourne universities. This project is calledthe Project For Enhancing Effective Learning(PEEL project). The second project began inVancouver, Canada in 1991 and similarly involveda group of secondary school teachers and teachereducators. This latter project is called the LearningStrategies Group (LSG). Ian and Judie Mitchellwere involved in the process of establishing bothgroups. Gaalen Erickson and Gabriella MinnesBrandes participated in establishing the lattergroup. Both of these projects were non-fundedand non-systemic; both were long termone wentfor 5 years and the other is still continuing after 20years during which time it has spread to manyother schools in several countries. Both projectsand functional features of these two projects,which we judge to be very successful. As such thisis not a direct reporting of empirical data from acarefully designed study, rather it is type ofreexive and analytical reporting of our work overa number of years in these two projects. However,we do refer to the results of a number of smallerscale studies related to these projects to arrive atsome of the conjectures and conclusions that wemake in this piece. We think that this kind ofarticle, which examines some of the specics ofestablishing and sustaining these kinds of colla-borative partnerships in teacher education, isimportant in view of the claim by Wilson andBerne (1999) who reviewed the literature onteacher learning and professional development.They argue that little is known about the specicsentailed in systematically constructing such op-portunities to learn, and so researchers interestedin studying teacher learning within these newenvironments nd themselves researching a phe-nomenon while they (or others) are trying to builder Education 21 (2005) 787798 789have been characterized by teachers volunteeringARTICLE IN PRESSTeachto give up time, take risks and develop and sharenew approaches in their teaching. Each of themcontinued for many years because of the enthu-siasm of the participants for the process ofcollaborative inquiry. Our discussion of theseprojects will be organized around those featuresthat we conjecture to be critical for the establish-ment and sustainability of these types of colla-borative projects.3.1. Establishing purposesCuban (1992) pointed out that schools anduniversities value different forms of knowledge.We would add that, even when the two groups dovalue the same form of knowledge (class roomtested wisdom about how to achieve aim 1 forexample), the university-based participants arelikely to place a much higher value on the needto document and share the new wisdom outsidethe group. For the teachers, the main benets fromsuch endeavours lie in their own classrooms andunderstandings of their classrooms. These differ-ences are a potential source of conict and tensionover the purpose of a collaborative project. Is itprimarily (or solely) to provide support andprofessional development for the teachers as wellas to generate practical knowledge for the parti-cipants, or does the purpose include generatingboth formal and practical forms of knowledge fora wider audience? It is to be expected that differentmembers will begin with different agendas hereand we suggest that this difference be openlyacknowledged and regarded as reasonable. On-going viability requires the group to successfullymanage and, over time, eliminate the tensionbetween these two purposes. The two projectshad rather different histories on this issue.During the initial weeks, the purpose and focusof the original PEEL group seemed relativelystraightforward compared with that of the LSG atthe same stage. With hindsight, the role of IanMitchell was probably crucial in minimizingteacher distrust about the purpose and focus ofPEEL. He taught half time in the school and halftime at the university. This dual appointmentallowed PEEL to begin with an overt focus onG. Erickson et al. / Teaching and790conducting classroom-based research. The tea-chers perceived him as a colleague and there wasno detectable perception of a university-imposedagenda. The LSG began with the purpose ofimproving teaching and learning within the school,focusing on aspects of the schools missionstatement. Using this as a starting point, theteacher educators had worked hard to try toground the project in the teachers concerns.However, individual members still had their ownperceptions about how the group would functionaccording to their own reasons for joining.In hindsight, the issue of discordant agendaswas more complex in the LSG because it built on 5years of PEEL. When PEEL began, the university-based participants were driven largely by concernsof how to put some theory into practice. Theyrecognized the need for knowledge that onlyteachers could develop. It was only after a numberof months that all participants in the grouprealized how much they were learning aboutteacher learning and development. When theLSG began, the four authors of this paper retainedan interest in extending their understandings abouthow to achieve aim1. However, unlike the situa-tion with PEEL, we knew that progress was likelyin this area and we were interested to see whether aPEEL type collaborative group could work in aCanadian context as well as wanting to gainfurther insights into the process of collaborativeprofessional development. We were also interestedin forging links between the school and theuniversity and to gain closer contact with practi-cing teachers, to participate in the daily discourseof teachers, and to gain insight into the currentproblems faced by teachers and their way ofaddressing these problems. This, we felt wouldimprove our own practice as teacher educators.While these purposes appeared to be mutuallybenecial, there were two conicts that occurredfrom a lack of shared understandings of the purposeand focus of the group. The rst of these is discussedin the next section on theory. The second is discussedin the section on time and resources.3.2. Theorizing practiceTeachers and teacher educators commonly haveer Education 21 (2005) 787798different perceptions of theory; consequently theARTICLE IN PRESSTeachrole of theory is a potential source of conict earlyin a collaborative professional development. Ourexperiences, in a number of projects, is that over atime scale of months, as teachers hear similarevents reported by colleagues in a range ofcontexts, they come to see a need for general-izations to sort, group and make sense of theseevents. That is, they begin to generate a form oftheory.Theory can mean a number of things. At oneend of the continuum, we have the highlyformalized theories from the physical sciences thatendeavour to explain and predict a wide range ofphenomena. At the other end are generalizationsabout the particularities of practice. Teachereducators are accustomed to generalizingtheirteaching often occurs in a world of abstraction ofideas and contexts. Teachers, on the other hand,are not accustomed to generalizing about theirpractice. In particular, this is because theyrecognize the complex and important inuencesof context on all classroom events. We have foundthat it takes time for the differences between thesetwo, equally valuable perspectives to be under-stood and reconciled.The original group of PEEL teachers wasintroduced to some theoretical ideas about studentlearning in the rst few weeks of meetings. Theteachers were not asked to master these ideas atthis early stage, only to be aware of their existence.They stated later that they had not developed anadequate understanding of this theory until later inthe year when they had a chance to try newstrategies and reect on what was happening intheir classrooms. This outcome led to the conclu-sion that personal experience generally precedeschange in attitudes, conceptions and behaviours(Baird & Mitchell, 1997. p216).Although the PEEL teachers did not master thedetails of the theory for some months, they didaccept from the outset that theorizing would havea regular role in the projectthe teacher educatorshad come to the teachers with a problem andasked for help in researching it. The groupdynamics of LSG was different, but we did notrecognize this until after making a mistake, whichalmost ended the project. The LSG teachers hadG. Erickson et al. / Teaching andbeen introduced to the same theory about studentlearning during a full day in-service session, nowenriched and elaborated with practical applica-tions by PEEL teachers for 6 years. The rst fewmeetings of LSG had focused on teachers contextspecic stories about what they were doing in theirclassroom and how their students were respond-ing. Ian asked the chairperson of LSG whether shethought it would be useful to reect on the eventsof the rst few weeks in terms of a way of framinglearning that he had recently developed. It wasdecided to approach this issue at the next meeting.Both Ian and the chairperson regarded this type ofagenda item as part of the intended activities of thegroup; however, there was a negative reactionfrom some teachers. The issue split the group. Partof the problem was that one member had come tothe meeting with an important experience to relate,and the expectation that she would be able to doso. She had been unable to do it because of thetime taken by the discussion about the role oftheory in the deliberations by the group.This experience highlights two issues: rstly,there was the question of who was responsible fordetermining the agenda of each meeting. Shouldpre-planned activities take precedence over un-anticipated events that teachers felt were impor-tant? Waiting another week to relate the teachersexperience would have detracted markedly from itsimmediate impact on that teacher. Some membersof the group saw the incident as the universityexerting inuence over the direction of the meet-ings and it raised suspicion about the universitysagenda. The second issue that this incident high-lights is the discomfort many teachers feel with theidea of theory, which is often a hangover from theperceived irrelevance of parts of their teacherpreparation programmes.The resolution of this conict within the LSGreinforced the notion that practice precedeschange (Baird & Mitchell, 1997) and highlightedthe importance of tackling the issue of the role oftheory. During the full day meeting held at the endof year, all the participants agreed that it would bevaluable to review the progress of the group bymapping 18 procedures that Ian had recordedfrom group meetings onto the original goals of theLSG. This was done in small groups where eacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 791group examined one goal. In the reporting, it wasprogroaoftdeARTICLE IN PRESSTeachregular meetings, preferably once a week. Theyarranged with the school administration to time-table common non-teaching blocks for all mem-bers of the group. This is cost-neutral but placesconstraints on the school timetable. Other PEELTgroject and the nature of power relationships areen involved in managing the tensions andcisions involving time and resource allocation.he PEEL experience had showed the need forprovision of resources by sources external to theup is not necessarily seen by all participants asgood thing. Questions of ownership of theOnoticeable that the teachers had constructed usefulgeneralizations about teaching and learning inorder to make sense of a diverse set of procedures.A few examples of these generalizations are: In order to discuss knowledge acquisition withstudents, teachers and students need to developa common vocabulary; Teachers should explicitly explain the purposesof different class activities and indicate thedesired learning outcomes as part of the processof clarifying evaluation and assessment; The more work that is done with students toencourage higher-level thinking, the more stu-dents take control over evaluation whichincreases their level of satisfaction with theirschool work.We all recognized what had occurred. While theabove statements are not unknown to the com-munity of researchers they are nonetheless verysmall pieces of theory, and in choosing togeneralize about their practice in this way markeda substantial shift in the teachers attitude totheory. At the end of that day, one of the teachers,who had earlier reacted negatively to Iansendeavour to theorize about practice, suggestedthat the group needed to move beyond thesharing. This provided a discussion, led by theteachers, about the need to look at theory if thegroup was to avoid going stale.3.3. Time and resource needsur experience with the LSG indicates that theG. Erickson et al. / Teaching and792ups that have been created meet at lunchtimeor after school. For the LSG, it was impossible toalter the timetable as the year had already begun.The participants decided to meet over coffee andmufns before school for three-quarters of an houronce a week. This worked well, mainly due to theprofessionalism of the group members whoquickly established a culture of punctuality.Time for occasional longer meetings, that PEELhad shown could be very valuable in identifyinghow much progress had been made, was a moredifcult issue to resolve. The Vancouver teacherswere less willing than the Melbourne teachers hadbeen to leave their classes, even when the admin-istration offered to provide substitute teachers.They cited the amount of time they already wereout of the school on other professional business.There was also concern about the perceptions ofother staff towards the group receiving privi-leged treatment. This had been a concern with theMelbourne group also.A whole day out was eventually organized forthe second last day of school for the LSGparticipants. This was done after all of the teachershad reorganized their timetables for invigilatingexams so that no other teacher would have tocover for them. None was willing to accept asubstitute, even for exam invigilation. The factthat the teachers were willing to go to this troubleis evidence of their commitment to the process,and of their insistence on ownership of thecollaborative project.While no monetary resources other than smallamounts for occasional food and secretarialrequirements were provided to the LSG, the issueof providing for longer meetings meant that infuture some resources would be necessary. At thefull day meeting, it was proposed that the groupapply to the Ministry of Education for a SiteDevelopment Grant. Opinion on this was sharplydivided. A Site Development Grant was seen aspolitical. Some said they would leave the group ifthe members decided to apply for external fund-ing. They argued that external funding wouldcreate an obligation between the teachers and theadministration. Others thought they could benetfrom the grant. There was also the perception thatit would affect the dynamics of the group. Thiser Education 21 (2005) 787798reaction indicates the extent to which teachersprojects have provided us with a number ofARTICLE IN PRESSTeachhave been encultured into believing that when theyare not in the classroom, or directly involved inpreparation or marking, they are not working.We think that this is a critical issue for this kind ofteacher development and for the burgeoning eldof teacher research. In other words, we think thatthe nature of what is entailed by teachers workneeds to be addressed at the system level. Forexample, a very different attitude in Sweden andDenmark in this regard has been an importantfactor in a very rapid uptake of PEEL-like modelsof professional development in those countriesover the past 12 years.The PEEL group had managed to survivewithout formal external funding. (It has sincebecome nancially self-sufcient from sales ofpublications.) During its rst 3 years, there wassome money available, in small doses, left overfrom other government projects that districtteacher educators and the school administrationdrew to their attention. Some of the full day in-service meetings were funded in this way. Becausethis was perceived as leftover money, utilizing itmeant no serious commitments to an outsideagency, which in light of the LSG comments mayhave been an important consideration. In subse-quent years, PEEL teachers have also shown nointerest in tapping into funding that carries systemagendas. Given the substantial positive outcomesof both projects for the teachers and theirschoolsoutcomes that met system needs, animplication for systems is that they should lookfor ways of stimulating and supporting commu-nities such as these without loading them up withtheir own specic agendas.3.4. Foci that sustainBoth projects went for many years longer thanwas originally expected (PEEL continues today).With hindsight, one reason for this was that afocus on how students were learningon explor-ing ways of stimulating learning that was moreinformed, purposeful, intellectually active andindependent, proved to be a focus that sustainedand continually stimulated the discourse and senseof progress in the two communities. There wereG. Erickson et al. / Teaching andtwo interdependent reasons for this. One was thatimportant ndings related to both the positiveoutcomes of this type of collaborative approachand the problems and dilemmas associated withthe creating and sustaining of these types ofprojects. Here we provide a summary of ourcollective experiences with these two projectsorganized around what we consider to be thepositive outcomes of these projects.4.1. Outcomes of the projectsEarlier in this article we outlined three desirableaims that we thought could be achieved by thesetypes of small-scale, professional developmentprojects. In examining the activities of the twoprojects we can begin to assess the degree to whicheach of these aims were achieved by the twoprojects under consideration.The rst aim is centred on the creation ofclassroom learning environments, which are moreproductive and enjoyable places for students andfrom early on, the teachers perceived changes intheir classrooms that were very highly valued bythem; progress did not require waiting until theend of the project. The second was that new,previously unrecognised issues and insights intothe complexities of learning and teaching keptemerging that provided different and interestingchallengeswe never became talked out. Flackand Osler (1995), two of the rst elementaryteachers in PEEL, describe how an initial focus onhaving students make more links between variousaspects of their learning led them to map theswamp of their classroom over many months bywhat they labelled points of consolidation thatidentied both what they had achieved and learntand what new challenges needed to be addressed.The nal meeting of the year for the LSG groupwas exciting for all participants because of theshared recognition of both of these sorts ofoutcomes.4. ConclusionsThe above analysis of the features of these twoer Education 21 (2005) 787798 793teachers alike in comparison to more conventionalARTICLE IN PRESSTeachclassrooms. While this notion of seeing classroomsas a focal point for inquiry on the part of studentsand teachers has deep historical roots (Cremin,1961), our projects were largely grounded in aperspective on learning that has come to be calledconstructivist (e.g., Bruner, 1990; Cobb, 1994;Richardson, 1992; Schon, 1983, 1987). One char-acterization of an ideal learning environmentsought by the participants conceives of learningas a type of active engagement with the settingas opposed to a more passive acceptance ofinformation transmitted to the students from theteacher or other curricular materials. In otherwords, one of the primary agendas in both projectswas to develop, discuss and elaborate morelearner-centred instructional practices. Thiswas accomplished through the creation and shar-ing of a variety of different teaching strategies andapproaches, which were then documented inwriting (Baird & Northeld, 1995; Loughran,Mitchell, & Mitchell, 2004; Mitchell, 2005). Oneof the underlying assumptions in both of theseprojects was that these strategies and approacheswould lead to more meaningful and sustainedlearning outcomes on the part of the students.In comparison with most teacher developmentprojects reported in the literature, we are in thefortunate position of having available in-depthand longitudinal data on some of the PEELstudents that has been documented in Ian Mitch-ells doctoral dissertation. His dissertation demon-strated that while students do at rst offer someresistance to the types of changes in teachingprocedures that were used by the PEEL teachers,once they become familiar with the new routinesand expectations of the teachers, most of thestudents prefer classrooms where they were moreactively engaged with the materials, with theirpeers, and with their teachers. Furthermore, hewas able to demonstrate through an analysis ofclassroom dialogue, student journals and theirperformance on assignments and tests that a veryhigh proportion of the students were asking moredemanding questions, were more aware of theirown work habits, and were regularly engaged inhigh levels of intellectual activity (Mitchell, 1993;Mitchell, Loughran, & Mitchell, 2001). However,G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and794as Wilson and Berne (1999) acknowledge, muchmore work needs to be done in this criticallyimportant area of the relationship between teacherknowledge and student performance.Most of our evidence regarding the value ofthese projects, similar to other collaborativeprojects reported in the literature, still comes fromthe professional judgments of the participants inthe projects. Nonetheless teachers judgments andperceptions of the worth of these collaborativeprojects are an important type of evidence for tworeasons. First, teachers are indeed the most criticalagents in the process of constructing and nurturingparticular types of learning environments in theirown classrooms and so their perceptions of theirrelative success in this regard are important.Second, we are also interested in determining theextent to which the teachers nd their classroomsless stressful and more enjoyable and challengingplaces to be than before their involvement in theseprojects. In addition to an increased level ofenjoyment being a worthwhile end in itself forteachers, we think this will also lead to anenhanced learning environment for the students.In other publications there are cited numerouspersonal statements from both the teachers andthe teacher educators as to the positive impact ofthese two projects on their own teaching practicesand their understanding of these practices (Baird& Northeld, 1995; Flack & Osler, 1995; Lough-ran, Mitchell, & Mitchell, 2002; Mitchell &Mitchell, 1997; Minnes Brandes, 1995, 1997;Minnes Brandes & Erickson, 1998).Another important piece of evidence is thelongevity of the projects. The fact that someparticipants have been involved anywhere from 5to 15 years is a very strong indicator of theirdegree of commitment and the satisfaction that theteachers have obtained from their continuedinvolvement in these projects. In summary, wewould argue, based upon both student data andmore extensive teacher and university educatordata, that these projects have indeed resulted inchanges in the classroom environments created bythe teachers involved in these two collaborativeprojects.The second aim listed earlier concerned thedevelopment of a functional model of profes-er Education 21 (2005) 787798sional development. We wish to claim that ourknARTICLE IN PRESSTeachtypes of projects have the potential to contributetwo different types of knowledge. The rst hasbeen called practical or craft knowledge(Elbaz, 1981; Fenstermacher, 1994; Grimmett &MacKinnon, 1992; Richardson, 1994) whichrefers to those understandings gained from anongoing reective engagement in the practiceprosetThe nal aim focused on the nature of theowledge that could be generated by suchjects. We have suggested earlier that theseof time to attend regular meetings.there must be some provision of resources forthe group, although these are primarily in thearea of arranging sufcient and common blocksimportant characteristic;the participants must be aware and sensitive tothe different roles that are important to thenurturing and maintenance functions of colla-borative groups and recognize that each parti-cipants role may change over time;maintain a close liaison with both school anduniversity participants;the group membership should be voluntary andexible, yet overall group stability is anlearning;the group must meet regularly (preferably oncea week) and the chair of the meetings shouldschool and teacher educators on the purposesand any underlying theoretical perspectives ofthe project. It is important that all participantshold or develop a similar perspective oncollaborative approach does represent a modelwith a number of characteristic features. Thesewere outlined in the structural and functionalcharacteristics listed above. A summary of thosefeatures that we consider to be most relevant toour approach are listed below: the school personnel must be involved at thevery beginning of the project in negotiating thenature and the structure of the group; the project must meet real and existing needs ofall participants; it needs a focus that is likely to sustaincollaborative inquiry over a number of yearsthere must be strong agreement from bothG. Erickson et al. / Teaching andting (Schon, 1987). The import of this type ofknowledge is that it is central to any teacher(teachers) practice. In other words, it is the type ofknowledge that teachers develop as a result of theirprior personal and teaching experiences. Thisknowledge becomes manifest as a vast repertoire(or appreciative system as Schon (1983) calls it)of procedures, beliefs, dispositions, and under-standings that enable them to teach in a widevariety of settings. While the practical knowledgethat was constructed by the participants in ourprojects is similar in kind to that constructed by allteachers, we think there are also some importantdifferences. We will only mention two differenceshere. The rst is that the process of developing thispractical knowledge is much more a product ofand mediated by a social community than is thecase with most teachers, where much of theirlearning comes from their own analysis of isolatedexperiences in their own classrooms. One conse-quence of this is that the teachers knowledge oftheir own practice becomes much less tacit andimplicit. This allows their practice to becomemore purposeful and professional (c.f. Clarke &Erickson, 2004). This greater sense of professionalexpertise has been an important source of motiva-tion for teachers in both projects. A secondimportant difference is that the knowledge con-struction was also mediated by our shared under-standings of the nature of student learning, asdiscussed above. The purposes to be served by thistype of practical knowledge, then, involve increas-ing the competence of ones performance in thepractice setting, or as Zeichner (1994) hassuccinctly captured it in a title of a book chapter,Personal renewal and social construction throughteacher research. Although our work has pri-marily focused on the personal renewal aspect, wethink that it has long-range implications for thetypes of social and institutional reconstructionthat Zeichner has written about.The second type of knowledge that was gener-ated in this setting has been called formalknowledge (Fenstermacher, 1994; Richardson,1994). As implied by the name, this type ofknowledge consists of the types of public claimsabout the nature of the process and the productsthat have emerged from these collaborative pro-er Education 21 (2005) 787798 795jects. These claims are a product of representingMyhre, & Woolworth, 1998). Nonetheless weARTICLE IN PRESSTeacher Education 21 (2005) 787798the experiences of these projects in some publicforum, such as this article, and the claims must beaccompanied by some form of evidence andreasoned arguments regarding the value of thatparticular form of representation. Examples of thetypes of formal knowledge claims that have beenproduced by these projects to date have been thechapters and articles written by the educatorsinvolved in the PEEL schools (Baird & Mitchell,1986; Baird & Northeld, 1992; Dusting, Pinnis,Rivers, & Sullivan ., 1996; Loughran et al., 2004;Mitchell, Fitzpatrick, Petty, & Neale, 1997) and asmaller number of publications from the young-er LSG project (Minnes Brandes, Hughes,McRae, & Schwartz, 1993; Minnes Brandes,1997; Minnes Brandes & Erickson, 1998). Thepurpose of this type of formal knowledge is tocontribute new understandings of the complexphenomena of learning and teaching to boththe smaller, intact communities of practice(Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002) wherethese issues and problems are of central concernand to the wider social communities in which theschools and universities reside.We would argue that these two projects haveindeed been successful in generating both practicaland formal knowledge about successful ways ofactively engaging students in school learning tasksand they also provide us with exemplary models ofprofessional growth and development for all groupparticipants. Further, they have succeeded inproviding the participants with ythe cognitivetoolsideas, theories, and conceptsthat indivi-duals appropriate as their own through theirpersonal efforts to make sense of experiences(Putnam & Borko, 2000, p. 5).In closing, our collective experiences in thesetwo projects have led us to realize that these typesof collaborative, professional development pro-jects will continue to be characterized by a numberof on-going problems, tensions, and dilemmas.These difculties stem in part from the competingvalue orientations and the different social practicesof the school and teacher educators, and alsofrom the inherent complexity and changingcharacteristics of the problems being addressedin these projects. The difculties in establishingG. Erickson et al. / Teaching and796truly collaborative projectswhere the purposes,think that the potential benets to be gained fromboth participating in these projects and reectingon the underlying structural features, the groupprocesses, and the resultant outcomes far outweighthe efforts and resources that are necessary toinitiate and subsequently sustain new projects ofthis collaborative nature.We are encouraged to see other researchersbeginning to report on similar projects and reach-ing similar conclusions such as the claim byJenlink and Kinnucan-Welsch (2001) that profes-sional development is most meaningful to educa-tors when they have responsibility in the designand implementation of their own professionaldevelopment and when it is closely connected totheir work in classrooms (p. 706). 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Chicago: University of Chicago Press.the development of teachers knowledge: The development communities of practice, a guide to managing knowledge.Collaborative teacher learning: Findings from two professional development projectsIntroductionProblem areaTwo collaborative projectsEstablishing purposesTheorizing practiceTime and resource needsFoci that sustainConclusionsOutcomes of the projectsReferences