If Polly had been there : an uncommon journey in teacher induction and development
Van Soelen, Thomas Michael
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the learnings of a novice teacher learning community. The researcher coached this Critical Friends Group, which was composed of six first-year middle school teachers representing a variety of content areas and specialties. The group met monthly during the second semester of the 2002-2003 school year, examining issues of educational practice emerging from their own classrooms. Structured conversations using protocols developed by organizations such as the National School Reform Faculty drove the use of time during meetings. The researcher used portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997) to position himself to collect data about the group, individual members’ thinking, and his own facilitating and coaching dilemmas. The principal of the building allowed one novice teacher to discontinue membership in the group after the first meeting. Her words from that meeting are used to frame the authentic topics that the novice teachers pursued during the study, such as accountability, authentic assessment, content, and relationships with colleagues. Paired stories pose what might have happened if she had continued her membership in the group. These novice teachers did not view issues of classroom management of high priority, rather, questions surrounding assessment and meaningful learning activities permeated the conversations. Several members engaged in risk, offering their work or the work of their students for feedback. These artifacts often caused conceptual conflict (Wang & Odell, 2002), increasing the depth of the dialogue. Although the group was homogeneous in terms of years of full-time teaching experience, individuals’ experiences both in and out of the classroom provided a diversity that fueled and generated important knowledge and actions. Finally, a notion of a mentoring community emerged in which novices assumed multiple mentoring perspectives (Wang & Odell, 2002) in their interactions with each other and the group.
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