Peer observation and learning community as instructional supports
Bolen, Susan Hare
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The purpose of this study was to develop deeper understandings about what happened when peer observation and a learning community were offered as an instructional support experience for beginning teachers. The researcher wanted to know what beginning teachers thought about peer observation and learning community and if these supports made a difference for them. To achieve this purpose, there was a primary question. What can we learn about supporting beginning teachers when they participate in peer observations and a learning community? To be able to answer this primary question, the following secondary questions guided data collection and analysis. What are teacher perspectives about peer observation and learning community as instructional supports? What are teacher perspectives about what they have learned about themselves in this process? What understandings do participants develop about teaching and learning based on their experiences with peer observation and a learning community? What are teacher perspectives about how these experiences have affected their students? This study was conducted at one elementary school in Georgia. Six first, second, and third year teachers were recruited as participants. Each participant observed a peer each month, attended a monthly learning community meeting, wrote in a journal, and was interviewed twice. Based on case study as the primary methodological design, datum was identified and collected following a systematic and integrated process. As a participant observer in this study, the researcher scheduled and facilitated monthly learning community sessions, conducted individual interviews with participants (once in November and once in February), wrote reflectively in a journal, and posed questions about her own practice. The major findings from this study included three propositions. First, beginning teachers can be self-directed in their own professional learning. The participants exhibited a motivation to learn and followed through with their professional learning. Second, collegial, professional relationships provide instructional support to beginning teachers. Because the participants connected personally and professionally, they were able to discuss issues of practice that were important to them. Third, beginning teachers can embrace reflective practice. Because participants became more reflective, they gained perspective about their work and their students while making shifts in practice.