Exploring the creation of a collaborative learning culture for teachers through the lens of action research
Boswell, Sarah Anitria
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Great schools begin with great teachers. The professional development of teachers has been addressed by a variety of theories and numerous approaches (Brown-Easton, 2008; Joyce & Calhoun, 2010). However, how often is the core root of developing teachers based on the premise of valuing, expanding, and sharing the teacher knowledge that exists in schools? Many times, ongoing learning for teachers is based on a deficit model, teaching teachers what they do not know or what someone thinks they need to know. This case study examined a school whose principal saw teacher talent and wanted to create a learning organization to maximize this key source of knowledge generation. The purpose of the study was to explore how elementary school teachers’ participation in an action research project that was focused on peer observation impacted the creation of a learning organization. Action research was used to gain a real-life school experience as teachers employed the five cycles of action research to implement systematic change—Define, Dare, Decide, Do, and Deduce—as adapted from Anderson’s (2010) stages of the action research consulting process. The findings of this study recognized the contradictory behavior of the participants that occurred while implementing an action research project. It also provided insight into how the leaders of the action research process—principal, action research team, and consultant/ researcher—exercised their realm of power and influence as they dealt with the ambiguity of the action research process. Lastly, the study’s findings showed that the components of peer observation training built the capacity for collaborative learning by reinforcing collegial acceptance and conversational skills, while the peer observation experience provided teachers with the opportunity to converse about instructional strategies. The peer observation experience also offered the opportunity for choice in determining their learning focus and selection of peers to visit. Time, unclear logistics, and apprehension in the process were findings that suppressed the ability of peer observations to support the creation of the learning organization. Intended outcomes were not met, yet the resulting missteps yielded a meaningful guide that offers greater insight into how schools can apply and investigate maximizing teacher talent via an action research approach.