How middle school teachers construct understandings of their job-embedded learning experiences
Worsham, Brandi Wade
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The purpose of this study was to examine how middle school teachers constructed understandings of their job-embedded learning experiences. In particular, the aim of this study was to explore how middle school teachers made sense and gave meaning to their learning experiences that occurred during the school day as they engaged in the work of being a teacher. For the purpose of this study, job-embedded learning experiences referred to any formal or informal learning opportunity that was grounded in the context of the school day and characterized by active learning and reflection. A qualitative approach was used to investigate how teachers made sense and gave meaning to their job-embedded learning experiences. Specifically, an ethnographic, multi-case study was designed since it allowed the researcher to examine multiple cases within a single context while considering the influence of context and culture on the understanding and interpretation of knowledge construction and experiences. Data were collected via interviews, shadowing, teacher learning logs, and documents and other artifacts. Within-case and cross-case analysis was conducted to examine the collected data. The constant comparative method was employed to generate inductively a well substantiated interpretation of how teachers constructed understandings of their job-embedded learning experiences in the within-case and cross-case analysis. Themes were generated to present and discuss the results of the data analysis. A sensemaking framework was used to unpack teacher knowledge construction. Sensemaking theory was a relevant framework since it considered how context and culture influenced teachers’ meaning-making and negotiation of identity and experience with the social co-construction of new knowledge. After nine weeks of data collection at a middle school in northeast Georgia, the researcher found five influences that impacted teacher sensemaking including: identity, motivation, reflection, collaboration, and application. Each influence was critically discussed within the context of the school and relevant literature on effective professional development and job-embedded learning. Implications and suggestions for future research, administrators, and policymakers were considered given the study’s findings.