Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Teacher professional development as a third space: Researcher and practitioner dialogues
by Clark, Lynn V., Ph.D., Indiana University, 2008, 284; 3330782
Abstract (Summary)

While professional development has often provided the tools to empower teachers in times of change, the current climate of high-stakes testing has returned many professional development programs to a means/end model that rejects academic research, while colonizing the results and terminology of that same research. The study examined the ways in which a research-based professional development program that investigates student responses to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) creates a hybrid space for a dialogue between researchers and practitioners that might counterbalance the dominant discourse, while contributing to a refined sense of practitioner empowerment.

The mixed methodological study drew on pre/post survey data and observations of two phases of researcher and practitioner dialogues: (1) the dialogue between the university researchers who developed the program and teacher educators who will facilitate the program; (2) the dialogues between the teacher educators, now speaking as researchers, and classroom teachers participating in the program. The survey collected data that measured how the program may have contributed to practitioners' empowerment as indicated by shifts in their beliefs and attitudes related to teacher efficacy, mathematical beliefs, and a critical awareness of the impact of high-stakes testing. The observation data were analyzed using a theoretical framework that was informed by third space theory (Bhabha, 1994), communicative action theory (Habermas, 1984) and the theory of conscientization (Freire, 1970/2006).

While the data suggest that the content of the program and the form of the study worked together to create the conditions for hybrid dialogues that often resulted in shifts in the attitudes and beliefs of participants, the data also show how traditional power relations between researchers and practitioners can be a barrier to “third space” dialogues. Dialogues that were able to function in a third space were characterized by an absence of power relations that allowed a liminality of roles, a both/and perspective and subject-to-subject relationships. In both phases, the dialogues seemed to cycle through three main themes (e.g., expanded understanding; teacher/student as subject; structural perspective) that reflected a problem posing approach to dialogue that seemed to result in the empowerment of participants (Freire, 1970/2006).

Building on research relating to the historic tension between academic researchers and classroom teachers in school-university partnerships, this study identifies ways in which researchers and practitioners might articulate their differences and step-in-to the worlds of the other without resorting to traditional hierarchy related to their professions. By providing a professional development model that values diversity while intentionally provoking disequilibrium and disagreement, the study provides insight into how these kinds of researcher and practitioner partnerships may become more productive and opens new avenues for teacher learning and empowerment through critical dialogue.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Flinders, David J.
Commitee: Brown, Catherine A., Delandshere, Ginette, Schwen, Thomas A.
School: Indiana University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Teacher education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Critical theory, Mixed methodology, Professional development, School-university partnerships, Teacher professional development, Third space
Publication Number: 3330782
ISBN: 978-0-549-86926-9
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