Teachers’ collegial cultures in urban schools

PhD project: Teachers’ profession reasoning in collaborative settings.

The project explores the patterns of teachers’ professional reasoning in school-based collaborative settings. Empirically, I draw on the data from a yearlong ethnographically inspired study of a 6th-grade teacher team in Norway. The background for the study is sustained policy investment into the teachers’ collaborative work as well as increased knowledge demands for teachers’ professional practice. Yet while collaborative settings in teachers’ daily work have become commonplace and often mandated, we know that it does not necessarily translate into the changes of teaching practices – in collaboration, teachers rarely go beyond logistics, story-sharing and help-seeking and engage in critical reasoning and experimentation with new ideas. In the study, I address the following questions: What patterns in professional reasoning can be observed when teachers work together and, if there is variation, how can it be interpreted? Sociological perspectives on professional reasoning and knowledge work inform the theoretical position and analytical framework.

In the first paper, I focus on how and why the patterns in professional reasoning differ when teachers set goals for students’ academic and socio-emotional learning. In the second paper, I explore how and why the patterns in teachers’ diagnostic and solutions-oriented reasoning differ across the various objects of engagement. In the third paper, I plan to focus on the patterns in professional reasoning that emerge when teachers encounter professional uncertainty and dilemmatic situations in daily practice.  

Teachers’ collegial cultures in urban schools
The project looks at the knowledge work practices in teacher teams in an urban school setting. The focus is on how these knowledge practices – their purposes, content, forms, products and effects – are being framed by the complexities of the urban context in Norway as well as by the conflicting climates of standardisation, on the one hand, and increasing demands for the sophistication of teachers’ professional practice, on the other. This way, the aim is to explore how macro-, meso- and micropolitical, organisational and cultural conditions frame the emergence and development of these practices “from above” and “from within” the profession.
The study follows the work of a 6th-grade teacher team in a public school located in a socio-economically disadvantaged multicultural suburb of one of the larger Norwegian cities. The data is being collected over the course of one academic year and consists of observations, group and individual interviews, teachers’ logs and organizational shadowing. The theoretical perspective of the study is rooted in the understanding of teaching as a distinct knowledge-based profession with knowledge practices in a dynamic development. To this end, two theories are guiding for the study – Biesta’s (2015) conceptualization of the three domains of educational purpose that frame teachers’ knowledge work – the purposes of qualification, socialisation and subjectification; and the concept of collegiality that describes the qualitative aspects of professional collaboration rather than its frequency and density. 

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