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A Descriptive Model of Teacher Communities
Ditte Lockhorst, Jakko van der Pol
Educational innovations ask for continuous professional development of teachers. This professional development is not an isolated individual experience. Teachers are required to collaborate with colleagues in their own school and from other schools and organizations. The importance of teacher collaboration is recognized in standards for the teaching profession. Competent teachers are described as teachers that are engaged and active members of learning communities in the school organisation. The term community is used to imply a sustainable form of collaboration that involves certain levels of commitment and dedication, creating a social structure that supports the development and sharing of knowledge. However, most teachers still work isolated, feeling responsibility for their own students and curriculum, at least in the Netherlands. We argue that teachers who are willing and able to collaborate with colleagues do not only learn themselves, but stimulate a professional learning and working culture in the school.
This study is part of a larger research project on the possibilities of computer supported collaborative learning for the development of teacher communities. Before starting empirical studies on teacher community, we need a framework for evaluating communities in order to be able to assess the qualities. Although many empirical studies in the area of communities in organisations have resulted in the description of characteristics of communities, few studies have related (theoretical-based) characteristics of communities to stages of development. In our study we developed an innovative model using existing literature on communities in general and looking at the specific contexts and characteristics of teaching communities in particular. Operationalisation of our model resulted in the development of measuring instruments that can be used to give an accurate view on a particular teacher community and its development and to offer information how to best facilitate it (for instance using ICT support).
We started from our definition of a teacher community as: ‘a group
of collaborating teachers with a certain group identity, shared domain
and goals, and interactional repertoire that allow them to effectively
share and build knowledge’. Establishing a dynamic combination of
these elements, should result in the sustainable professional development
of teachers, both individually and collective.