L1 educators writing together in hybrid professional learning communities: International perspectives
There is strong global agreement that educators who are actively engaged in ongoing, collaborative professional learning promote their own development and that of the teaching communities of which they are a part (Schleicher, 2016). Despite this apparent consensus, there is lively debate about the professional learning practices that institutions, sectors or governments should or should not invest in, and about what kinds of accountability regimes best support or constrain these practices (Holloway & Brass, 2018). The writing practices that L1 teachers and teacher educators undertake for, or in, their professional learning is one topic that has provoked such debates.
Of particular interest to this symposium is the literature that explores the writing undertaken within and stimulated by hybrid professional communities of educators. In these communities, individuals from different spaces periodically come together to write and talk as an important dimension of their professional learning lives. The most widely known instance is the 44 year old ‘National Writing Project’ (NWP) in the US, which continues to operate with over 200 networks across the country. In the UK and New Zealand, educators conducted a form of National Writing Project, although the character of the writing and the pedagogy utilised in those projects is often quite different. Advocates of NWPs in all these countries write about their capacity to inspire and empower individual educators, and describe ways that the projects facilitate and recognise reflective practice, enable the sharing of knowledge, build networks, and promote identity work. In other countries, including Australia, Israel and parts of Europe, smaller-scale and shorter-term communities of L1 educators have been researched, revealing similarly wide-ranging outcomes.
The three papers in this international symposium respond to the question: ‘How does writing in hybrid L1 professional communities across the world shape the practices, experiences and identity work of L1 educators who participate in these communities?’ The symposium offers a framework for understanding how writing can benefit individual and collective professional learning, and also how writing together in hybrid professional communities can best be facilitated and developed in the face of increasingly powerful accountability regimes.
teacher writing; teacher educators; professional learning; accountability regimes; communities of practice
Holloway, J., & Brass, J. (2018). Making accountable teachers: The terrors and pleasures of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 33(3), 361-382, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2017.1372636
Schleicher, A. (2016). Teaching excellence through professional learning and policy reform: Lessons from around the world, International summit on the teaching profession, Paris: OECD. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264252059-en
- simon wrigley & Lorna Smith
In the UK, over the past three decades, a wide range of standards-based education reforms - impacting on school curriculum, professional teaching standards, assessment and accountability regimes - have significantly shaped the ways in which L1 teachers have understood their work and learning as teachers and professionals. These impacts have been particularly acute in respect to current L1 (English) teachers’ thinking about the place of student-centred learning and writing practices (Smith, 2018). However, such reforms cannot and do not determine English teachers’ thinking about the possibilities and affordances of writing in young people’s lives and indeed in the teachers’ own lives. Recent research has begun to explore the ways in which English teachers’ awareness of and insights into their own agency as professionals and practitioners have shaped their current practices and identities (e.g., Doecke, Turvey & Yandell, 2016; Smith 2014; Smith 2017).
This paper draws on experiences in the National Writing Project (NWP) in the UK (nwp.org.uk), in which teachers and teacher educators have participated in professional learning communities, with a focus on writing and writing pedagogies. Most recently, this has included a series of ‘writing history workshops and interviews’ for students, teachers and writing educators, co-designed and run synchronously in Monash University, Australia. Drawing on the spoken and written testimony of 3 groups of NWP (UK) teachers, analysed through a hermeneutic lens, the study reports on participants’ views of their writing practices and histories as English/literacy teachers, and examines the spaces within current UK national curriculum and assessment arrangements for their current practices and thinking about writing to be recognised and accommodated.
The study compares current arrangements and practices in UK schools and classrooms with writing teachers’ accreted experience as students and writers themselves. We trace the evolution of different pedagogic skills and cultural values, and a developing sense of the affordances of writing beyond the testing regime. Our paper describes ways in which experimentation, collaboration, dialogue and reflection characterise effective writing pedagogy (for student learning and teacher learning) and the evidence that such pedagogy remains at ‘the heart’ of powerful learning. We illustrate this with narratives drawn from participants in different writing communities in the UK NWP.
Writing; agency; professional learning; writing histories; national writing project; dialogue
Doecke, B., Turvey, A., & Yandell, J. (2016). Memory/History. Changing English, 23(2), 95-97, doi: 10.1080/1358684X.2016.1162961.
Smith, L (2014). Diving into writing: Reflections on the first year of my involvement in the National Writing Project. The Use of English 66(1), 10-19
Smith, L. (2017). Creative spaces for developing independent writing with English teachers. In D. Stevens, & K. Lockney (Eds.), Students, places, and identities in English and the Arts: Creative spaces in education. London: Routledge.
Smith, L. (2018). ‘We’re Not Building Worker Bees.’ What has happened to creative practice in England since the Dartmouth Conference of 1966?, Changing English, doi:
Smith, J., & Wrigley, S. (2012). What has writing ever done for us? The power of teachers’ writing groups. English in Education, 46(1), 70-84. doi:10.1111/j.1754-8845.2011.01116.x.
- Nikki Aharonian
In the current climate of accountability and standardisation, there is broad international recognition of the importance of ongoing professional learning for educators (Jones & O’Brian, 2014). Despite this seemingly global consensus, there is a great deal of disagreement regarding what kinds of professional learning should be promoted (Kennedy, 2016). Although there is a growing body of research into writing for the professional development of teachers (Cremin & Locke, 2017), studies which focus on writing for the learning of teacher educators are scarce (Shteiman, Gidron, Eilon, & Katz, 2010). This paper offers insight into the rich learning which can be experienced by teacher educators when they write and facilitate writing in dialogic programs for teachers.
In this paper, I report on a critical and reflexive practitioner inquiry, which focuses on a government-funded dialogic professional learning program that I designed and taught in Israel. For eight years, 501 literacy teachers in 16 cohorts, met to write and collaboratively reflect on their writing pedagogy. Assuming the role of leader in the program, I scrutinised my assumptions about writing, writing pedagogy, teaching and learning and significantly enhanced my professional learning as a teacher-educator.
The theoretical framework of this study draws on the work of Bakhtin which informs both my pedagogy as a teacher educator and my methodological choices as a researcher. Using narrative inquiry methods, I explore how I experience and understand my learning mediated by writing. Data includes a range of texts surrounding the program: letters, responses to teacher writing, narratives, blog posts and my research journal. Close readings of these writings reveal the potential of the program for rich learning for teachers involved and their teacher educator.
This study recommends the establishment of teacher writing groups and encourages teacher educators to make time to grapple in writing with their leadership experience as a means of powerful professional learning. These kinds of activities focus on the distinctive learning that teachers and teacher educators do in specific, local educational contexts and sit sharply in contrast with the sameness and standardisation emphasised and promoted in standards-based policy.
teacher writing; teacher educators; professional learning; narrative inquiry; practitioner inquiry
Cremin, T., & Locke, T. (Eds.). (2017). Writer identity and the teaching and learning of writing: Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Jones, K., & O'Brian, J. (2014). Professional development in teacher education: European perspectives. In K. Jones & J. O'Brian (Eds.), European perspectives on professional development in teacher education (pp. 1-6). Oxon: Routledge.
Kennedy, M. M. (2016). How does professional development improve teaching? Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 945-980. doi:10.3102/0034654315626800
Shteiman, Y., Gidron, A., Eilon, B., & Katz, P. (2010). Writing as a journey of professional development for teacher educators. Professional Development in Education, 36(1-2), 339-356. doi:10.1080/19415250903457562
- Scott Bulfin & Graham B. Parr & Fleur Diamond
Writing continues to be an important part of the professional learning of many teachers around the world—both individual writing and writing which emerges out of participation in professional communities and networks (Cremin and Oliver, 2016; Lieberman and Wood, 2003; Locke, 2015; Smith and Wrigley 2016). Research into teachers’ writing has shown that writing, when understood as a form of professional learning, has a range of benefits for teachers, including building reflective capacity, the sharing of situated knowledge of educators’ practice, building supportive networks and promoting critically oriented professional identities (Parr and Bulfin, 2015). Many of these benefits have also been shown to help teachers negotiate and resist policy environments characterised by narrow standards-based reforms (Parr, Bulfin, Harlowe and Stock, 2014).
While L1 teachers around the world have long experienced the value of writing for and about their work, particular approaches have developed in different national contexts. This paper examines the particular professional policy contexts, histories and practices which develop and shape the writing experiences and identities of L1/English teachers in Australia. We draw on the experiences of a number of teacher writing communities operating in Melbourne, Australia, with data generated through teacher writing, interviews and focus groups. The Australian context is currently shaped by a national curriculum, a high stakes testing regime (NAPLAN) (ACARA 2018) and by national professional teaching standards (AITSL, 2011) all of which exert pressure on more established professional cultures of teacher writing (cf Doecke and Gill, 2001; Doecke and Parr, 2005). We argue that these standardising reforms have tended to narrow the writing work teachers feel able to do in classrooms and to delimit the professional writing capacities and identities of L1/English teachers. In this context, we also examine the role of teacher writing groups in sustaining vibrant professional writing cultures and enabling teachers to generate alternative accounts and forms of evidence about their work.
Teachers’ writing; professional learning; teacher writing communities; national teaching standards
ACARA (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority). (2018). Australian Curriculum. Sydney: ACARA. http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/.
AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership). (2011) Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Carlton South: Education Services Australia (ESA). http:// www.teacherstandards.aitsl.edu.au.
Cremin, T., & Oliver, L. (2016). Teachers as writers: A systematic review. Research Papers in Education. doi:10.1080/02671522.2016.1187664
Doecke, B., & Gill, M. (2001). Setting standards: Confronting paradox. English in Australia, 129-130, 5-15.
Doecke, B., & Parr, G. (Eds.). (2005). Writing=learning. Kent Town, South Australia: AATE/Wakefield.
Lieberman, A., & Wood, D. (2003). Inside the national writing project: Connecting network learning and classroom teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.
Locke, T. (2015). Developing writing teachers. New York: Routledge.
Parr, G. & Bulfin, S. (2015). Professional learning and the unfinalizable: English educators writing and telling stories together. Changing English, 22(2), 157-175. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1358684X.2015.1026186
Parr, G., Bulfin, S., Harlowe, J., & Stock, C. (2014). English teacher professional learning: Learning to be creative and learning to become, creatively. In B. Doecke, G. Parr, & W. Sawyer (Eds.), Language and creativity in contemporary English classrooms (pp. 53-69). Putney, NSW: Phoenix Education.
Smith, J., & Wrigley, S. (2016). Introducing teachers’ writing groups: Exploring the theory and practice. Abingdon: Routledge.