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The connective teacher: Network learning for a sustainable profession

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Abstract

Introduction 'The times they are a-changing'. This holds particularly true for our current time. A time that has huge implications for education. For education has an open link to society. This society is subjected to incredible changes due to social, cultural and technological developments. We are a midst of a fourth industrial revolution, that is characterized by an intertwining of the physical and digital world. Into cyber-physical systems. Robots in health care, self-driving cars, the Internet of Things exemplifies this development (WEF, 2018). All these changes affects education and put the adaptive power of teachers to a test. Not only societal changes impact teachers, also the knowledge bases behind the profession expands. Teachers may use new insights in neurosciences, learning psychology, pedagogy and so on. The motto for the teaching profession is 'lifelong learning'. This learning will have a more collaborative focus. A teacher with a high individual professional autonomy lies behind us. Hargreaves and Fullan (2012, p. xi) typify this shift as follows: 'To break down the walls of classroom isolation and convert teaching in a more collaborative and collegial profession.' In this paper we describe a perspective on a 'sustainable teacher' who actively and collaboratively works and learn in an open connection to societal and scientific developments. This connective teacher is a professional, hence a solid knowledge base is key to his or her judgements and actions. These judgements and actions have 1 E.vandenberg.01@saxion.nl 2 a technical-rational dimension and a moral dimension. Doing things right, but also doing the right things. In this paper we describe the professional capital that underlies the teaching profession. We focus on the social capital of teachers and how teachers acquire this in participating in various professional networks. This paper end with four statement that summarizes a vision on the connective teacher. Professional capital Hargraeves and Fullan (2012) coined the term professional capital. Professional capital consists of three components: human capital (referring to the individual), social capital (referring to the group), and decisional capital (referring to action). In a formula: PC =f(HC,SC,DC). The term human capital is the most well-known in this formula and refers to the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the individual teacher: the competencies underlying teachers' actions and their justification. For teachers this is a rich and varied palette containing universal knowledge about psychology, pedagogy, subject matter, instructional design, but also insight in the family background of students, empathy and willingness to innovate. In short, human capital refers to all knowledge, skills and attitudes individual teachers' bring to the stage in order to act as a professional. Social capital arises amongst the relations between people. It consists of the resources available to individuals because they are a member of a group. The quantity and the quality of the interactions between group members determine the value of social capital. Quantity links to the amount of relationships and quality to shared norms, trust and reciprocity. Decisional capital is at the core of professionality: decisions to be taken in complex situations based on careful judgments. Human capital, social capital and decisional capital are not independent of each other, but reciprocally influence each other. Human capital: to acquire individual competencies There is a significant amount of research within various traditions about how teachers acquire individual competencies. All these traditions have one constant: the relation with practice is pivotal: both as area of application and as learning environment. 3 Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) distinguish knowledge for practice, knowledge in practice and knowledge of practice. The first one is about the application of general knowledge in practice. However, learning to apply separate knowledge components in practice is insufficient to adequately act in a classroom. The latter needs experience in practice. This experience leads to knowledge-in-practice: knowledge is a spin-off of practical action. This knowledge is often tacit. Knowledge of practice is anchored in practice and linked to more general knowledge. This type of knowledge is a result of reflection-on-action. Social capital in professional networks Social capital exists in a network of individuals and not in their cognitive structures. In an abstract formulation a network consists of nodes linked by lines. In a social network, the nodes are persons, and the lines the connections between those persons. Every individual is a member of many networks: for example family, friends, football club. Also teachers participate in networks, within and outside their schools. These are professional networks because 'being a teacher' is the reason why they are part of a particular network. In professional networks teachers' individual talents (human capital) are purposively connected to each other. Coburn and Russel (2008) distinguish four dimensions that influences the development of social capital in a teacher network. Firstly , a network can be described by its structure: tie span and tie strength. Tie span may be limited to for example a school team, or wider for example to an international network of teachers. Tie strength is a function of social/emotional closeness and frequency of interaction. Strong ties facilitate the transfer of sensitive or complex knowledge and problem solving. By contrast weak ties are import to spread ideas, information and advice. Trust is a second dimension of a network description. Trust consists of mutual understanding of roles in the network and alignment of expectations. It is a necessary condition to motivate people to discuss and share information and experiences. Thirdly, the development of social capital within a network depends on the access to expertise. Participants in a network bring their human capital to the stage. Knowing, acknowledging and accessibility of this expertise influence the quality of the networks' social capital. Baker-Doyle and Yoon (2010) coin the term expertise 4 transparency and their research findings indicate that expertise in a network is not found and used naturally, it requires coordinated action. Content of interaction is refers to the substance of the conversations of the network
1
The connective teacher: Network learning for a sustainable profession
Paper presented at:
6th VoiceS -Conference: European Teachers Network Get Connected”
Milano, 23-25 May, 2019
Ellen van den Berg
1
, Saxion University of Applied Sciences
Marjon Baas, Saxion University of Applied Sciences/Leiden University
Wilfried Admiraal, Leiden University
Introduction
‘The times they are a-changing. This holds particularly true for our current time. A
time that has huge implications for education. For education has an open link to
society. This society is subjected to incredible changes due to social, cultural and
technological developments. We are a midst of a fourth industrial revolution, that is
characterized by an intertwining of the physical and digital world. Into cyber physical
systems. Robots in health care, self-driving cars, the Internet of Things exemplifies
this development (WEF, 2018). All these changes affects education and put the
adaptive power of teachers to a test. Not only societal changes impact teachers, also
the knowledge bases behind the profession expands. Teachers may use new insights
in neurosciences, learning psychology, pedagogy and so on. The motto for the
teaching profession is ‘lifelong learning’.
This learning will have a more collaborative focus. A teacher with a high individual
professional autonomy lies behind us. Hargreaves and Fullan (2012, p. xi) typify this
shift as follows: ‘To break down the walls of classroom isolation and convert teaching
in a more collaborative and collegial profession.’
In this paper we describe a perspective on a ‘sustainable teacher’ who actively and
collaboratively works and learn in an open connection to societal and scientific
developments. This connective teacher is a professional, hence a solid knowledge
base is key to his or her judgements and actions. These judgements and actions have
1
E.vandenberg.01@saxion.nl
2
a technical-rational dimension and a moral dimension. Doing things right, but also
doing the right things.
In this paper we describe the professional capital that underlies the teaching
profession. We focus on the social capital of teachers and how teachers acquire this
in participating in various professional networks. This paper end with four statement
that summarizes a vision on the connective teacher.
Professional capital
Hargraeves and Fullan (2012) coined the term
professional capital.
Professional
capital consists of three components: human capital (referring to the individual),
social capital (referring to the group), and decisional capital (referring to action). In a
formula: PC =f(HC,SC,DC).
The term
human capital
is the most well-known in this formula and refers to the
knowledge, skills and attitudes of the individual teacher: the competencies underlying
teachers’ actions and their justification. For teachers this is a rich and varied palette
containing universal knowledge about psychology, pedagogy, subject matter,
instructional design, but also insight in the family background of students, empathy
and willingness to innovate. In short, human capital refers to all knowledge, skills and
attitudes individual teachers’ bring to the stage in order to act as a professional.
Social capital
arises amongst the relations between people. It consists of the resources
available to individuals because they are a member of a group. The quantity and the
quality of the interactions between group members determine the value of social
capital. Quantity links to the amount of relationships and quality to shared norms,
trust and reciprocity.
Decisional
capital is at the core of professionality: decisions to be taken in complex
situations based on careful judgments.
Human capital, social capital and decisional capital are not independent of each other,
but reciprocally influence each other.
Human capital: to acquire individual competencies
There is a significant amount of research within various traditions about how teachers
acquire individual competencies. All these traditions have one constant: the relation
with practice is pivotal: both as area of application and as learning environment.
3
Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) distinguish knowledge
for
practice, knowledge
in
practice and knowledge
of
practice. The first one is about the application of general
knowledge in practice. However, learning to apply separate knowledge components
in practice is insufficient to adequately act in a classroom. The latter needs experience
in practice. This experience leads to knowledge-
in
-practice: knowledge is a spin-off
of practical action. This knowledge is often tacit. Knowledge
of
practice is anchored
in practice and linked to more general knowledge. This type of knowledge is a result
of reflection-on-action.
Social capital in professional networks
Social capital exists in a network of individuals and not in their cognitive structures.
In an abstract formulation a network consists of nodes linked by lines. In a social
network, the nodes are persons, and the lines the connections between those persons.
Every individual is a member of many networks: for example family, friends, football
club. Also teachers participate in networks, within and outside their schools. These
are professional networks because ‘being a teacher’ is the reason why they are part
of a particular network. In professional networks teachers’ individual talents (human
capital) are purposively connected to each other.
Coburn and Russel (2008) distinguish four dimensions that influences the
development of social capital in a teacher network.
Firstly , a network can be described by its
structure
: tie span and tie strength. Tie
span may be limited to for example a school team, or wider for example to an
international network of teachers. Tie strength is a function of social/emotional
closeness and frequency of interaction. Strong ties facilitate the transfer of sensitive
or complex knowledge and problem solving. By contrast weak ties are import to
spread ideas, information and advice.
Trust
is a second dimension of a network description. Trust consists of mutual
understanding of roles in the network and alignment of expectations. It is a necessary
condition to motivate people to discuss and share information and experiences.
Thirdly, the development of social capital within a network depends on the
access to
expertise.
Participants in a network bring their human capital to the stage. Knowing,
acknowledging and accessibility of this expertise influence the quality of the
networks’ social capital. Baker-Doyle and Yoon (2010) coin the term
expertise
4
transparency
and their research findings indicate that expertise in a network is not
found and used naturally, it requires coordinated action.
Content of interaction
is refers to the substance of the conversations of the network
participants. The question is whether the exchange of information contributes to the
professional learning of teachers. In this respect the depth of interaction is important.
Little (1990) distinguishes the following degrees:
Storytelling and scanning
Aid and assistance
Sharing
Joint work
Important to note is that not all exchange of information is beneficial for example
innovation purposes. If the ideas behind an innovation are not in accordance with the
ideas in a network, this network can be a powerful instrument for resistance.
Learning within a network
The learning potential of a network depends on the degree of openness of a network.
A closed network has a small tie span, and its participants are like-minded people
who know each other well and share a lot. On the contrary, if the tie span of an open
network is bigger, the variation in its participants background is greater and the
interaction less intensive.
Both types of networks have their own learning potential. Learning in a closed network
has an informal character and the learning is situated in the context of practice. The
interactions consist of sharing practical knowledge and finding solutions for day-to-
day problems. Also more confidential information is shared. A disadvantage is that a
closed network provides little opportunity for new idea and expertise from outside.
In a dynamic context this disadvantage comes into being( Wenger, 1998) The
participants stay in their own ‘bubble’.
Does an open network have a higher learning potential? There is not a straightforward
answer to this question. An open network offers more variety of expertise and sources
and ideas are more numerous. However, an open network lacks the power of strong
ties in which trust is obvious and collaborative learning is context-bound and focused
on relevant problems and practical solutions.
5
Learning between networks
Learning between networks provides for a more integrated perspective on network
learning. Participating in various networks is referred to with the term boundary
crossing. Teachers ‘hop’ from one professional network to another. They may be a
member of an mathematics department and of a special education team but also of
an international teachers’’ network.
Engstrom’s (1987) cultural activity of expansive learning theory stresses the
importance of boundary crossing for learning. If a network is not equipped for its
task, looking outside the network is a must. The initial friction triggers a learning
mode. In other words boundary crossing has a unique learning potential. For example
an elementary school team wants to integrate IT in their science curriculum, but if
they lack the expertise to do so. Then an appropriate action is to seek for advice and
support in other networks.
In their review study Akkerman and Bakker (2011) provide for a conceptual framework
of the learning potential of boundary crossing. Or as Wenger and colleagues stated
that “radically new insights and developments often arise at the boundaries between
communities” (Wenger, McDermott, Snyder, 2002, p.153). Four potential learning
mechanisms can be identified that can take place through boundary crossing
(Akkerman & Bakker, 2011):
1.
Identification
occurs as teachers are part of multiple practices which challenges
their existing assumptions or practices. Teachers identify their own expertise
and limitations. They recognize their strong and weak points.
2.
Coordination
evolves when procedures and rules are created in dialogue across
practices in order to effectively cooperate and collaborate.
3.
Reflection
occurs when someone (re)considers this/her own practice due to
taking into account the perspective of other practices. Teachers learn from
reflecting on differences between practices. Reflection also occurs when
teachers encourage others to reflect and reconsider their practices.
4.
Transformation
describes the effect of boundary crossing that leads to changes
in practices or creation of new practices. Transformation starts with a
confrontation as teachers experience a (shared) problem or have a question in
their current practice. New knowledge or practices are co-created to be applied
in practice.
6
These potential learning mechanisms can occur at different levels: the organizational,
interpersonal and intrapersonal level (Akkerman & Bruining, 2016). Regardless of the
level, interaction can lead to new perspectives on one’s practice. Organizational
boundary crossing involves action and interaction between organizations,
interpersonal crossing encompasses interaction between groups of people from
different practices while at an intrapersonal level a single person crosses the
boundaries of multiple practices. A Multilevel Boundary Crossing Framework was
developed to describe these four learning mechanisms on the three levels, as can be
seen in Table 1.
Table 1: Multilevel boundary crossing framework (Akkermans & Bruining, 2016)
Learning mechanism
Institutional level
Interpersonal level
Intrapersonal level
Identification
Organizations come
to (re)define their
different and
complementary
nature.
People come to
(re)define their
different and
complementary roles
and tasks.
A person comes to
define his or her
simultaneous but
distinctive
participatory
positions.
Coordination
Organizations seek
means or
procedures for
institutional
exchange and
cooperation.
People seek means
or procedures for
exchange and
cooperation.
A person seeks
means or produces
to distribute or align
his or her
participatory
positions in multiple
practices.
Reflection
Organizations come
to value and take up
another’s
perspective to look
at their own
practice.
People come to
value and take up
another’s
perspective.
A person comes to
look differently to
his own participatory
position because of
the other
participatory
position.
Transformation
Organizations face a
shared problem
space and starts to
work collaboratively
or merge
institutionally
People face a shared
problem space and
starts to work
collaboratively and
may build group
identity.
A person develops a
hybridized position
in which previously
distinctive ways of
thinking, doing,
communication and
feeling are
integrated.
7
Some empirical research has been conducted with this framework of boundary
crossing. Bakx and colleagues (2016) for example examined boundary crossing by
science teacher researchers in a PhD program. Their findings showed that personal
characteristics such as communication skills and flexible switching and specific
contextual factors like learning climates and supportive supervisors facilitated
boundary crossing. Goos and Bennison (2017) also investigated factors that hinder or
facilitate boundary crossing within the domain of mathematics education. Within the
institute collaboration was enabled by trust, open-mindedness and the
acknowledgment of a shared problem. Boundary crossing between institutes was
more complex as boundary objects needed to be recontextualize and transformed
which required a mutually beneficial exchange. The study of Cornelius and Stevenson
(2019) focused specifically on each of the four learning mechanisms experienced by
teachers in online collaboration. Their findings showed that all learning mechanisms
occurred but were not experienced by all teachers. The authors suggest that learning
does not appear sequentially from one learning mechanisms to the other, but more
cyclical within each learning mechanism at the same time. More empirical research is
needed to shed light on boundary crossing and learning. It must be taken into account
though that not only individuals, but also objects are essential when boundary
crossing.
Also the perspective is important. Looking at boundary crossing from an innovation
perspective, we may say that identification and coordination fit into a stable context,
reflection and transformation occur in dynamic, innovative, contexts. Innovation asks
for new problem settings and solutions for which ‘the state of the art knowledge’ of
the different networks is insufficient. The design process of new practices has to be
facilitated and the sustainability of solutions warranted. But also the identity of each
network and cooperation between networks needs attention.
Artefacts in network learning
This section focusses on the role of artefacts or object in network learning. The actor
network theory of Bruno Latour (2005) perceives networks not only as a structure of
relations between people but gives artefacts or objects an equal position in a network.
Artefacts are not passive things, but they may initiate interactions. An educational
computer program on mathematics may provoke a vivid discussion amongst
8
mathematic teachers. Boundary objects are objects that are recognizable across
different sites but can have a different meaning in each site (Star & Griesemer, 1989).
Or more specific, objects that are ‘both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and
the constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain
a common identity across sites (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p. 393). Boundary objects
play an important role in the theory of boundary crossing. They facilitate
communication between networks and enable the coordination of joint activities. For
example, in teacher education the scoring rubric for a thesis is an instrument to grade
the thesis, for purposes of quality assurance it is an instrument to judge the level of
a program against European standard.
It comes down to choices: Decisional capital
‘Making decisions in complex situations is what professionalism is all about’
(Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p.5). In classroom practice these decisions are taken in a
split second are referred to as reflection-in-action (Schön, 1983). Especially in the
eighties of the past century the amount of decisions teachers take was a popular
research topic. Estimations vary from 40 to 200 decisions per hour.
2
Teachers
implement their plans ánd at the same time have a capacity for improvisation, because
the interaction with student always asks for this flexibility. The right decision at the
right moment is key to quality teaching. Good teachers do not only take decisions
when ‘no one is looking’, but discuss their decisions with others and are open to
feedback in order to take a collective responsibility for the quality of teaching.
Due to the growing importance of network learning, teachers need to develop a new
form of decisional capital. Especially when innovation is at stake, teachers need their
professional networks for new ideas and expertise. However, it is difficult to choose
amongst the various networks, but it is also crucial to do so, because teacher time is
limited and participating in productive networks is helpful, but in a less relevant
network perhaps a waste of time.
Teacher also need to think about their role in a network: for example do they want to
be the expert at the heart of a network or is participation in the periphery a good
option? The competence to make good network choices is relevant for teachers in the
21th century.
2
https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/student-learning-and-arming-teachers/
9
A connective teacher: a vision on a sustainable profession
The term connective teacher refers to an interpretation of the teacher profession in
which collaboration is essential. A teacher as a solo performer in the classroom is
out-of-date. This does not imply that the relation between teachers and students is
not important. On the contrary, it is the heart of the teacher profession. But,
collaboration between teachers is vital to optimize this relationship. An effective
team of teachers is a team that has confidence in their ability to realise collective
ambitions.
In the relationship between teachers professionalism grows, and therefore focusing
on social capital is an effective professional development strategy. Only concentrating
on individual professional development seems not to be an appropriate strategy,
because ‘if you concentrate your efforts on increasing individual talent, you will have
a devil of a job producing greater social capital’ The reverse is not true high social
capital does generate increased human capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p.4).
Stable, relatively closed networks offer a basis of trust for learning in which context
specific practical knowledge is created. However, in a vision on a sustainable
professional closed networks cannot meet the challenges education faces, due to
changes in society and technology. The teacher as a
routine
professional, who cares
for quality education within a known framework, needs to be transformed to an
innovation
professional who looks for inspiration, knowledge and support outside
familiar boxes. Developing a robust professional identity is vital first step to
participate successfully in relevant professional networks in order to get new ideas
and find, together with others, possible answers s to new challenges. These ideas and
answers need a translation to the local context.
For teachers who consider an innovation it is important to have interactions with
teachers who have already experience with such an innovation. These interactions
may be online, but online meetings impede an intensive, trustful exchange of ideas
(Baker-Doyle, 2017). Innovation professionals could profit from a third space where
they can find information about an innovation and can discuss it with other teachers
and experts. Future Learning Labs may fulfill these functions. Moreover, Future
Learning Labs provide for opportunities to see student and teachers at work with
innovative approaches. It is a space where student-teachers, teachers, teacher
10
educators, researchers and others find a place to share and experiment with
innovative ideas.
We round up this paper with four statements about the connective teacher:
1. Connective teachers are competent and passionate professionals who in
collaboration with others realise the best education for their students. They
believe that learning with all students is possible and value different talents of
students.
2. Connective teachers show an attitude of inquiry. This attitude enables teachers
to become lifelong learners in and of their practice and helps to develop
situated knowledge. Teachers who embrace inquiry as stance draw on multiple
insights and data sources to tackle relevant issues encountered in course of
their pedagogical practice (cf. Cochran-Smith & Lytle, S., 2009).
3. Connective teachers are networkers who participate wilfully and deliberately in
different professional networks and bring valuable insights back to their
schools and classrooms. Connective teachers are innovative professionals who
find a breeding ground for lifelong learning and innovation in physical and
virtual networks.
4. Connective teachers are related to developments in society, especially its
digital transformation, but they also value cultural diversity.
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Objets fronti_re = s'adaptent pour prendre en compte plusieurs points de vue et maintenir une identité entre eux Cet espace de travail se construit grâce à des objets-frontières tels que des systèmes de classification, qui relient entre eux les concepts communs et les rôles sociaux divergents de chaque groupe professionnel. Les objet-frontière contribuent à la stabilité du système de référence en offrant un contexte partagé pour la communication et la coopération. Les objets peuvent être considérés comme frontière (Star et Griesemer, 1989) en tant qu’ils contribuent à la stabilité du système de référence en offrant un contexte partagé pour la communication et la coopération.
Article
This study aims at understanding the recurrent challenges of professional development school (PDS) partnerships experienced by many countries. It does so by conceptualizing PDS partnerships as endeavors to cross institutionally and epistemologically developed boundaries between teacher education, schooling and academic research. After introducing what we call a Multi-Level Boundary Crossing approach, we look at the start-up years of one academic PDS partnership, scrutinizing the successive learning mechanisms that are evoked at an institutional, interpersonal and intrapersonal level. The case study narrative illustrates the multi-level nature of boundary crossing, and reveals different learning mechanisms in different phases and at different levels. For example, whereas coordination initially occurred at all levels, transformation occurred in later years mainly at the intrapersonal level. The study sheds specific light on the intrapersonal level, by showing the significant as well as challenging role of various brokers in establishing both horizontal and vertical connections across and within the organizations involved. Despite being important leaders of the partnerships’ activities, we observed how brokers prevented others from becoming more involved. We propose that partnerships should carefully consider the sort of learning processes they aspire and can realistically expect at different levels and moments in time, and accordingly consider how they want to position the various actors.