In various forms of educational literature, the word "community" is used to designate one of the primary goals of professional development. Phrases like "learning communities," "professional communities," and "communities of practice" are becoming commonplace. Curiously, while "community" has been put forth as an effective strategy and a worthwhile goal for professional development, little work has been done to understand whether that is what teachers want. The purpose of this study is to understand five teachers' professional development goals and values, their participation in and value of two community-focused professional development projects, and the extent to which the discourse of "community of practice" can be used to characterize and understand these teachers' professional development goals and values.
This study focuses on five secondary math teachers at the end of their first year of participating in a lesson study group (LSG) coordinated by a major Midwestern university. Their work in the project was supported by an online professional development environment, the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), which was designed upon the precepts of communities of practice. Utilizing a grounded theory approach to build individual cases, the teachers' professional development goals, values, and work in and reflections on their first year in the LSG and ILF projects were analyzed and categorized. Cross case analysis revealed the teachers had a strong desire for professional connection and placed a high value on the lesson study process as a form for professional development and growth. The teachers reported seeing little value in the online environment supporting their work either in or out of the lesson study group, despite their recognition of the environment's potential. In addition, some evidence was found for using the attributes of a community of practice as a way of characterizing both stated teacher professional development goals and their professional development activities.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/julie_moore/75/