Public anticipation yet private realisation: the effects of using cases as an approach to developing teacher leaders.
The professional learning of teachers is increasingly recognised as important, not only for enhancing the quality of teaching in schools but for developing the profession more generally (Berry, Clemans & Kostogriz, 2007). In particular, the development of teacher leaders has become a priority for education systems concerned with reform. Globally, the perceived value of developing teacher leaders is most tangible around expectations that it will result in school improvement, better student learning outcomes, enhanced teacher learning and increased staff retention (Ross et al., 2011; Taylor, Goeke, Klein, Onore & Geist, 2011). Therefore, it is not difficult to see why professional learning approaches designed to build teachers' leadership capacity attract considerable interest.
This article examines an aspect--case writing--within a professional learning program named Leading Professional Learning (LPL). The program was developed by a team of academics from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, who responded to a call from the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Education (DEECD) to conduct a program for teacher leaders in primary and secondary schools. Over 200 teachers participated in the program over a period of three years. The teacher leaders who applied to participate in the program conformed with York-Barr and Duke's (2004) description of teacher leaders as those who '[mobilise] teacher expertise about teaching and learning to improve the culture and instruction in schools such that student learning is enhanced' (p. 261).
The majority of teacher leaders who enrolled in the LPL program described themselves as new to or only slightly experienced in leadership, and their motivation for involvement in the professional learning program was based on a desire to learn more about being professional learning leaders in their schools. As new appointees to their positions, their school-based responsibilities included being both a classroom teacher and a leader of professional learning. In this role, it was anticipated that they would be confronted by a transition in identity from classroom teacher to leader of their colleagues' learning. Responding productively to this challenge was therefore an important goal for the LPL program, which was designed to help participants focus on their learning in this leadership role. Reflection on their own practice was an important program feature and the use of case writing as a formal tool to document their learning and foster support in the identity shift was a central aspect of the program.
The LPL program--Developing teacher leaders
The LPL program was designed to support teachers who had accepted responsibility for leading the professional learning of their colleagues (see Clemans, Berry & Loughran, 2010; Loughran et al., 2011). The outcomes that drove the program were set by the DEECD and, in sum, they aimed to build the participating teacher leaders' capability to design, implement and evaluate effective school-based professional learning to support improved teaching and learning. The view of leadership in the DEECD at that time was based on the well-documented work of Sergiovanni (1996). At the heart of this leadership conceptualisation was the desire to enable teacher leadership based on a connection between teacher quality and classroom outcomes. This initiative was built on what has been acknowledged in the literature as 'a strong link between teacher leadership and professional development because professional development is both a cause and an outcome of teacher leadership' (Poeckert, 2012, p. 170). Explicating this important link between leading and learning in the practice of participants was a major framing mechanism for the LPL program.
The LPL program was shaped by guiding principles that the project team viewed as central to the approach to professional learning for teacher leaders. The principles were that the program should be responsive to the specifics of school and classroom contexts; underpinned by research and practice-based evidence; be self-sustaining over time; and supported by professional learning communities and collaboration (Hayes, Mills, Christie & Lingard, 2006; Hoban, 2002). These principles were based on a conceptual model of teacher leadership that developed through school-based work, collaboration with other teachers, and an element of doing and reflection as a means to build confidence and capacity (Muijs & Harris, 2007). In that way, teacher leadership assumed a bedrock status that purposefully supported program expectations and teacher learning.
The LPL program structure comprised four parts:
* a four-day structured program spread over a teaching year
* peer support research networks and network leaders to support the ongoing learning of participants across the structured program
* a school-based professional learning project conceived, developed, directed and completed by participants
* case writing as a means for teacher leaders to articulate the insights derived from their experiences of leading the learning of others.
As recent studies suggest, the connections between teacher leadership and professional learning tend to focus more on what comprises teacher leadership and less on the means by which these are learnt by leaders (Poeckert, 2012). This article responds to this by seriously concentrating on one aspect of the 'means of learning', namely case writing. It does so by examining in detail the ways in which this process strengthened participating teachers' leadership.
To help focus participants' learning about leading professional learning, the final program task was a case-writing day. Through a case-writing methodology (Darling-Hammond & Hammerness, 2002; Lundeberg, Levin & Harrington, 1999; Shulman, 1992) participants constructed their cases, shared and discussed their drafts and then, through collaboration with their peer network leaders, further edited and refined their work, which was then collated and published as a book (Berry et al., 2008, Clemans et al., 2009).
The value of cases has been well recognised in the research literature for providing a real-world, practice-based context in which to foster discoveries about teaching and learning at both a theoretical and practical level (Loughran & Berry, 2011). Cases highlight the complexity and messiness of educational work in ways that are readily identifiable by professionals (Levin, 2002), thus creating an engaging way for others to read. As the work of Smith and Goldblatt (2009) so vividly illustrates, cases also offer insights into the specialist knowledge and skills of professionals from which a strong base for ongoing professional learning can be built. For these reasons, and congruent with the principles underpinning the program, case writing was included as an integral component of the LPL program. As this article will demonstrate, case writing was a catalyst for fostering participants' reflection on their leadership practice and a way of externalising their knowing (Barnett & Tyson, 1999; Carter, 1992; Lundeberg, 1999). Cases created insights into practice that were informative not only for those who wrote them but also for others involved in leading professional learning in schools.
Just as pedagogical reasoning is important in the development of knowledge of classroom teaching, the same applies when considering leading the professional learning of others. An important reason for implementing case writing in the LPL program was the perceived value of participants documenting and sharing their professional knowledge of practice. Participants were therefore encouraged to think carefully about a public audience for their case and to take seriously what it might mean to articulate their knowledge of learning. In terms of operationalising their learning, participants were supported in constructing their writing by responding to questions such as: 'What is this a case of?' 'What has been learnt and why does it matter in understanding a given situation?' Then, in relation to sharing that knowledge, they were encouraged to consider their case from a reader's perspective in terms of the question: 'How can this learning be portrayed in such a way as to be valuable and informative to others?'
Darling-Hammond and Hammerness (2002) described the value and impact of case writing as important for adding context into abstract learning, connecting principles to practices and deepening critical thinking. This article builds on that work by describing participants' experiences of the case-writing process. It also explores the features of case writing that succeeded in promoting the participating teacher leaders' professional learning and knowledge of leadership as well as identifying others that were in need of strengthening.
Case writing and professional learning
As the underpinning principles suggest, the LPL program had conceptual strands aimed at supporting learning for teacher leaders. First, the program was formally constructed as a professional learning program that placed teacher learning, schools and leadership contexts at its core. Second, the LPL program positioned teachers as producers of knowledge rather than receivers of the wisdom of (more knowledgeable) others. In supporting these two strands, scaffolding learning was important. The scaffolding created structural support for the act of writing, which was a significant learning feature in the program. Teachers wrote to learn: 'Teachers, like all researchers if they are honest enough to admit it, do not just write up what they have learned. They write to learn. And they learn through their writing' (Parr, 2008, p. 12).
Situating case writing as a central feature within the LPL program speaks to the distinctiveness of the professional learning orientation that characterised the program. When Doecke, Parr and North (2008) mapped contemporary forms of teacher learning in Australia, they noted a decided shift from professional development toward professional learning. They depicted such a shift as moving from conceptions of professional development, where experts work 'on' teachers toward conceptions of professional learning where teachers engage with communities of practice and learn from, and with, those in their professional communities 'learning from their work, and arriving at new understandings or knowledge on that basis' (p. 9).
The program integrated the two conceptual strands (noted above) through an emphasis on the 'situated' nature of professional learning. This was applied in the LPL program by embedding professional learning within teacher leaders' work contexts (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning, as shaped by the context in which it is acquired and used, positions workplace learning as more than a location. It is 'a set of activities in which knowledge either contributes or is embedded but also a set of social relations which give rise to those activities' (Eraut, 2000, p. 130). In this way, the LPL program drew the concerns, needs and contexts of the teacher leaders into the program rather than positioning them as an external reference point. Case writing exemplified an approach in which teacher leaders situated their learning and made meaning of it, influenced by the contexts in which they led. 'To learn to lead, then, teachers must place their own issues and concerns at the centre of their learning process, know themselves as learners [and leaders], reflect on their learning [of leading] and share it with others. This is an apprenticeship in leading' (Taylor et al., 2011, p. 3).
Methods and data sources
As noted earlier, this article examines one aspect of the LPL program, the process of learning through case writing, which was designed to help participants reflect upon and to build their capacity as teacher leaders. Traditionally, the work of teachers rarely includes time to write about their experience or their professional learning. Significantly, in this program, participants were supported (with time, by each other and academic mentors), to reflect upon and write about their experiences and understandings of leadership. The cases they wrote ranged around themes of leading amidst resistant colleagues, their experiences of vulnerability and experimentation with specific approaches to leading professional learning. Discussion of the thematic content of the cases is not the focus of this paper (for such analysis, see Clemans et al., 2010; Loughran et al., 2011). Our focus here is on the teacher leaders' experiences of the case-writing process and the how it supported their learning about leadership. In some cases, their experiences were bound up with their sense of the impact of their learning on their work. In a similar vein, as case writing was the denouement of the LPL program, it is difficult (and perhaps impossible) to fully separate evidence about program impact from discussion of the impact of case writing. But, in this article, our primary focus is on the teacher leaders' experience of the case-writing process and we have attempted to focus attention on that specific evidence.
There were two research questions that guided the examination of participants' writing experience for this article:
* in what ways did the case-writing process promote the professional learning of teacher leaders?
* in what ways did the case-writing process support and make apparent these teachers' knowledge of leadership?
The LPL program was conducted over three years (one cohort per year), and data for this study draws on interviews conducted with a volunteer sample of 37 participants from the final two cohorts of the program (that is, the second and third years). Participants were interviewed between six and nine months after their formal participation in the program had ceased because we were interested in gaining insight into their overall experiences of the program and the impact of their learning on themselves as teacher leaders, and to do so without any sense of obligation to the program while still involved in it. Time and space between the program and the interviews was hence important. In a similar manner, a researcher who had not been involved in the LPL program contacted all participants and sought volunteers to be interviewed about their experience of the program. The researcher organised a time and place convenient to participants to be individually interviewed using a semi-structured interview protocol. Each interview lasted approximately one hour; all interviews were audiotaped and later transcribed. Interviewees were assigned pseudonyms.
The interviews canvassed a number of areas, including teacher leaders' evaluation of the effectiveness of the LPL program, the impact of their learning on their practice, their identity as leaders, their views on their own professional growth and their experiences of the case-writing process. As noted above, analysis of the data around case writing informed this article. Guided by the research questions, thematic content analysis of the data was conducted. All references made in the interviews to cases were collated for the ways teacher leaders experienced case writing--their thoughts around case writing, the features of case writing, their perceptions of its impact on their understanding of leadership and the value of the publication comprising all cases. To organise these data, responses related to experiences connected to their participation in the case writing process and those that related to their engagement with the published casebook thereafter became central nodes. A template approach to qualitative data analysis was used whereby data were reduced, displayed and coded, based on our interpretation or 'readings' of their interview transcripts that referred to case writing. Codes and themes were displayed on matrices of the type suggested by Miles and Huberman (1994). These matrices helped to identify patterns or clusters emerging within the interviews. Table 1 (below) offers an overview of that analysis, depicting the frequency with which themes emerged across the sample.
Patterns within the data and emerging themes showed that anticipation of a 'public' audience for teacher leaders' written cases compelled them to consolidate and articulate their professional knowledge through case writing in ways that might not have occurred had this public element not been present (that is, the notion of publishing). This anticipation propelled teachers to bring to the surface what they had come to know and, in this way, validated them as leaders who were seen to have something worthwhile to say. Data also showed that reading the book of cases, once it was published, was common practice among the teacher leaders--yet that reading mostly occurred in private. The findings below consider the way 'public' and 'private' played out for the teacher leaders in the writing of their own case and in their reading of the set of cases once the casebook was published. Indicative quotes are used in each of these sections to offer insights into the themes presented.
Case writing: Recognising tacit knowledge
The act of case writing was experienced as a process in which the learning that had been internalised for participants over the course of the program began to surface. These teacher leaders were of the view that case writing was a dynamic process of externalising what they had come to know. In this way, the knowledge they had developed became more focused as they sifted through their many experiences and retrieved their substantive learning for further reflection and analysis. For example: 'it was like "turning on the lights as you are going down a path" ... coming on as we were walking, getting brighter and brighter ... Ah, yes!' (J); 'you never think with the same certainty as what you write' (F); 'a lot of things have happened over the year as a result of this program and it ... forced me to articulate them' (S); and 'I did see the value in writing it down as a declaration brings to life and confirms and consolidates and captures the insight that you do have ... sometimes insights are lost in the hurly-burly' (A).
The writing day was organised so that teacher leaders sat in their peer network groups, working in small collaborative groups to write their cases, or individually, on their laptops. Some found that talking through their learning with others helped to them to recognise what they knew and wanted to convey in their case: 'the talking while we were writing was just as valuable ... [to] clarify thoughts and direction of your writing and put it in a context that was interesting for somebody else to read and learn from' (S1);
[on] the day ... I sat there and thought I have no case to write ... then it just happened ... talking to the professors ... then talking again and refining the writing ... really reflecting on what I was doing ... I hadn't seen them by myself ... [I] valued the discussion part very much so. (D)
Case writing: Making the tacit explicit
As a result of the writing process, the tacit knowledge participants had gained was made explicit. Many of the teachers (14) made reference to the case writing as an act of consolidation of their learning and of their self-understanding as a leader. They used verbs such as 'consolidate','crystallise','distil','focus','construct','confirm' and 'formalise' to describe what for them were elements of the case writing process. Others (3) made reference to the case writing as a process that brought clarity. For example: 'If I hadn't written the case then I probably wouldn't have seen ... as clearly' (B); 'Writing of it [the case] just gave so much clarity ... of the impact it has on lots of other things' (C).
In the process of making their knowledge explicit, these teacher leaders gained a clearer sense of what they had come to know about themselves as leaders: '[it was] the first time I had been on a PD where they programmed time for stopping and thinking ... made such a big impact on me as a learning tool' (A); '[It] wasn't until you started writing the case that you worked out what you were doing that was influencing, and often we were the ones that needed to make a mind shift' (S); 'on the day I began to really see the crux of the issues and the things I needed to get over in terms of understanding myself as a leader' (D).
Case writing: Positioning teacher leaders as 'knowers'
Importantly, in the process of consolidating knowledge and writing a case as the expression of that knowing, these teacher leaders were repositioned--as professional and confident knowers who had developed contextual knowledge about leadership that was of value to express and, ultimately, to share. 'Helped to ... cement my understandings that I am a confident leader' (K); '[I] realised I know what I am doing ... gave me confidence ... a sense of security to put yourself out there ... not feeling vulnerable. I wouldn't have been able to talk like this two years ago' (J); 'As I was writing I saw myself being wishy-washy ... [then becoming] more assertive ... more able to say "this is how things are and we need change as it is not working, there are better ways of doing things"' (A1).
'Knowing' was not necessarily an easy stance to adopt for these teacher leaders. It was in the act of writing that they came to realise what they knew and to feel the confidence they needed to rightly express their knowledge of leadership. Part of what they came to know and write up in their cases centred on their knowing about the problematic and messy nature of leadership as legitimate and not as a sign that they did not know (enough). Case writing validated for them that: '[Things were] confusing at times ... but thought provoking' (K); 'It is okay to make mistakes and to learn from them' (S1); 'Not everything goes so smoothly all the time' (A2).
Case writing: Committing to a public professional community
It was not just writing the case that made these teacher leaders' tacit knowledge explicit. Significantly, it was their anticipation of writing for a public audience that compelled the articulation of their knowledge and the need to be able to portray their knowing in authentic ways. They knew they were writing for others--colleagues, other leaders and professionals. The anticipation of speaking beyond themselves introduced particular responsibilities and approaches to them as authors. For some, it compelled the need to clearly articulate what had become 'known': 'Have to do it for an audience and have to crystallize it for yourself first' (J); '[Writing] for publication ... meant we really had to concentrate on what was going into it ... [be] really careful about what we were writing, how we were writing it' (A1).
For others, it demanded a level of honesty in the writing that conveyed with authenticity what they had learnt as leaders:
initial reaction when I put pen to paper was to make myself look good ... but once you step back from it and read ... [you] think 'hang on, that's not what happened at all' ... [it] was [a] really powerful moment. (S3)
The anticipation of making their learning public had negative effects too. On the one hand, it generated a degree of anxiety and personal questioning of self-worth: '[I was] anxious about it; would I be able to produce anything that was worth reading?' (A3); 'I cringed thinking about writing something good enough to publish' (L); 'Oh my god!!! You want me to do what!!! Bit scary and confronting initially' (A1).
On the other hand, the public aspect of publishing their writing through the book sent a strong message to these teacher leaders about the worthiness of their professional knowledge and the expression of it through their writing: 'Recognition that it was important enough to publish ... affirming' (J); 'I was so proud to see my name at the front' (G); 'Symbolic [of a] ... valuable resource to share with other people' (S1).
Case reading: Reading in private
Thirty of the 37 teacher leaders stated that they had read the published cases--a few cases or the entire book. They were eager to read of the experiences of their colleagues who had participated in the same program but were also seemingly hungry for assurance that their experience was legitimate.
Case reading: Professional validation
Reading others' cases offered these teacher leaders insights into how a professional community, beyond themselves, experienced leadership and what they had come to know about it. Eight teacher leaders commented on this theme. Reading cases gave them a sense of assurance as they saw themselves through the eyes of others. In this way, their knowledge and experiences were validated and their sense of themselves as leaders secured. For example: '[it was like] looking through someone else's eyes to see myself' (L); '[I] recognised myself in cases' (D); '[the] authentic rings true' (S).
Case reading: Affirming professional connectedness
Only three teachers talked of the reading process as connecting them to a wider community beyond themselves. This, too, gave them a sense of professional validation, as J expressed it, 'I'm part of bigger things, not isolated and just me'. While this points to recognition of teacher leaders as part of a professional community, their responses tended to concentrate more on the reassurance that the connectedness to community offered each individual leader rather than on the contribution their writing made to building community per se.
Case reading: Public sharing of cases
Bearing in mind that over 80% of teacher leaders read the case book themselves, it is worthy to consider what they did with the published writing beyond their private reading. Trends around the use of the published writing can be discerned in the data in three ways. First, it can be read in the absence of comments made by teacher leaders around their sharing and use of the case book. Second, it can be seen in the explicit comments made by teacher leaders around whether they had done anything with the published book of cases since they had received it. Only two teacher leaders talked of this, with one highlighting her discussions with other school leaders about possibilities for its use. The other had shared it with colleagues.
The third way published writing can be read is through the explicit 'rejection' of its use among teacher leaders and the reasons for this. A total of 9 teacher leaders (24%) believed that their writing could not be shared for reasons that concentrated around their perceptions of its unworthiness (5 teacher leaders), its perceived irrelevance beyond the case writer (1 teacher leader), the lack of time and authority to encourage this (2 teacher leaders) and uncertainty about how to use cases with colleagues (1 teacher leader). Examples of this include: '[It] feels presumptuous [to say to someone] you might find this useful' (C); 'I am a bit embarrassed about me when I read it' (A3); 'The value of case writing is that it is for "you" writing the case' (D).
Considering the data overall, in summary, the ways in which case writing as a professional learning approach worked on these teacher leaders did not appear to be carried through in their use of the compilation of their writing in their own settings on completion of the program. The anticipation of a public professional community, interested in what the teacher leaders came to know, propelled teacher leaders to articulate their knowledge. Yet the final writing product, as representative of their knowledge, was digested privately and was rarely made public to a professional community of colleagues, within schools or beyond. It is to a discussion of this discontinuity to which we now turn.
The findings outlined above indicate that the case-writing process within the LPL program worked powerfully for teacher leaders at an individual and personal level. It prompted them to distil what they had learnt and to articulate it. It called on deep cogitation and the almost bodily experience of distillation. Through this process, these teacher leaders adopted the stance of 'knowers', with something worthy to say about teacher leadership. The anticipation of people and product were their impetus. These teacher leaders felt a commitment to say something worthwhile to a potential public audience who would engage with their knowledge and possibly benefit from it. Similarly, the anticipation of a finished and published product signalled that formalising their knowledge was worthwhile and, by that, they too were worthwhile. The professional validation and recognition of them as leaders were significant and the knowledge production process this initiated was commanding.
The strength of these effects was distinct from the tentativeness with which teacher leaders subsequently engaged with their written product. Their confidence as knowers melted away as they moved back into their school settings. They appeared to reject (either explicitly or by doing nothing about) their authority as knowers and they shied away from making their knowledge of leadership public. Data show that once teacher leaders' professional knowledge was articulated through cases, it was rarely publicly portrayed beyond the individual teacher leader, to their colleagues, within their own school or beyond. In this way, case writing that was propelled by thoughts of a public audience remained a private act.
Feasibly, teacher leaders' reluctance to make their cases public could be attributed to their lack of understanding of how they would do that. That said, the data identify only one participant who expressed uncertainty about how to use cases. What was more strongly expressed by teacher leaders as reasons for their rejection of dispersing their case writing more widely was their lack of confidence that they had written something worthwhile to share with others. This was poignantly expressed by one teacher leader who felt the only person who would cherish her work was her mother.
This outcome prompts consideration of the stark difference between these teacher leaders' experience as case writers and case readers. The case-writing process marked a conceptual shift from teacher leaders' reception of knowledge about leadership to teacher leaders drawing on a range of knowledge, about, in and through practice, in order to construct their professional knowing. If we consider the process, reflected in the data, through which knowledge of leadership was elicited through case writing, Eraut's work (2000) hints at some of the dynamics that appeared to be at work.
The case-writing process called on reflective aspects of participants' past and recent learning, together with consideration of the socially situated nature of those experiences. This coupling meant that the learning process became more complex for these teacher leaders and the possibilities of generating new understandings from the interplay of these aspects greater. Their sense-making drew both on what they were learning from their actions and from the ways these played out in the social situation in which they were leading. The case-writing process prompted this reflection and the surfacing of their tacit knowledge. As Raelin (2007) explained in his epistemology of practice, tacit knowing is captured reflective practice 'allow[ing] for reframing of problems in response to environmental conditions. Through this process, new theory can be constructed' (p. 506).
Another dimension afforded by the case-writing process was for these teacher leaders to draw in, consider and apply the abstract knowledge they had engaged with during the LPL program. They drew on more situated knowledge in their own contexts and the case-writing process offered them a space in which to mark their 'knowing':
Adopting a socially situated perspective on knowledge may paradoxically lead to an even greater differentiation in the knowledge held by different knowers. It is also possible that the process of resituation will lead to something more than an expanded range of knowledge use: its integration with other knowledge may amount to an example of knowledge creation. (Eraut, 2000, p. 133)
If the case-writing process facilitated these teacher leaders' creation of knowledge in these ways, it also signalled to them that they knew something worth knowing. The anticipation of a public and professional audience to read their cases worked powerfully to add authenticity and a layer of accountability into the writing process. But the findings indicate that the reading of the cases was confined to the teacher leaders themselves. They read them in private and, to some extent, this weakened the realisation of the public audience once anticipated in their imagination. The ideal cycle, as portrayed by Darling-Hammond and Hammerness (2000), stopped at the stage at which teacher leaders' knowledge might have moved into a wider community:
When written and shared, the narrative product becomes a second-order experience in two ways. First, it is no longer the experience itself, but rather a reconstruction of the experience in language; second, once it is recorded in language, the experience becomes available to a community of peers and colleagues. At the point it is disseminated, the case becomes a third-order experience, because the meaning of the narrative now resides in the community. In this way, cases bridge the gap between personal situated knowledge and sharable, generalizable knowledge. (p. 129)
These findings on the case-writing process through the LPL program point to its powerful dimensions and signal some of its weaknesses. Consideration of these findings carries implications for professional learning programs around teacher leadership. It suggests a need for programs to explicitly attend to the positioning of teaching leaders in the space between knowledge generation and knowledge sharing. There is a need to build up teacher leaders to engage with their identities, in particular as 'knowers', and to build in their understanding and recognition of this identity positioning as it forms within programs.
The ways in which teacher leaders are able to speak with tentative authority (Raelin, 2007) about leadership is worthy of much more serious professional learning attention. Significantly, the situated and social nature of the role of teacher leader within a school necessitates a focus in professional learning programs on the ways in which the institutional context of school and the cultural contexts around teacher as professional constrain or enable the stance of teacher leader as knower.
It seems reasonable to assert from the results of this study that case writing as a process was comfortably placed in a professional learning program that embedded particular principles of professional learning that valued and pedagogically supported teacher knowledge-generation. As a complement to other aspects of the program, it opened up possibilities for bringing to the surface the situated meaning of leadership and knowledge creation. It offered space for teacher leaders to consider self and self-understanding and to position themselves as knowledge producers, not just consumers of others' knowledge.
Case writing then acted as a process in which the anticipation of a public audience consolidated the personal and professional knowing of teacher leaders, yet it did not propel the professional knowledge that surfaced in this way into a public space to circulate beyond them. Their identities as knowers did not appear to be sustainable when the program ended and the teacher leaders were 'resituated' in their schools.
This study illustrates that case writing positioned the participating teacher leaders as knowers who came to know leadership through the interplay of tacit and explicit knowing, theoretical knowledge and knowledge of practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Eraut, 2000). Case writing expressed what they had distilled from reflecting on this mix of elements.
Cochran-Smith and Lytle's (1999) conceptions of teacher knowledge offer a lens for reconsidering the ways in which knowledge development occurred through the LPL case-writing process. It could well be that these teacher leaders actually came to a point where they were generating knowledge of practice--in and through practice. Their learning was prompted by the uncertainties and complexities of practice and the meaning they made of those situations as they refined their understanding of their role (and actions) as leaders. They made 'problematic their own knowledge and practice as well as the knowledge and practice of others' (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 273). Their knowledge was made explicit through their cases, which were designed to articulate their knowledge of leadership in ways that could resonate with other teacher leaders. In the way the LPL program was structured and conducted, case writing was intended as a professional learning approach in which, through a stance of inquiry, teacher leaders might generate knowledge of leadership that was local, public and communally built.
Shteiman, Gidron, Eilon and Katz (2010) drew attention to writing as an approach to professional learning in which publication stands as both the dissemination of knowledge for, in and of practice and as a reminder that it is a combination of all of these that must frame professional learning. We concur. But scholars rightfully caution against essentialising write-ups of professional practice that have the effects of closing off scrutiny and inquiry and reinscribing problematic practices (for example, Britzman, 2003). We similarly concur. The purpose of writing within the ambit of professional learning is to prompt reflection, professional growth and understanding. Writing as an approach to professional learning is important in explicitly positioning teachers as meaning makers and knowledge producers, with something of worth to say to communities beyond themselves as individuals. Lieberman and Pointer Mace's (2010) work on teacher learning resonates with this approach:
When teachers go public with their work, they open themselves up to learning, not only from their own practice, but also from research and others who help expand their knowledge. When professional development opportunities start with other people's ideas first, they deny what teachers know. Starting with teachers' practice invites teachers into the conversation and opens them up to critique, to learning, and to expanding their repertoire ... representations of practice helps teachers articulate what they know (and what they need to know) and teaches the rest of us about the complexities ... It helps teachers understand that their learning as adults is tied to a larger community of professional educators--one in which they are central to its development. This, we believe, is transformative! (p. 86)
We suggest that this study illustrates well how case writing supports the development, articulation and personal valuing of teacher leaders' knowledge production. The data illustrate insights into learning about leading through case writing that makes a difference. The next challenge is to begin to genuinely engage with the knowledge embedded in cases in public ways that provoke, for others, useful and meaningful ways of making that knowledge more valuable to the wider profession.
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Allie Clemans is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Monash University.
Amanda Berry is Associate Professor at ICLON, Leiden University, the Netherlands. At the time this work was conducted, she was Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University.
John Loughran is Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education, Monash University.
Leiden University, the Netherlands
Table 1 The features of the case-writing process as an approach to professional learning: thematic analysis of interview data Themes Frequency Case writing Surfacing tacit 15 knowledge Making tacit 14 knowledge explicit Positioning 8 teacher leaders as 'knowers' Committing to a 9 public professional community Case reading Reading the cases 30 privately Professional 8 validation Affirming 3 professional connectedness Public sharing 2 of cases n=37
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|Author:||Clemans, Allie; Berry, Amanda; Loughran, John|
|Publication:||Australian Journal of Education|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2012|
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