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Teachers' roles and professional learning in communities of practice supported by technology in schools.

This article explores four roles of teachers in classrooms using computers, from the perspective of communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). It reports on an indepth study undertaken in 12 schools, and shows that teachers appropriated technology in a range of ways to help them create classroom communities that build knowledge. Some also acted as brokers to cross classroom and school boundaries, engaging in professional learning through curriculum projects with other teachers and their students as new communities of practice formed. However, while such projects were initiated and driven by individuals and groups of teachers, their success required support through school leadership and organization and statewide technology infrastructures and funding.


In conjunction with the introduction of computers and the spread of constructivist teaching approaches, there has been much discussion about the changing role of teachers. Technology forces teachers to relinquish power over classroom knowledge (McRae, Ainsworth, Groves, Rowland, & Zbar, 2001) and the expectation of constructivism is that teachers act as facilitators of student learning rather than experts dispensing knowledge in a top-down fashion (Brooks & Brooks, 1993). Changing roles require new learning, and strong arguments are put for ongoing professional development by Darling-Hammond (2000) and Beare (2001), among others. The practice of teaching has often occurred behind closed doors, limiting school-based collaborative teacher development, and leading to suggestions that significant structural changes in education systems and in schools are required (Department of Education Science and Training, 2001). There have also been calls for teachers within and across schools to collaborate in professional learning teams, and in broader clusters or communities of practice, both face-to-face and online. However, the top-down nature of some of these programs can be in tension with a constructivist view of teacher learning. This article considers the roles teachers play in classrooms using computers and describes in some detail, how one community of practice emerged as teachers worked together across school boundaries.


Although academics and policy makers encourage clusters, networks and communities to support teacher and student learning and knowledge building (Hargreaves, 2003), how these operate within and across classrooms using computers has been rarely documented. This article addresses two major questions: what roles do knowledge-building teachers play in classrooms using computers and what characteristics of communities of practice are evident in these classrooms? Knowledge-building teachers are identified by their attitudes and behavior: being learning-centered, encouraging contributions to a pool of knowledge, taking responsibility for their own and others' learning and making connections across boundaries. The article reports on a three-year study that was undertaken in Years 5-9 classrooms (student ages 10-15 years) in primary (elementary) and secondary schools in Victoria, Australia. These "middle years of schooling" are a focus of the government's attention, due to concerns about student performance and the transition between primary and secondary settings, which takes place at the end of Year 6. The purpose of the study was to provide evidence of practice that could inform teacher development policy.


The research was based on four roles of teachers--(a) designing the learning environment, (b) managing people and resources, (c) mediating student learning, and (d) improving practice--that had been developed from the literature and initial observations in classrooms. The roles were fleshed out over the period of the study using a qualitative approach, based particularly on observation and reflective conversation with teacher participants. Since the notion of teachers as learners was expressed frequently, this was seen as an important perspective in terms of their interaction with students. Figure 1 shows how the relationship between these roles can contribute to building knowledge. According to Scardamalia and Bereiter (1998), knowledge building is the practice in which teachers and students should be engaged, so that the resulting knowledge is in society, not just in the mind.


Wenger (1998, p. 228) defined designing the learning environment as a "systematic, planned and reflexive colonization of time and space." In this role, learning is "designed for" through the curriculum and the use of physical and virtual space, although the learning itself cannot be designed. Wenger therefore suggested that design needs to include emergent practice, and to be opportunistic rather than rigid, so that a minimalist design--of physical space, curriculum frameworks and apparently empty computer software (Zucchermaglio, 1992)--is preferable.

In managing, teachers focus on students and technology, although increasingly other teachers, technical support staff and outside experts are included in the human resources available to support knowledge building. There is a tension in this managing role as teachers frequently have to act as representatives of the school rather than as simply adults in a community of practice, and are thus unable to be themselves and provide openings to the adult world (Wenger, 1998). The introduction of computers has raised new management issues, to the extent that Drenoyianni and Selwood (1998) found that most of the problems primary teachers faced when using computers in their classrooms were of a technical nature.

Mediation is the process of turning experiential knowledge into formal knowledge (Laurillard, 2002) and teachers are equipped to do this by building on students' prior knowledge and assisting them to learn about learning as well as domain knowledge (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen, 1995). In classrooms using computers, teachers and students share teaching-and-learning (Mercer & Fisher, 1998) as they engage in the work of the classroom community, leading to an expanded pool of knowledge.

At the same time as they engage in one of more of these roles, teachers improve their practice, working alone and together to increase personal and collective skills and knowledge and often, to influence school organization and culture. Day (1999) described this as professional development:
 [T]he process by which, alone and with others, teachers review, renew
 and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of
 teaching; and by which they acquire and develop critically knowledge,
 skills and emotional intelligence essential to good professional
 thinking, planning and practice (Day, 1999, p. 4).

Practice, according to Wenger (1998), is the social production of meaning, the source of coherence of a community. He suggested that indicators of such a community include sustained mutual relationships, shared ways of engaging in doing things together, rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation, and knowing what others can do. Further he puts forward an architecture that allows the formation of identities, which includes three infrastructures: the first, places of engagement for people; the second, materials and experiences with which to build an image of the world and themselves (imagination); and the third, ways of having an effect on the world and making their actions matter (alignment). In this article, each classroom is considered as the potential site of a community of practice, which tends to be more fixed in primary settings, and fluid in the secondary schools. These communities are not considered in isolation but in relation to the rest of the school and the world. For teachers, the community of practice model implies interdependence as they work in real collaboration, each one responsible for the outcomes of the others.

The practices of different communities can influence each other through two types of connections: boundary objects (artifacts, documents, terms, concepts) and brokering (connections made by people). Boundary objects essential to this study include curriculum documents, school policy documents and the technology infrastructure. Brokers are those people--teachers, principals, researchers, and students--able to make connections across communities of practice and open new possibilities for meaning. While school classrooms are clearly physical communities that can be supported by online activity, once they start crossing boundaries the proportion of their activity conducted online increases, raising issues, according to Preece (2000), of sociability (how members interact with each other) and usability (how they interact with the technology). Sociability, she suggested, has three components: purpose, people, and policies, while usability refers to concerns such as support for dialogue, information design, navigation, and access.

In light of the growing complexity of teaching, a projected worldwide shortage of teachers and the possibilities afforded by technology, some suggest that teachers' roles will change dramatically, becoming distributed among many teachers rather than found in individuals (Beare, 2001; Cohen, 1969; Cornu, 2001). Thus some might specialize in designing learning environments, others in managing learners, and yet others in mediating the learning process. Of course, all will continue to be involved in improving their practice. At the same time, there will need to be an emphasis on the collective competencies (Le Boterf, 2000) of the people in teaching positions to benefit the learners they interact with, while the collective efficiency of a school or organization will depend on its ability to pool different kinds of knowledge and to manage what is distributed within and eventually beyond, in a network model. Hence Hargreaves (2003) argued for a restructuring of organizational relationships to encourage higher performance. He suggested that an educational system that consists of schools linked to each other in networks--where those that are sources of best practice become nodes--can harness the potential of information and communication technologies to achieve transformation. An understanding of communities of practice is likely to be useful in such a development, which requires teachers and school leaders to cross boundaries and broker relationships across a range of spaces.


This study drew on ethnography, providing both mirror and microphone to the teacher participants, in its attempt to produce a rich description of classroom life. Thirty-two teachers and principals from 12 schools (seven primary, five secondary) participated in classroom observations and individual and group reflective conversations over three years. They were invited by virtue of their involvement in a larger study into the successful integration of learning technologies, and the size of the group grew in an opportunistic way (Miles & Huberman, 1994) as regular visits to schools and other professional contact took place. All participants had unlimited access to a personal laptop computer subsidized by the state government, and all classrooms observed contained at least one computer. In primary (elementary) schools most classrooms had 4-6 computers, and in some cases, particularly in secondary schools, there was one computer per student. Observations focused on the teachers, and were enhanced by video recording that prompted later reflection.

The research design attempted to model collaborative knowledge building in that teachers were not merely subjects of the research, but partners in the process, where the resulting knowledge was the output of a collective enterprise, to be shared (Freire, 1993; Thomas, 1993). As the study was not based on an intervention, the act of reflecting was the means of this joint learning. Underlying this reflection was the notion of conversational constructivism, where reflection on personal experience becomes a learning opportunity and conversation itself is seen as a learning space (Baker, Jensen, & Kolb, 2002). While there were some similarities with the action research model, which is intended to be collaborative and aimed at improving practices, understandings and situations (Kemmis, 1999), and is therefore a participatory form of professional development, this study, initiated by the researcher, was not action research. It did, however, value data collection and reflection and will, it is hoped, encourage teachers to continue some involvement in research by treating their own ideas, theories, practices, and work settings as valuable objects for analysis and critique.

To model collaborative learning, participants were encouraged to join in group conversations in their schools--rather than individual conversations--wherever possible. These took place after classes, during lunchtime or when classes had ended for the day. Digital transcripts of conversations were returned to participants for further reflection and this sometimes prompted e-mail dialogue with the researcher, while one group of teachers established an e-mail list that included researchers. Some teachers kept electronic journals that they contributed to the research, and curriculum and school policy documents were also collected and coded.

Once the data were coded, a set of propositions was developed. These were intended to capture emerging practice in knowledge building, as Hargreaves (2003) suggested, and clearly did not apply to all teachers and schools participating in the study, but without a method such as this, it could be difficult to recognize innovation. The guidelines for inclusion were at least one instance in the data--a singularity (Bassey, 2001)--and supporting or explicating literature. Bassey argued that it is possible and useful to formulate the outcomes of empirical research as fuzzy generalizations: particular events may lead to particular consequences. This was intended to allow for prediction based upon rich data, with the aim of suggesting what could be (in addition to what is). In line with the recursive nature of the study, and the desire to give something back to the participants, these propositions were developed into a two-page questionnaire that was shared with participants toward the end of the study as a tool for reflection among their colleagues (see Appendix).


All findings relating to the research questions are presented in Tables 1-4 in this section. The roles that knowledge-building teachers played in classrooms using computers provide the sub-headings while the observed characteristics of communities of practice are presented in the cells.

Designing the Learning Environment

Table 1 summarizes the findings regarding teachers' role in designing the learning environment.

All teachers in the study expressed a constructivist approach to teaching and learning, and within the classrooms, there were many instances of explicit learning theories and tools expressed as symbols and posters, as well as some attempts to create layouts of furniture, equipment, and virtual spaces that allowed for dialogue and collaboration. However in general, teachers' ability to affect the physical environment was often constrained, particularly in the secondary schools. The dictates of wired technology often restricted flexibility, while school decisions on the placement of computers in labs, in spaces between classrooms or in other configurations appeared often to be made on funding grounds and without reference to the experience of current teachers.

In any education system, documented curriculum frameworks provide the opportunity for a common discourse that can support communities of practice. Teachers in this study frequently shared talk as they designed class activities together, using the resources provided by their employing system through its Internet portal, in addition to their own searching. In some cases the boundaries of the key learning areas were crossed within a school, through integrated curriculum activities. Some teacher-brokers persevered, in spite of technical difficulties, to design activities that crossed boundaries into industry, as in this project that linked students with industry experts:
 We could communicate with ourselves, with other schools, but we
 couldn't communicate with people in industry and we didn't know why.
 Now it took weeks, because of the security and the size of the
 bandwidth. I think with all technology, there's going to be things you
 come up against, but you don't think about first, and that's probably
 one of the difficulties. You're looking into the future, you're not
 sure of the specifications, how it runs, and even the technicians here
 hadn't used them before (secondary teacher).

It was clear that many teachers in this study confidently designed for sociability (Preece, 2000), while issues pertaining to usability, such as access and ergonomics, were mentioned more as constraints outside teachers' control.

Managing People and Resources

Classroom management is not simply about managing students. Teachers in this study managed the learning environments in a range of ways, from an emphasis on student autonomy to high levels of teacher direction, from collaborative to individual management and from loose to rigid conceptions of time and space. The whole-school leadership and management culture and the provision of resources influenced all of them, but not all felt that they could influence the context, particularly in individualized cultures. Hence the practice of management was mainly conducted at the classroom level, with an age-graded group of students, and modifications towards knowledge building generally took place within this structure. Table 2 shows the findings relating to managing people and resources.

Knowledge-building teachers in this study made structural and procedural changes to support collaboration and the community of practice in these cases grew to be larger than the class, so that one principal spoke of "educating our collective group of children." However, teachers were rarely observed attempting to manage the whole class as one group, but organized students into pairs or small groups and dealt with them at that level. Technology allowed new ways of managing time and space, such as using networked computers to allow students and teachers access via password to material on shared drives from numerous points, and enabling home access to school Intranets. One teacher commented:
 Having them networked you know if [teacher] has got three kids in
 another classroom and they are wanting to access their file, they can
 do that through the network. So it doesn't particularly matter where
 the children are or who they are working with, they can access their
 information (primary teacher).

This type of open framework encourages student self-management, so that students move from the periphery towards the centre of the community of practice in terms of decision-making processes, planning, and negotiating contracts for learning. The findings suggest that modeling of collaborative practices is likely to enhance knowledge building, both within and across schools, although like collaboration in design, it is much more common among primary teachers than their secondary colleagues. In spite of the opportunities technology can provide for collaboration, this was still an area of novelty, with accompanying concerns among teachers about how to manage a free and open flow of ideas in a professional context. In addition, the increasing array of technology, and extensive links to the world outside the classrooms, brought new management tasks that were in most cases taken up by teachers, adding to their workload.

Managing technology itself was an area that occupied a great deal of time and intellectual energy for the teachers in this study, and it is in this role that the changes in both the classroom and the social context have an enormous impact. Managing access to scarce computer resources, whether within the classroom or externally in pods or labs, was a matter of constant concern. Teachers in this study held strong beliefs regarding fair and equitable access to computers, and attempted to arrange this in varying ways, which often involved student collaboration or at least, sharing computers, and sometimes giving students the teacher's laptop computer to use in class. Some allocated or rationed the resources while others used the principle of on demand. Over the course of this study many teachers changed the arrangements within their control in an attempt to find solutions. The levels of control differed, generally as the location of the computers differed. The levels of technical support also differed in different schools, often depending on size, so that students were called upon to assist. Managing the functioning of computer equipment is important in a classroom operating on just-in-time access, as it is in a lab, which has been booked weeks in advance. Although some teachers in this study claimed that they were now able to deal with computer problems themselves, they were also pushing forward into new uses that required telecommunications capacity beyond their control.

Mediating Learning

In this role, teachers apply their expertise in learning processes to assist the students they work with (Laurillard, 2002). The findings displayed in Table 3 indicate the behaviors observed in this study.

In the classroom communities of practice that made up the study, teachers and students were consciously sharing teaching and learning roles, depending on their expertise in relation to particular tasks. The introduction of technology had encouraged teachers to realize that they too were learners, and to relinquish some power while using their expertise in the processes of teaching. One teacher described how this occurred in her classroom:
 We were flying by the seat of our pants, and it was my job to teach
 Microworlds. That was a program I know nothing about, so I was
 learning from the manual, sitting there giving instructions on how to
 animate text. We were working backwards, because they'd have to look
 at the procedures and see, "Oh this is how it was written in Logo" and
 then they would modify that to suit their needs. It was a lot of
 experimentation, exploration, and starting from something really
 basic. The kids would go off and discover new things for themselves
 and they'd teach each other, they'd teach me, they'd teach their
 teachers (primary teacher).

However knowledge-building teachers did not deny their professional expertise, and moved easily between the roles of teacher and learner as the situation required. They provided scaffolding face-to-face and through computers, using Intranets to store useful prompts, and engaged in public and private e-mail dialogue with students. In some cases teachers provided electronic exemplars of the products they expected, developed and demonstrated themselves or by other students.

Improving Practice

Many teachers in this study showed their commitment to the moral purpose of teaching (Day, 1999) by engaging in continual professional learning to improve their practice. Table 4 shows the ways in which they did this.

As teachers engaged in the three roles of designing, managing, and mediating, they reflected on their practice, testing out new ideas, and evaluating outcomes. Where teachers worked closely together, this was a shared experience, as two participants explained:
 They bring people along and there's a lot of teamwork. To make this
 kind of stuff work you can't be a little island in your classroom with
 your door shut like we used to be (primary principal).

 As it becomes shared dialogue it's shared understanding and when it's
 shared understanding you have a real change going on (primary

Time was raised overwhelmingly as the most important resource in improving practice, and some schools made a commitment to regular teacher reflection and collaboration by providing time within the day for this purpose. This is just one of the structural alterations that can support teacher collaboration and knowledge building, and these changes are unlikely to occur without the support of school leaders. One teacher described how change started: "Leadership initially. Then it became a grassroots movement. It was an example to me of how a transformational principal could actually force that change (secondary teacher)."

Teachers also appreciated the online communities developed through web portals that the Department provided, or through teacher-generated email lists that allowed peer-to-peer problem solving. However one of the most highly-developed communities of practice emerged as teachers in two Victorian schools, 150 kilometers apart, came together online to work on shared curriculum and professional development, as described.


Teachers in two primary (elementary) schools involved in the study devised an integrated curriculum project that made use of their technology resources for student projects while linking teachers in professional development. One school, in the suburbs (City) had a long history of computer use, while the other, on the coast (Surf) had the necessary computer resources and the motivation to use them purposefully. Teachers in these two schools assisted students to act, observe, and reflect to evaluate and improve their own learning processes. Self-management and collaboration were important to building a pool of knowledge within classrooms and both leaders and teachers modeled these behaviors. The participants, encouraged by teacher-brokers in each school, developed a model for their own learning based on social constructivism: encompassing experimentation, documentation, reflection, and collaboration. Technology supported the learning, rather than driving it. Many, but not all, of the conditions listed in Tables 1-4 were evident in the emerging City to Surf community.

In terms of design, the City to Surf participants created a community of practice by crossing both horizontal and vertical boundaries within and between the two schools. Focusing on a curriculum topic, the principals of the two schools acted as brokers, communicating regularly by e-mail and videoconference to plan, manage, and evaluate within a strategic framework, and opening themselves to new ideas from outside. Similarly, teachers from both schools worked together to plan a unit of inquiry that could be undertaken collaboratively by students, and maintained a peer mentoring relationship throughout. The boundary objects that supported this practice included the statewide curriculum frameworks with their common language, the telecommunications infrastructure that supported voice and data transfer and the schools' selection of software such as Microworlds and NetMeeting.

In the implementation phase of the curriculum project, teachers' concerns were focused on managing people and resources for efficient and effective learning. As novices became more expert, they were encouraged to share particular skills and knowledge at the periphery. Students were formed into groups consisting of three students from each school, and researched within their own schools using a range of digital and print resources as well as linking regularly through e-mail and videoconference with their counterparts in the other school. By creating time and space for action and reflection, teachers found that the quality of students' interactions increased. Students had previously been accustomed to participating in decision-making about project content, appropriate software, collaborative processes, production values, and assessment of finished products, and needed time to discuss with the online team members. Videoconferences were therefore lengthened to allow for more dialogue, questioning, and feedback on the pieces of work presented by members of the distributed team. The share/collaborate function of NetMeeting software allowed students to view each other's developing products prior to merging them into one seamless presentation. Scheduling these conferences and making good use of the time available was crucial as bandwidth capacity was limited. One teacher described how the student videoconferences were managed:
 The students have their information prepared, they're ready to get
 online and they've revised their questions, so one of the students is
 operating the mouse, one is operating the keyboard, and the mouse
 driver will also have the headphones on and be doing the speaking. The
 third participant observes and is involved as an information gatherer,
 reflector: a number of different roles (primary teacher).

Teachers mediated student learning through questioning and dialogue, both face-to-face in their own classroom, and at times, through the videoconference to the partner school. Students also contributed to improving the learning processes. A teacher described student input to the language of assessment rubrics:
 We wanted to create a student multimedia project evaluation rubric, so
 we kept putting information out to the kids, "does this make sense, is
 this what you mean?": rephrasing the questions. And they've been
 responding to it the whole time, so the children have been very active
 participants in how we run a videoconference. They'll say "that
 doesn't work, but this does" (primary teacher).

School-level support for teachers improving their practice included the videoconference, obligatory reflective journal writing, and an e-mail distribution list intended for sharing ideas and administrative messages. Wenger (1998) suggested that technology deepens relationships within a community of practice, and rather than replacing personal contact, facilitates written and verbal dialogue and connections to other communities, and this was observed to varying degrees in the City to Surf community. Teachers believed that the videoconference was very successful, as it acted as a conduit for discussion with a peer and a window into each other's classrooms, thereby crossing a boundary between the individual classroom communities. In addition, both teachers and students requested face-to-face meetings where the two schools met at a convenient location. One school created space in the week for journal-writing, which was a more private activity, and the resulting journals showed participants' varying comfort levels with the mode of reflection, as well as differing levels of reflection on substantive issues. However, almost all interactions on the distribution list were one-way information giving, with replies returned to individuals, rather than to the group. One teacher suggested a reason for this: "Once you write on the distribution list, [you] know that you have to revise, edit and make sure that what you've said is clear and accurate, so people avoid it if they can" (primary teacher).

This tension between spontaneous and reflective comments in formal online environments has been previously identified by Sorensen and Takle, (2001), and can inhibit knowledge building in a community.

Nevertheless, the City to Surf community of practice developed in other ways as members took advantage of the infrastructure provide by the state, in the form of hardware and software, e-mail and Internet connections and professional development opportunities, but it was continually overstretching bandwidth allocations as teachers and students alike eagerly took up videoconferencing.


This study identified four roles played by teachers in classrooms using computers, and elements of teacher-led communities of practice in and across a slice of classroom life in Victorian schools. It focused on the viewpoint of teachers and their learning. Taken as a whole, the findings broadly show that many of the characteristics of Wenger's learning architecture existed at the classroom level in the context of the normal structure of one teacher per class. Teachers were particularly interested in enhancing engagement through a constructivist approach. Imagination--building an image of self and the world--was supported through trust, openness and reflection. This had the effect of deepening and strengthening the teacher-led community of practice, with positive social outcomes. However for most, alignment tended to be more to do with common vision within the community than, as Wenger suggested, with having an effect on the world.

Differential teacher quality means that schools and systems cannot remain satisfied with this structure. Primary (elementary) teachers had made more progress than their secondary counterparts in developing school-based communities that crossed classroom boundaries. Although some teachers clearly act as brokers to facilitate boundary encounters between the communities in a school and also make links with external communities, others remain as "islands of excellence with no ferry service" (Reilly, 1999, p. 1). If communities of practice are to be useful in supporting knowledge building, this individualism is a concern. A tool based on Table 1 (see Appendix) has therefore been developed to encourage discussion among teachers, focusing on a collaborative approach to reflecting on the findings of this study.

The conditions in which the knowledge-building communities emerged are of interest, as they point to new ways of teacher development. Knowledge building was strongly supported by statewide policies concerning technology infrastructure, and clear and visionary school leadership. Among teachers, deep knowledge of, and positive attitudes to, the statewide curriculum frameworks were also helpful.

All the teachers in this study had taken up the Department's offer of a subsidized laptop computer, and reported that this gave them access to technology at home and school, allowing many of them to explore its possibilities. Since lack of access is commonly reported as a barrier to teachers' learning, this policy decision at the system level was one of the keys to the success of school-based projects. However some communities were already pushing the limits of bandwidth in their enthusiasm for videoconferencing and data transfer.

Concerns about leadership, power, and empowerment were frequently raised in the study. Among teachers, issues of power were alluded to in terms of leadership and control of resources, but rarely made explicit, indicating that they are primarily part of the tacit knowledge of school communities. Some teachers therefore felt disempowered and in Wenger's terms, disoriented. On the other hand, some leaders with clear ideas and the capacity to influence, within and outside the schools, were able to implement major cultural and structural changes, and to support teachers. Their school cultures encouraged exploration and collaboration, rather than isolationism and overwhelming accountability.

The current preoccupation with standards and accountability frameworks resulted in two distinct attitudes on the part of teachers. In some cases, teachers felt constrained by curriculum frameworks and policy documents. But those who conceptualized curriculum frameworks documents as relatively empty scaffolds, waiting to be filled with authentic learning activities, were confident in their ability to encourage student exploration and could see the potential for purposeful technology use when designing the learning environment. These teachers recognized that there were choices in technology use ranging from consumption to creation, and focused on the latter.

Most teachers in both primary and secondary schools attempted to cover all four of the roles identified in this study, placing great pressure on their time and their ability to be expert across the range. This might be alleviated if the roles were separated so that different people could design learning environments, manage people and resources, or mediate learning, as has been suggested (Beare, 2001; Cornu, 2001). This development is already occurring in the tertiary sector. Such decoupling, however, would require that teachers see themselves as a part of a community of practice with a shared purpose, and that employers review performance management frameworks. The increasing complexity of the expectations placed on teachers would be offset by such a simplification and focus. The skills and knowledge required by teachers would be allowed to differ and the notion of a ladder or stages of competence would be replaced by a web of collective competencies.


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Funding for this study was provided through an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (C77906981)

In 2006 the author took a position as a Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.


Mapping teaching practice for knowledge building

A. Please score each item by blocking/shading in the appropriate column. If an item is not part of your personal practice, please use 0.

0 = does not apply to me/us

1 = only applies to me individually

2 = applies to my team & some other groups in this school

3 = is part of our school culture

B. A quick glance at the shaded squares can reveal patterns that form a basis for further discussion. For example, if the responses are grouped similarly among team members, those further to the right signal higher levels of collaboration, and those on the left are opportunities for development. Where the pattern differs, it appears that team members have different perceptions of the collaboration taking place, and discussion would be helpful.




The University of Melbourne

Parkville, Victoria Australia
Table 1 Characteristics of Knowledge-Building Teachers: Designing

Teachers' understandings about student learning inform design
Teachers incorporate, but are not bound by, curriculum frameworks
Teachers share a common discourse of planning
Teachers have a clear purpose for technology use
Teachers involve students in curriculum planning
Teachers design in professional collaboration within and across schools
Teachers plan purposeful tasks which require collaboration between
Teachers cross the boundaries between key learning areas
Teachers design for open-ended learning

Table 2 Characteristics of Knowledge-Building Teachers: Managing

Teachers involve students in management
Teachers encourage student motivation through intrinsic means
Teachers model collaborative knowledge-building and management practices
Teachers manage technology as a resource for students to build knowledge
Teachers manage relationships between people for authentic learning
Teachers manage connections across boundaries

Table 3 Characteristics of Knowledge-Building Teachers: Mediating

Teachers help students learn how to learn
Teachers share teaching and learning with students
Teachers and students monitor and assess learning together
Teachers build on students' prior experience
Teachers facilitate connections between people
Teachers focus on knowledge-building activities
Teachers scaffold learning individually and collectively
Teachers and learners talk together to increase learning

Table 4 Characteristics of Knowledge-Building Teachers: Improving

Teachers encourage each other in new ways of working and learning
Teachers frame personal and social goals for their learning
Teachers make time for sustained professional learning in the workplace
Teachers learn through play
Teachers learn through dialogue and conversation
Teachers freely share their knowledge
Teachers reflect on their practice and share their reflections
Teachers innovate and document innovative practice
Teachers contribute to school-wide decision-making
Teachers develop theory from their practice
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Article Details
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Author:Hartnell-Young, Elizabeth
Publication:Journal of Technology and Teacher Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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