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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Joint work between ESL and subject-area teachers: a case study at the Secondary level Helmer, Sylvia


This research documents how a group of secondary English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers attempted to work collaboratively with their subject-specialist peers for the benefit of ESL students. Using qualitative methods consistent with the case study strategy (Yin, 1989), this study describes and analyzes how the ESL teachers created and managed their new roles as teacher-collaborators (TCs) and how their subject specialist (ST) colleagues responded. In the process, the data also highlight seldom considered aspects of the medical model of consultation, upon which collaboration in schools is typically based. This research demonstrates that the medical model fails to capture important aspects of joint work within the educational context, including assumptions about who initiates and terminates contact, sets the agenda, and is responsible for implementing suggested or negotiated procedures. In addition, joint work in schools is shown to be further complicated by the need to take into consideration the pre-existing hierarchy of authority structures in institutional settings, and how these structures influence collaborative efforts. The TCs in this study could not move directly to fulfill their joint work mandate but had first to construct and establish the prerequisite components that could subsequently lead to joint work with their ST colleagues. This study has implications for both practitioners and researchers. Classroom teachers moving into joint work need to be given time and techniques to help them to develop an approach to such work which will allow them to continue to meet their professional responsibilities as they see them, while creating a common platform for working with their colleagues. This process should include careful examination of the underlying assumptions that are part of any joint work effort, as well as the negotiation of how these assumptions will be reconciled with the complex demands of the daily teaching agenda. Research needs to move beyond static models of joint work and develop dynamic models. These models will need to capture the processes by which the prerequisites for joint work are constructed through the use of institutional discourse within the context of the school.

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