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Creating a caring community : an Israeli case study of teacher professional development Vaisman, Tamar

Abstract

This study focuses on the processes of creating and maintaining a community of teachers in an Israeli high-school. Ten high-school teachers were self-selected to participate in a yearlong professional development focusing on learning and teaching. The participants directed their own professional development by collaboratively sharing and reflecting on their practice. The methodology used for data gathering is rooted in the case study tradition within the philosophy of naturalistic inquiry. The weekly meetings throughout one academic year were recorded and transcribed. Teachers were interviewed three times: at the beginning and end of the year, and two years later, to leam about reasons for participating and evaluation of the community, and to allow further reflections on their experiences in the community. Two main concepts - community and caring relationships - emerged from group conversations and personal interviews, and were used as the study's analytical tools. Three topics were revisited in our conversations throughout the year: teacher-students relationships, teaching strategies, and evaluation of learning for both teachers and students. The conversations revealed the processes of creating an atmosphere of care, trust and openness that enhanced the development of genuine dialogue that turned this group into a caring community. The caring relationships encouraged teachers to make changes in their teaching and suggest changes at the school level. These relationships enhanced teachers' ability to leam from their encounters and helped them develop awareness of the importance of such relations within the educational context. This study contributes to a deeper understanding of teachers' community. It suggests that communities (a) support teachers by enhancing dialogue among them; (b) contribute to social change within the limited context of the school; and (c) add to the construction of knowledge about teaching, learning, and schooling. If schools aim to teach recognition of diverse voices where people strive to care for and understand each other, then teachers should leam and exercise these behaviours. The most viable space for the occurrence of such learning is within teachers' communities. This study, then, gives strength to arguing for the pursuit of communities in school.

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