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Collaborative teacher inquiry as professional development : concepts, contexts and directions Naylor, Charles Stanley


This study explores the concepts, contexts and directions of collaborative teacher inquiry as one form of professional development for teachers in British Columbia's K-12 public schools. The study is based on work conducted within the Research Division of the BC Teachers' Federation over a fourteen-year period, and includes consideration of the union's role and potential in supporting teacher inquiry. A diverse range of literature which impacts on teacher inquiry is considered: the literature on Action Research and professional development, networks and collaborations, concepts of 'good' schools; and teacher unions. Four inquiry projects conducted between 1992 and 2002 provided data showing the evolution of union-initiated inquiry involving teams of teacher-researchers and the author of this study, as the facilitator of these groups. Two inquiry projects conducted between 2002 and 2006 also provide sources of data. These projects involved the teachers' union in partnerships with school districts and a university. The study provides empirical evidence which makes a case that collaborative teacher inquiry has demonstrated value to teachers who engage in it as a form of professional development, and that value accrues to the education systems in which those teachers work. Benefits to teachers which are demonstrated in this study include a greater sense of professional efficacy, reduced isolation, and a belief that students benefited from the teachers' inquiry. The study finds that contexts in which inquiry occurs may be of greater significance than is generally accepted in the literature. Context - from school design to levels of organizational support or apathy - needs to be better understood by those undertaking teacher inquiry, and some ways of understanding context and its influence on teachers' practices are illustrated in this study. The move from private to public space by participation in inquiry groups was of major significance for both individuals and organizations, as it allowed for ideas to be challenged and judgment developed. These factors strongly suggest that the inquiry experience is one of professional, not staff, development, with the professionalism and autonomy of the learner respected, and with participants taking control of their own learning needs.

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