Eliciting pedagogical learning among teachers in a professional learning community

Feldman, Jennifer Anne (2016-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016


ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This thesis is about teachers’ learning in a professional learning community (PLC) and responds to the question: How do the dialogical processes of a professional learning community capacitate teachers’ pedagogical adaptation and change towards socially just pedagogical practices? My starting assumption is that teachers’ pedagogical learning requires a supportive and deliberative set of conversations about the intellectual terms and pedagogical capacitation needed for change. I argue that PLCs are able to provide a reflexive dialogical space for engaging in such pedagogical learning. This is a thesis presented in the form of three articles which is prefaced by an inter-leading piece that describes my positionality as a researcher and facilitator of the PLC process. The thesis contains three wraparound chapters, an introduction and conclusion. The introduction situates the context of this research study and PLC work and the conclusion draws together insights gained over the two-year PLC process and includes a summary of the intellectual contribution that this research work makes to the theorisation of teacher adaptation and change in consonance with a socially just teaching orientation. Drawing on Bourdieu’s thinking tools of practice, habitus, bodily hexis, field and doxa I provide a theorisation of teachers’ pedagogical habitus as a way to conceptualise teacher adaptation and change. I offer the view of PLCs as a form of ‘habitus engagement’ to describe the ways in which the on-going dialogical and reflexive PLC process challenges the teachers’ embodied pedagogical doxa to engender adaptation and change. The first article focuses on the conceptual bases that informed the establishment and functioning of the PLC which is central to this thesis. This article develops an argument for the use of the Funds of Knowledge approach as a way of engaging students meaningfully in their learning. The second article discusses the difficulty that the PLC encountered as it engaged with the ‘hardness’ of pedagogical change among the five teachers and discusses the twists and turns involved in the PLC’s struggle to deliberate productively about pedagogical change. The third article narrates the journey of pedagogical adaptation and change of one teacher who collaborated in the PLC over a two-year period. This article discusses the durability and malleability of this teacher’s pedagogical disposition by arguing for a conceptualisation of teacher change that moves beyond a cognitivist approach to one that engages the embodied practices of teachers. The thesis concludes by arguing that teacher adaptation and change, as capacitated through the on-going dialogical and reflexive PLC process, must engage with the teachers’ embodied dispositions, their pedagogical practices inscribed in their being, in order to effect sustained change in their pedagogical habitus and subsequently in their pedagogical practices.

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