You are on page 1of 12


Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798

Collaborative teacher learning: Findings from two professional development projects

Gaalen Ericksona,, Gabriella Minnes Brandesa, Ian Mitchellb, Judie Mitchellc
a b

University of British Columbia, Canada Monash University, Victoria, Australia c Brentwood College, Victoria, Australia

Abstract This article discusses two projects that were aimed at enhancing the opportunities for professional development of the participants through collaboration between classroom teachers and teacher educators. The two projects, the Australian Project for Enhancing Effective Learning (PEEL) and the Canadian Learning Strategies Group (LSG), focused on the teaching and learning practices in secondary school classrooms. We examine those features that we contend have resulted in long-term sustainability and the success of these partnerships. An analysis of our own experiences and other empirical data from both projects illustrate our claims that these small-scale projects have: improved the learning environment in classrooms for students and teachers; created models of professional development for school and teacher educators; and provided valid knowledge about learning and teaching issues in classroom settings. The potential of such projects to achieve these aims depends upon: (a) a mutually held understanding of what types of classroom practices nurture good teaching and learning, (b) a setting where teachers have a strong commitment and control over the project and decide on its direction, and (c) a structure that allows teachers and teacher educators to meet regularly in an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding. r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Collaboration; Practical knowledge; Professional development communities; School-University partnerships; Teacher learning; Teacher inquiry

1. Introduction
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 604 822 2867;

fax: +1 604 822 8234. E-mail addresses: (G. Erickson), (G. Minnes Brandes), (I. Mitchell), (J. Mitchell).

The theme of collaboration between school and university educators has been a prevalent subject of discussion in the teacher education literature for well over the past 10 years (Bickel & Hattrup, 1995; Clark, Herter, & Moss, 1998; Cole & Knowles, 1993; Erickson, 1991; John-Steiner,

0742-051X/$ - see front matter r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2005.05.018

788 G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798

Weber, & Minnis, 1998; Hoban, 2002; McCotter, 2001; Seixas & Brandes, 1997). The contexts and the accompanying rationale for the establishment of these collaborative partnerships have varied signicantly from the formation of new institutional structures such as the creation of Professional Development Schools (Darling-Hammond, 1994) or other large-scale consortia (Fullan, 1995; Sirotnik & Goodlad, 1988; Watson & Fullan, 1992; Yeatman & Sachs, 1995) to much more informal partnerships and local initiatives occurring between groups of teachers and university personnel (Crockett, 2002; Hoban, Hastings, Luccarda, & Lloyd, 1997; Hollingsworth & Gallego, 1996; Jenlink & Kinnucan-Welsch, 2001; Olson & Craig, 2001). More recently, the nature of collaborative relationships has been examined as an important factor in contexts and programs specically focused on teacher development and teacher learning. Thus, in reviewing a number of teacher development projects, Putnam and Borko (2000) argue that bringing together teachers and university-based educators could create new forms of discourse about teaching and learning. These discourse communities are powerful contexts for improving the practices of all of the participants. However, Putnam and Borko (2000) caution us that these types of discourse communities: y also may introduce new tensions into the professional development experience. For example, the university teams in all three projects struggled with the question of how much guidance and structure to bring to the conversations, seeking an appropriate balance between presenting information and facilitating teachers construction of new practices. In considering these issues of balance, we are reminded of what Richardson (1992) labeled the agenda-setting dilemma: The staff developer wants to see teachers practice change in particular directions while empowering the teachers themselves to be meaningfully involved in determining the changes (p. 9). Other commentators have put forward similar claims about the importance of establishing strong collaborative relationships between university and

school-based educators but have pointed out how little systematic research has been conducted in this area. For instance, Little (2002), claimed that research spanning more than two decades points to the benets of vigorous collegial communities, yet relatively little research examines specically how professional communities supply intellectual, social and material resources for teacher learning and innovations in practice. (p. 917). And along a similar vein Crockett (2002), in discussing her work with a teacher inquiry group, commented that recommendations for professional development call for an alternative structure known as teacher inquiry groups. However, little is known about the contents of these structures. Many of the collaborative projects documented in the literature have been of the large-scale, interinstitutional type that we think leads to some of the problems and dilemmas identied by Richardson (1992) and Putnam and Borko (2000).

2. Problem area One of the aims of the present article is to provide further insight into the creation and maintenance of the structural features of two small-scale professional development communities and how they functioned to promote learning on the part of all of the participants. Our approach, then, has been to initiate smaller scale, local projects (typically at the school or even classroom level) for the purpose of determining those intra- and inter-institutional arrangements that appear to be most fruitful. While the smaller scale does not eliminate all of the problems (such as some value conicts between school and university-based educators), we think that the underlying structures and the professional norms for discourse that we have established in these groups result in more effective strategies for managing these dilemmas (in the sense of Cubans (1992) discussion about the importance of managing dilemmas). The projects that we describe, then, entail the creation of professional development communities of teachers and university-based educators. These communities of learners have variously been

G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 789

described as: a knowledge community (Bereiter, 2002; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993; Craig, 1995; Olson & Craig, 2001); a professional learning community (Jenlink, Kinnucan-Welsch, & Odell, 1996; Little, 2002); or a discourse community (Putnam & Borko, 2000). The general features of this conception of learning in a community have been explored extensively by Bereiter and Scardamalia (1993) and their colleagues, particularly as it pertains to student learning in classroom settings. Whereas Olson and Craig (2001) and Putnam and Borko (2000) have drawn upon a similar conception of learning to interpret the ndings from teacher development projectsa purpose that is similar to our own. More specically, our approach to meaningful professional development highlights a situative perspective of teacher learning and could be described as an approach to teachers professional development that is grounded in teachers experiences and includes activities at the school site, whereby teachers learning is intertwined with their ongoing practice, making it likely that what they learn will indeed inuence and support their teaching practice in meaningful ways (Putnam & Borko, 2000, p, 2). Our collaborative work with teacher groups could also be characterized in terms of our efforts to create: (1) a classroom learning environment that is both fruitful and enjoyable for all of the participants; (2) a functional and cost-effective model of professional development with a focus on learning for all of the participants involved (i.e. teachers, students, and teacher educators alike); (3) a professional development setting that yields functional and purposeful knowledge for all of the participants. While the rst two of these aims are important outcomes of our work, our focus in this article is primarily on the third aim. In doing so, we discuss two collaborative projects that we believe have been very successful in meeting the above aims. Our purpose then, is to draw upon our collective experience to examine and analyse the structural

and functional features of these two projects, which we judge to be very successful. As such this is not a direct reporting of empirical data from a carefully designed study, rather it is type of reexive and analytical reporting of our work over a number of years in these two projects. However, we do refer to the results of a number of smaller scale studies related to these projects to arrive at some of the conjectures and conclusions that we make in this piece. We think that this kind of article, which examines some of the specics of establishing and sustaining these kinds of collaborative partnerships in teacher education, is important in view of the claim by Wilson and Berne (1999) who reviewed the literature on teacher learning and professional development. They argue that little is known about the specics entailed in systematically constructing such opportunities to learn, and so researchers interested in studying teacher learning within these new environments nd themselves researching a phenomenon while they (or others) are trying to build it. (p. 197).

3. Two collaborative projects The rst of these projects was initiated in Melbourne, Australia in 1985 and involved a collaborative partnership between a group of teachers in a state secondary school and several teacher educators from the education faculties of two Melbourne universities. This project is called the Project For Enhancing Effective Learning (PEEL project). The second project began in Vancouver, Canada in 1991 and similarly involved a group of secondary school teachers and teacher educators. This latter project is called the Learning Strategies Group (LSG). Ian and Judie Mitchell were involved in the process of establishing both groups. Gaalen Erickson and Gabriella Minnes Brandes participated in establishing the latter group. Both of these projects were non-funded and non-systemic; both were long termone went for 5 years and the other is still continuing after 20 years during which time it has spread to many other schools in several countries. Both projects have been characterized by teachers volunteering

790 G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798

to give up time, take risks and develop and share new approaches in their teaching. Each of them continued for many years because of the enthusiasm of the participants for the process of collaborative inquiry. Our discussion of these projects will be organized around those features that we conjecture to be critical for the establishment and sustainability of these types of collaborative projects. 3.1. Establishing purposes Cuban (1992) pointed out that schools and universities value different forms of knowledge. We would add that, even when the two groups do value the same form of knowledge (class room tested wisdom about how to achieve aim 1 for example), the university-based participants are likely to place a much higher value on the need to document and share the new wisdom outside the group. For the teachers, the main benets from such endeavours lie in their own classrooms and understandings of their classrooms. These differences are a potential source of conict and tension over the purpose of a collaborative project. Is it primarily (or solely) to provide support and professional development for the teachers as well as to generate practical knowledge for the participants, or does the purpose include generating both formal and practical forms of knowledge for a wider audience? It is to be expected that different members will begin with different agendas here and we suggest that this difference be openly acknowledged and regarded as reasonable. Ongoing viability requires the group to successfully manage and, over time, eliminate the tension between these two purposes. The two projects had rather different histories on this issue. During the initial weeks, the purpose and focus of the original PEEL group seemed relatively straightforward compared with that of the LSG at the same stage. With hindsight, the role of Ian Mitchell was probably crucial in minimizing teacher distrust about the purpose and focus of PEEL. He taught half time in the school and half time at the university. This dual appointment allowed PEEL to begin with an overt focus on conducting classroom-based research. The tea-

chers perceived him as a colleague and there was no detectable perception of a university-imposed agenda. The LSG began with the purpose of improving teaching and learning within the school, focusing on aspects of the schools mission statement. Using this as a starting point, the teacher educators had worked hard to try to ground the project in the teachers concerns. However, individual members still had their own perceptions about how the group would function according to their own reasons for joining. In hindsight, the issue of discordant agendas was more complex in the LSG because it built on 5 years of PEEL. When PEEL began, the universitybased participants were driven largely by concerns of how to put some theory into practice. They recognized the need for knowledge that only teachers could develop. It was only after a number of months that all participants in the group realized how much they were learning about teacher learning and development. When the LSG began, the four authors of this paper retained an interest in extending their understandings about how to achieve aim1. However, unlike the situation with PEEL, we knew that progress was likely in this area and we were interested to see whether a PEEL type collaborative group could work in a Canadian context as well as wanting to gain further insights into the process of collaborative professional development. We were also interested in forging links between the school and the university and to gain closer contact with practicing teachers, to participate in the daily discourse of teachers, and to gain insight into the current problems faced by teachers and their way of addressing these problems. This, we felt would improve our own practice as teacher educators. While these purposes appeared to be mutually benecial, there were two conicts that occurred from a lack of shared understandings of the purpose and focus of the group. The rst of these is discussed in the next section on theory. The second is discussed in the section on time and resources. 3.2. Theorizing practice Teachers and teacher educators commonly have different perceptions of theory; consequently the

G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 791

role of theory is a potential source of conict early in a collaborative professional development. Our experiences, in a number of projects, is that over a time scale of months, as teachers hear similar events reported by colleagues in a range of contexts, they come to see a need for generalizations to sort, group and make sense of these events. That is, they begin to generate a form of theory. Theory can mean a number of things. At one end of the continuum, we have the highly formalized theories from the physical sciences that endeavour to explain and predict a wide range of phenomena. At the other end are generalizations about the particularities of practice. Teacher educators are accustomed to generalizingtheir teaching often occurs in a world of abstraction of ideas and contexts. Teachers, on the other hand, are not accustomed to generalizing about their practice. In particular, this is because they recognize the complex and important inuences of context on all classroom events. We have found that it takes time for the differences between these two, equally valuable perspectives to be understood and reconciled. The original group of PEEL teachers was introduced to some theoretical ideas about student learning in the rst few weeks of meetings. The teachers were not asked to master these ideas at this early stage, only to be aware of their existence. They stated later that they had not developed an adequate understanding of this theory until later in the year when they had a chance to try new strategies and reect on what was happening in their classrooms. This outcome led to the conclusion that personal experience generally precedes change in attitudes, conceptions and behaviours (Baird & Mitchell, 1997. p216). Although the PEEL teachers did not master the details of the theory for some months, they did accept from the outset that theorizing would have a regular role in the projectthe teacher educators had come to the teachers with a problem and asked for help in researching it. The group dynamics of LSG was different, but we did not recognize this until after making a mistake, which almost ended the project. The LSG teachers had been introduced to the same theory about student

learning during a full day in-service session, now enriched and elaborated with practical applications by PEEL teachers for 6 years. The rst few meetings of LSG had focused on teachers context specic stories about what they were doing in their classroom and how their students were responding. Ian asked the chairperson of LSG whether she thought it would be useful to reect on the events of the rst few weeks in terms of a way of framing learning that he had recently developed. It was decided to approach this issue at the next meeting. Both Ian and the chairperson regarded this type of agenda item as part of the intended activities of the group; however, there was a negative reaction from some teachers. The issue split the group. Part of the problem was that one member had come to the meeting with an important experience to relate, and the expectation that she would be able to do so. She had been unable to do it because of the time taken by the discussion about the role of theory in the deliberations by the group. This experience highlights two issues: rstly, there was the question of who was responsible for determining the agenda of each meeting. Should pre-planned activities take precedence over unanticipated events that teachers felt were important? Waiting another week to relate the teachers experience would have detracted markedly from its immediate impact on that teacher. Some members of the group saw the incident as the university exerting inuence over the direction of the meetings and it raised suspicion about the universitys agenda. The second issue that this incident highlights is the discomfort many teachers feel with the idea of theory, which is often a hangover from the perceived irrelevance of parts of their teacher preparation programmes. The resolution of this conict within the LSG reinforced the notion that practice precedes change (Baird & Mitchell, 1997) and highlighted the importance of tackling the issue of the role of theory. During the full day meeting held at the end of year, all the participants agreed that it would be valuable to review the progress of the group by mapping 18 procedures that Ian had recorded from group meetings onto the original goals of the LSG. This was done in small groups where each group examined one goal. In the reporting, it was

792 G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798

noticeable that the teachers had constructed useful generalizations about teaching and learning in order to make sense of a diverse set of procedures. A few examples of these generalizations are:


In order to discuss knowledge acquisition with students, teachers and students need to develop a common vocabulary; Teachers should explicitly explain the purposes of different class activities and indicate the desired learning outcomes as part of the process of clarifying evaluation and assessment; The more work that is done with students to encourage higher-level thinking, the more students take control over evaluation which increases their level of satisfaction with their school work.

We all recognized what had occurred. While the above statements are not unknown to the community of researchers they are nonetheless very small pieces of theory, and in choosing to generalize about their practice in this way marked a substantial shift in the teachers attitude to theory. At the end of that day, one of the teachers, who had earlier reacted negatively to Ians endeavour to theorize about practice, suggested that the group needed to move beyond the sharing. This provided a discussion, led by the teachers, about the need to look at theory if the group was to avoid going stale. 3.3. Time and resource needs Our experience with the LSG indicates that the provision of resources by sources external to the group is not necessarily seen by all participants as a good thing. Questions of ownership of the project and the nature of power relationships are often involved in managing the tensions and decisions involving time and resource allocation. The PEEL experience had showed the need for regular meetings, preferably once a week. They arranged with the school administration to timetable common non-teaching blocks for all members of the group. This is cost-neutral but places constraints on the school timetable. Other PEEL groups that have been created meet at lunchtime

or after school. For the LSG, it was impossible to alter the timetable as the year had already begun. The participants decided to meet over coffee and mufns before school for three-quarters of an hour once a week. This worked well, mainly due to the professionalism of the group members who quickly established a culture of punctuality. Time for occasional longer meetings, that PEEL had shown could be very valuable in identifying how much progress had been made, was a more difcult issue to resolve. The Vancouver teachers were less willing than the Melbourne teachers had been to leave their classes, even when the administration offered to provide substitute teachers. They cited the amount of time they already were out of the school on other professional business. There was also concern about the perceptions of other staff towards the group receiving privileged treatment. This had been a concern with the Melbourne group also. A whole day out was eventually organized for the second last day of school for the LSG participants. This was done after all of the teachers had reorganized their timetables for invigilating exams so that no other teacher would have to cover for them. None was willing to accept a substitute, even for exam invigilation. The fact that the teachers were willing to go to this trouble is evidence of their commitment to the process, and of their insistence on ownership of the collaborative project. While no monetary resources other than small amounts for occasional food and secretarial requirements were provided to the LSG, the issue of providing for longer meetings meant that in future some resources would be necessary. At the full day meeting, it was proposed that the group apply to the Ministry of Education for a Site Development Grant. Opinion on this was sharply divided. A Site Development Grant was seen as political. Some said they would leave the group if the members decided to apply for external funding. They argued that external funding would create an obligation between the teachers and the administration. Others thought they could benet from the grant. There was also the perception that it would affect the dynamics of the group. This reaction indicates the extent to which teachers

G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 793

have been encultured into believing that when they are not in the classroom, or directly involved in preparation or marking, they are not working. We think that this is a critical issue for this kind of teacher development and for the burgeoning eld of teacher research. In other words, we think that the nature of what is entailed by teachers work needs to be addressed at the system level. For example, a very different attitude in Sweden and Denmark in this regard has been an important factor in a very rapid uptake of PEEL-like models of professional development in those countries over the past 12 years. The PEEL group had managed to survive without formal external funding. (It has since become nancially self-sufcient from sales of publications.) During its rst 3 years, there was some money available, in small doses, left over from other government projects that district teacher educators and the school administration drew to their attention. Some of the full day inservice meetings were funded in this way. Because this was perceived as leftover money, utilizing it meant no serious commitments to an outside agency, which in light of the LSG comments may have been an important consideration. In subsequent years, PEEL teachers have also shown no interest in tapping into funding that carries system agendas. Given the substantial positive outcomes of both projects for the teachers and their schoolsoutcomes that met system needs, an implication for systems is that they should look for ways of stimulating and supporting communities such as these without loading them up with their own specic agendas. 3.4. Foci that sustain Both projects went for many years longer than was originally expected (PEEL continues today). With hindsight, one reason for this was that a focus on how students were learningon exploring ways of stimulating learning that was more informed, purposeful, intellectually active and independent, proved to be a focus that sustained and continually stimulated the discourse and sense of progress in the two communities. There were two interdependent reasons for this. One was that

from early on, the teachers perceived changes in their classrooms that were very highly valued by them; progress did not require waiting until the end of the project. The second was that new, previously unrecognised issues and insights into the complexities of learning and teaching kept emerging that provided different and interesting challengeswe never became talked out. Flack and Osler (1995), two of the rst elementary teachers in PEEL, describe how an initial focus on having students make more links between various aspects of their learning led them to map the swamp of their classroom over many months by what they labelled points of consolidation that identied both what they had achieved and learnt and what new challenges needed to be addressed. The nal meeting of the year for the LSG group was exciting for all participants because of the shared recognition of both of these sorts of outcomes.

4. Conclusions The above analysis of the features of these two projects have provided us with a number of important ndings related to both the positive outcomes of this type of collaborative approach and the problems and dilemmas associated with the creating and sustaining of these types of projects. Here we provide a summary of our collective experiences with these two projects organized around what we consider to be the positive outcomes of these projects. 4.1. Outcomes of the projects Earlier in this article we outlined three desirable aims that we thought could be achieved by these types of small-scale, professional development projects. In examining the activities of the two projects we can begin to assess the degree to which each of these aims were achieved by the two projects under consideration. The rst aim is centred on the creation of classroom learning environments, which are more productive and enjoyable places for students and teachers alike in comparison to more conventional

794 G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798

classrooms. While this notion of seeing classrooms as a focal point for inquiry on the part of students and teachers has deep historical roots (Cremin, 1961), our projects were largely grounded in a perspective on learning that has come to be called constructivist (e.g., Bruner, 1990; Cobb, 1994; Richardson, 1992; Schon, 1983, 1987). One char acterization of an ideal learning environment sought by the participants conceives of learning as a type of active engagement with the setting as opposed to a more passive acceptance of information transmitted to the students from the teacher or other curricular materials. In other words, one of the primary agendas in both projects was to develop, discuss and elaborate more learner-centred instructional practices. This was accomplished through the creation and sharing of a variety of different teaching strategies and approaches, which were then documented in writing (Baird & Northeld, 1995; Loughran, Mitchell, & Mitchell, 2004; Mitchell, 2005). One of the underlying assumptions in both of these projects was that these strategies and approaches would lead to more meaningful and sustained learning outcomes on the part of the students. In comparison with most teacher development projects reported in the literature, we are in the fortunate position of having available in-depth and longitudinal data on some of the PEEL students that has been documented in Ian Mitchells doctoral dissertation. His dissertation demonstrated that while students do at rst offer some resistance to the types of changes in teaching procedures that were used by the PEEL teachers, once they become familiar with the new routines and expectations of the teachers, most of the students prefer classrooms where they were more actively engaged with the materials, with their peers, and with their teachers. Furthermore, he was able to demonstrate through an analysis of classroom dialogue, student journals and their performance on assignments and tests that a very high proportion of the students were asking more demanding questions, were more aware of their own work habits, and were regularly engaged in high levels of intellectual activity (Mitchell, 1993; Mitchell, Loughran, & Mitchell, 2001). However, as Wilson and Berne (1999) acknowledge, much

more work needs to be done in this critically important area of the relationship between teacher knowledge and student performance. Most of our evidence regarding the value of these projects, similar to other collaborative projects reported in the literature, still comes from the professional judgments of the participants in the projects. Nonetheless teachers judgments and perceptions of the worth of these collaborative projects are an important type of evidence for two reasons. First, teachers are indeed the most critical agents in the process of constructing and nurturing particular types of learning environments in their own classrooms and so their perceptions of their relative success in this regard are important. Second, we are also interested in determining the extent to which the teachers nd their classrooms less stressful and more enjoyable and challenging places to be than before their involvement in these projects. In addition to an increased level of enjoyment being a worthwhile end in itself for teachers, we think this will also lead to an enhanced learning environment for the students. In other publications there are cited numerous personal statements from both the teachers and the teacher educators as to the positive impact of these two projects on their own teaching practices and their understanding of these practices (Baird & Northeld, 1995; Flack & Osler, 1995; Loughran, Mitchell, & Mitchell, 2002; Mitchell & Mitchell, 1997; Minnes Brandes, 1995, 1997; Minnes Brandes & Erickson, 1998). Another important piece of evidence is the longevity of the projects. The fact that some participants have been involved anywhere from 5 to 15 years is a very strong indicator of their degree of commitment and the satisfaction that the teachers have obtained from their continued involvement in these projects. In summary, we would argue, based upon both student data and more extensive teacher and university educator data, that these projects have indeed resulted in changes in the classroom environments created by the teachers involved in these two collaborative projects. The second aim listed earlier concerned the development of a functional model of professional development. We wish to claim that our

G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 795

collaborative approach does represent a model with a number of characteristic features. These were outlined in the structural and functional characteristics listed above. A summary of those features that we consider to be most relevant to our approach are listed below:



the school personnel must be involved at the very beginning of the project in negotiating the nature and the structure of the group; the project must meet real and existing needs of all participants; it needs a focus that is likely to sustain collaborative inquiry over a number of years there must be strong agreement from both school and teacher educators on the purposes and any underlying theoretical perspectives of the project. It is important that all participants hold or develop a similar perspective on learning; the group must meet regularly (preferably once a week) and the chair of the meetings should maintain a close liaison with both school and university participants; the group membership should be voluntary and exible, yet overall group stability is an important characteristic; the participants must be aware and sensitive to the different roles that are important to the nurturing and maintenance functions of collaborative groups and recognize that each participants role may change over time; there must be some provision of resources for the group, although these are primarily in the area of arranging sufcient and common blocks of time to attend regular meetings.

The nal aim focused on the nature of the knowledge that could be generated by such projects. We have suggested earlier that these types of projects have the potential to contribute two different types of knowledge. The rst has been called practical or craft knowledge (Elbaz, 1981; Fenstermacher, 1994; Grimmett & MacKinnon, 1992; Richardson, 1994) which refers to those understandings gained from an ongoing reective engagement in the practice setting (Schon, 1987). The import of this type of

knowledge is that it is central to any teacher (teachers) practice. In other words, it is the type of knowledge that teachers develop as a result of their prior personal and teaching experiences. This knowledge becomes manifest as a vast repertoire (or appreciative system as Schon (1983) calls it) of procedures, beliefs, dispositions, and understandings that enable them to teach in a wide variety of settings. While the practical knowledge that was constructed by the participants in our projects is similar in kind to that constructed by all teachers, we think there are also some important differences. We will only mention two differences here. The rst is that the process of developing this practical knowledge is much more a product of and mediated by a social community than is the case with most teachers, where much of their learning comes from their own analysis of isolated experiences in their own classrooms. One consequence of this is that the teachers knowledge of their own practice becomes much less tacit and implicit. This allows their practice to become more purposeful and professional (c.f. Clarke & Erickson, 2004). This greater sense of professional expertise has been an important source of motivation for teachers in both projects. A second important difference is that the knowledge construction was also mediated by our shared understandings of the nature of student learning, as discussed above. The purposes to be served by this type of practical knowledge, then, involve increasing the competence of ones performance in the practice setting, or as Zeichner (1994) has succinctly captured it in a title of a book chapter, Personal renewal and social construction through teacher research. Although our work has primarily focused on the personal renewal aspect, we think that it has long-range implications for the types of social and institutional reconstruction that Zeichner has written about. The second type of knowledge that was generated in this setting has been called formal knowledge (Fenstermacher, 1994; Richardson, 1994). As implied by the name, this type of knowledge consists of the types of public claims about the nature of the process and the products that have emerged from these collaborative projects. These claims are a product of representing

796 G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798

the experiences of these projects in some public forum, such as this article, and the claims must be accompanied by some form of evidence and reasoned arguments regarding the value of that particular form of representation. Examples of the types of formal knowledge claims that have been produced by these projects to date have been the chapters and articles written by the educators involved in the PEEL schools (Baird & Mitchell, 1986; Baird & Northeld, 1992; Dusting, Pinnis, Rivers, & Sullivan ., 1996; Loughran et al., 2004; Mitchell, Fitzpatrick, Petty, & Neale, 1997) and a smaller number of publications from the younger LSG project (Minnes Brandes, Hughes, McRae, & Schwartz, 1993; Minnes Brandes, 1997; Minnes Brandes & Erickson, 1998). The purpose of this type of formal knowledge is to contribute new understandings of the complex phenomena of learning and teaching to both the smaller, intact communities of practice (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002) where these issues and problems are of central concern and to the wider social communities in which the schools and universities reside. We would argue that these two projects have indeed been successful in generating both practical and formal knowledge about successful ways of actively engaging students in school learning tasks and they also provide us with exemplary models of professional growth and development for all group participants. Further, they have succeeded in providing the participants with ythe cognitive toolsideas, theories, and conceptsthat individuals appropriate as their own through their personal efforts to make sense of experiences (Putnam & Borko, 2000, p. 5). In closing, our collective experiences in these two projects have led us to realize that these types of collaborative, professional development projects will continue to be characterized by a number of on-going problems, tensions, and dilemmas. These difculties stem in part from the competing value orientations and the different social practices of the school and teacher educators, and also from the inherent complexity and changing characteristics of the problems being addressed in these projects. The difculties in establishing truly collaborative projectswhere the purposes,

structures, and a common language of communication are fairly negotiated by all the group membersis well documented in the literature (Cuban, 1992; Dixon & Ishler, 1992; John-Steiner et al., 1998; Palincsar, Magnusson, Marano, Ford, & Brown, 1998; Thomas, Wineburg, Grossman, Myhre, & Woolworth, 1998). Nonetheless we think that the potential benets to be gained from both participating in these projects and reecting on the underlying structural features, the group processes, and the resultant outcomes far outweigh the efforts and resources that are necessary to initiate and subsequently sustain new projects of this collaborative nature. We are encouraged to see other researchers beginning to report on similar projects and reaching similar conclusions such as the claim by Jenlink and Kinnucan-Welsch (2001) that professional development is most meaningful to educators when they have responsibility in the design and implementation of their own professional development and when it is closely connected to their work in classrooms (p. 706). Olson and Craig (2001) have also identied a key feature in our work when they discussed the importance of teachers authentically shar(ing) their stories of practice in safe places, that is knowledge communities, in order to make their personal practical knowledge explicit to themselves and to others (p. 668). Thus, we claim that through these types of projects, we will be better situated to generate the types of practical and formal knowledge necessary for the educational community to become more sensitive and adaptable to the social and institutional changes occurring in our society and consequently to address the increasingly complex problems associated with schooling in contemporary society.

Baird, J., & Mitchell, I. (Eds.). (1986). Improving the quality of teaching and learning: an Australian case study: The PEEL project. Melbourne: Monash University Printery. Baird, J. R., & Mitchell, I. J. (Eds.). (1997). Improving the quality of teaching and learning, (2nd ed.). Melbourne: PEEL Publishing.

G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 Baird, J., & Northeld, J. (Eds.). (1992). Learning from the PEEL experience. Melbourne: Monash University Printery. Baird, J. R., & Northeld, J. R. (Eds.). (1995). Learning from the PEEL experience, (2nd ed.). Melbourne: PEEL Publishing. Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and mind in the knowledge age. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves. An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Chicago: Open Court. Bickel, W., & Hattrup, R. (1995). Teachers and researchers in collaboration: Reections on the process. American Educational Research Journal, 32(1), 3562. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Clark, C., Herter, R., & Moss, P. (1998). Continuing the dialogue on collaboration. American Educational Research Journal, 35(4), 785791. Clarke, A., & Erickson, G. (2004). Self-study: The fth commonplace. Australian Journal of Education, 48(2), 199211. Cobb, P. (1994). Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 1320. Cole, A., & Knowles, G. (1993). Teacher development partnership research: A focus on methods and issues. American Educational Research Journal, 30(3), 473496. Craig, C. (1995). Knowledge communities: A way of making sense of how beginning teachers come to know. Curriculum Inquiry, 25(2), 151175. Cremin, L. (1961). The transformation of the school; progressivism in American education. New York: Knof Publishers. Crockett, M. (2002). Inquiry as professional development: Creating dilemmas through teachers work. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(5), 609624. Cuban, L. (1992). Managing dilemmas while building professional development communities. Educational Researcher, 21(2), 411. Darling-Hammond, L. (Ed.). (1994). Professional development schools: Schools for developing a profession. New York: Teachers College Press. Dixon, P. N., & Ishler, R. E. (1992). Professional development schools: Stages in collaboration. Journal of Teacher Education, 43(1), 2834. Dusting, R., Pinnis, G., Rivers, R., & Sullivan, V. (Eds.). (1996). Towards a thinking classroom. Melbourne: PEEL Publishing. Elbaz, F. (1981). The teachers practical knowledge: Report on a case study. Curriculum Inquiry, 11(1), 119. Erickson, G. (1991). Collaborative inquiry and the professional development of science teachers. The Journal of Educational Thought, 25(3), 228245. Fenstermacher, G. (1994). The knower and the known: The nature of knowledge in research on teaching. In L. DarlingHammond (Ed.), Review of research in education, Vol. 20 (pp. 356). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association. 797

Flack, J., & Osler, J. (1995). Mapping the swamp: A case study of reective practice. Reect, 1(1), 1119. Fullan, M. (1995). The limits and the potential of professional development. In T. Guskey, & M. Huberman (Eds.), New paradigms and practices in professional development (pp. 253267). New York: Teachers College Press. Grimmett, P. P., & MacKinnon, A. M. (1992). Craft knowledge and the education of teachers. In G. Grant (Ed.), Review of Research in Education, Vol. 18 (pp. 385456). Washington, DC: AERA. Hoban, G. (2002). Teacher learning for educational change: A systems thinking approach. Buckingham, England: Open University Press. Hoban, G., Hastings, G., Luccarda, C., & Lloyd, D. (1997). Faculty based professional development as an action learning community. Australian Science Teachers Journal, 43(3), 4954. Hollingsworth, S., & Gallego, M. (1996). Toward a collaborative praxis of multiple literacies. Curriculum Inquiry, 26(3), 265292. Jenlink, P., & Kinnucan-Welsch, K. (2001). Case stories of facilitating professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 705724. Jenlink, P., Kinnucan-Welsch, K., & Odell, S. (1996). Designing professional development learning communities. In D. McIntyre, & D. Byrd (Eds.), Preparing tomorrows teachers: The eld experience (Teacher Education Yearbook IV) (pp. 6387). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press Inc. John-Steiner, V., Weber, R., & Minnis, M. (1998). The challenge of studying collaboration. American Educational Research Journal, 35(4), 773783. Little, J. W. (2002). Locating learning in teachers communities of practice: Opening up problems of analysis in records of everyday work. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(8), 917946. Loughran, J., Mitchell, I., & Mitchell, J. (Eds.). (2002). Learning from teacher research. New York: Teacher College Press. Loughran, J., Mitchell, I., & Mitchell, J. (2004). Attempting to document teachers professional knowledge. Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(9), 121. McCotter, S. (2001). Collaborative groups as professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 685704. Minnes Brandes, G. (1995). Teachers perceptions of the interplay between theory and practice in a professional development context. In R. Hoz, & M. Silberstein (Eds.), Partnerships of schools and institutions of higher education in teacher development (pp. 207218). Ben Gurion: University of the Negev Press. Minnes Brandes, G. (1997). Reective conversations as a tool for professional development. Brock Education, 7(1), 4258. Minnes Brandes, G., & Erickson, G. (1998). Developing and sustaining a community of inquiry among teachers and teacher educators. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, XLIV(1), 38. Minnes Brandes, G., Hughes, A., McRae, K., & Schwartz, P. (1993). Collaboration between teachers and teacher

798 G. Erickson et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005) 787798 Schon, D. A. (1983). The reective practitioner: How profes sionals think in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the reective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Seixas, P. C., & Brandes, G. M. (1997). A workshop in uncertainty: New scholarship in the humanities and social sciences as a basis for professional and curriculum development. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 13(1), 5669. Sirotnik, K., & Goodlad, J. (Eds.). (1988). School university partnerships in action: Concepts, cases and concerns. New York: Teachers College Press. Thomas, G., Wineburg, S., Grossman, P., Myhre, O., & Woolworth, S. (1998). In the company of colleagues: An interim report on the development of a community of teacher learners. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(1), 2132. Watson, N., & Fullan, M. (1992). Beyond school districtuniversity partnerships. In M. Fullan, & A. Hargreaves (Eds.), Teacher deveopment and change (pp. 213242). London: Falmer Press. Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice, a guide to managing knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Wilson, S., & Berne, J. (1999). Teacher learning and the acquisition of professional knowledge: An examination of research on contemporary professional development. Review of Research in Education, 24, 173209. Yeatman, A., & Sachs, J. (1995). Making the links: A formative evaluation of the rst year of the innovative links between universities and schools for teacher professional development. Perth, Western Australia: Murdoch University. Zeichner, K. (1994). Personal renewal and social reconstruction through teacher research. In S. Hollingsworth, & H. Sockett (Eds.), Teacher research and educational reform (Ninety-third Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education) (pp. 6684). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

educators in a professional development context. A paper presented at Western Canadian Association for Student Teaching conference. Vancouver, BC. Mitchell, I. J. (1993). Teaching for quality learning. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Monash University, Melbourne. Mitchell, I. J., (Ed.). (2005). Teaching for effective learning: The complete book of PEEL teaching procedures, Melbourne: PEEL Publishing. Mitchell, J. A., Fitzpatrick, J., Petty, R., & Neale, R. (1997). Subtle judgements and agonising decisions: stories of teaching and writing. English In Australia, 119, 124132. (Also available at Oct%2097/972mitch.html). Mitchell, J., Loughran, J., & Mitchell, I. (2001). Insights into PEEL practice: Invitations to action. Melbourne: PEEL Publishing. Mitchell, I. J., & Mitchell, J. A. (Eds.). (1997). Stories of reective teaching: A book of PEEL cases. Melbourne: PEEL Publishing. Olson, M., & Craig, C. (2001). Opportunities and challenges in the development of teachers knowledge: The development of narrative authority through knowledge communities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 667684. Palincsar, A., Magnusson, S., Marano, N., Ford, D., & Brown, N. (1998). Designing a community of practice: Principles and practices of the GIsML community. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14, 519. Putnam, R., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 29(1), 415. Richardson, V. (1992). The agenda-setting dilemma in a constructivist staff development process. Teaching and Teacher Education, 8, 287300. Richardson, V. (1994). Conducting research on practice. Educational Researcher, 23(5), 510.