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Boundary Crossing in R&D Projects in Schools: Learning Through Cross-Professional Collaboration


by Wouter Schenke, Jan van Driel, Femke P. Geijsel & Monique L. L. Volman — 2017

Background/Context: School leaders, teachers, and researchers are increasingly involved in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects in schools, which encourage crossing boundaries between the fields of school and research. It is not clear, however, what and how professionals in these projects learn through cross-professional collaboration.

Purpose: The purpose of our study is to create a better understanding of the learning of boundary crossers who are involved in cross-professional collaboration in R&D projects.

Research Design: In this multicase study, we analyzed data from interviews with school leaders, teachers, and researchers involved in 19 R&D projects in Dutch secondary schools. We interpreted boundary crossers’ learning in terms of learning mechanisms (identification, reflection, coordination, and transformation) and related these learning mechanisms to different types of cross-professional collaboration.

Findings: Three combinations of learning mechanisms were prevalent: identification and coordination, reflection and transformation, and transformation for school leaders, teachers, and researchers. Different types of collaboration appeared to evoke different learning mechanisms.

Conclusions: Boundary crossers on R&D projects learn from the other professionals’ tools and objectives and, in the case of transformation, integrate these in their own professional methods of working and aims. When transformation occurs school leaders and teachers develop a research attitude towards teaching and researchers incorporate contributing to educational improvement as an objective in their research. This is mainly the case in school- and researcher-directed types of cross-professional collaboration.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 4, 2017, p. 1-42
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21667, Date Accessed: 5/27/2017 5:57:35 AM

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About the Author
  • Wouter Schenke
    Kohnstamm Institute, University of Amsterdam
    E-mail Author
    WOUTER SCHENKE, PhD, works as a researcher at Kohnstamm Institute, University of Amsterdam, and as teacher educator at the Institute of Teacher Education (ILO), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests concern organizational aspects of practice-based research in schools, professional learning communities, and collaboration between researchers and teacher researchers. Recent publication:

    Schenke, W., van Driel, J. H., Geijsel, F. P., Sligte, H. W., & Volman, M. L. L. (2016). Characterizing cross-professional collaboration in research and development projects in secondary education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice.


  • Jan van Driel
    The University of Melbourne
    E-mail Author
    JAN H. VAN DRIEL is a Professor of Science Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, the University of Melbourne. His research is focused on three areas: science education, teaching, and teacher education, and higher education. Recent publication: Recent publication:

    Van Driel, J. H., Berry, A., & Meirink, J. A. (2014). Research on science teacher knowledge. In N. Lederman (ed.), Handbook of research on science education, 2nd Ed. (pp. 848–870). London: Taylor & Francis.


  • Femke Geijsel
    University of Amsterdam
    E-mail Author
    FEMKE P. GEIJSEL is Professor by Special Appointment of Educational Leadership and Management at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She is the director of the Netherlands Institute of Leadership in Education (NSO). She examines management ideologies, leadership styles, and leadership development within various education sectors and across different layers of education institutions. Recent publication:

    Willemse, T. M., ten Dam, G., Geijsel, F., van Wessum, L., & Volman, M. (2015). Fostering teachers' professional development for citizenship education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 49, 118–127.


  • Monique Volman
    University of Amsterdam
    E-mail Author
    MONIQUE L. L. VOLMAN is Full Professor of Education and program leader at the Research Institute of Child Development and Education of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Main areas in her research are learning environments for meaningful learning, diversity, and the use of ICT in education. In her work, she aims to build bridges between educational theory and practice. Recent publication:

    Gaikhorst, L., Beishuizen, J. J., Zijlstra, B. J., & Volman, M. L. (2015). Contribution of a professional development programme to the quality and retention of teachers in an urban environment. European Journal of Teacher Education, 38(1), 41–57.


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