Toward a Theory of Teacher Community
by Pamela Grossman, Sam Wineburg & Stephen Woolworth — 2001
The authors use their experience with a professional development project to propose a model of teachers community in the workplace. They describe a project that brought together 22 English and social studies teachers (and a special education and ESL teacher) from an urban high school over a period of 2 1/2 years. The teachers met twice monthly to read together in the fields of history and English to create an interdisciplinary curriculum. This detailed account of the first 18 months of the project offers new definitions of professional community and its development and illuminates the challenges involved in community formation. One of these challenges is the need to negotiate the “essential tension of teacher community” or the tension between professional development geared to learning new pedagogical practices and that devoted to deepening teachers’ subject matter knowledge in the disciplines of instruction. The authors—who deliberately built this tension into the project—claim that these two facets of professional development must both be respected in any successful attempt to create and sustain intellectual community in the workplace. The authors describe the challenges of maintaining diverse perspectives within a social group and how familiar fault lines—both in society and in school—threaten the pursuit of community. The article includes a model of the markers of community formation as manifested in participants’ speech and action and concludes with a discussion of why we should care about professional communities for teachers.
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