Subscribe Today
Home Articles Reader Opinion Editorial Book Reviews Discussion Writers Guide About TCRecord
transparent 13

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.

The authors use their experience with, a professional development project to propose a model of teacher 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 and 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 authorswho deliberately built this tension into the projectclaim 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 linesboth in society and in schoolthreaten 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.

The word community has lost its meaning. From the prevalence of terms such as "communities of learners," "discourse communities," and "epistemic communities" to "school community," "teacher community," or "communities of practice," it is clear that community has become an obligatory appendage to every educational innovation. Yet aside from linguistic kinship, it is not clear what features, if any, are shared across terms. This confusion is most blatant in the ubiquitous virtual community where, by paying a fee or typing a password, anyone who clicks on a web site automatically becomes a "member" of the community.

We are not the first to urge caution about the profligate uses of this term. In the early 1990s, Judith Warren Little and Milbrey McLaughlin (1993) warned educators about borrowing notions of community from sociology and anthropology and applying them directly to schools. In work from the Stanford Center on School Context, Perry (1997) observed that research had not yet "been able to identify and investigate the dimensions which constitute [teacher] professional community or to discover how each of these dimensions works to support or undermine teaching" (p. 37).i Nonetheless, there is no shortage of theoretical formulations of how community is supposed to function in educational settings. In his review, Westheimer (1998) pointed to five common themes in theories of community (interdependence, interaction/participation, shared interests, concern for individual and minority views, and meaningful relationships), drawing on such diverse thinkers as Philip Selznick, John Dewey, Maxine Greene, Nel Noddings, and Robert Bellah. But in the end Westheimer came to the same conclusion as his predecessors. "Researchers," he wrote, "could benefit from a stronger conceptualization of communities based in empirical research" (p. 148).

Even a cursory review of the literature reveals the tendency to bring community into being by linguistic fiat ("virtual community" is only the baldest example).ii Groups of people become communities, or so it would seem, by the flourish of a researcher's pen. Researchers have yet to formulate criteria that would allow them to distinguish between a community of teachers and a group of teachers sitting in a room for a meeting. This conceptual blur raises the question of what, if anything, the construct of community adds to existing accounts of schooling. Adding to this problem is the fact that studies of community typically examine already-formed groups. We have little sense of how teachers forge the bonds of community, struggle to maintain them, work through the inevitable conflicts of social relationships, and form the structures needed to sustain relationships over time. Without understanding such processes, we have little to guide us as we try to create community (whatever it may mean) in settings where it doesn't exist already.iii


As researchers engaged in a long-term study of teacher community, we are as guilty as others of these sins. Five years ago we received a large grant to create a "community of teacher learners" in a large urban high school. After reviewing the educational literature on community, we formulated a model based on the structural features of the urban high school (e.g., time and resources), departmental organization (based on work by Grossman & Stodolsky, 1995), and intellectual features of cooperative learning environments (drawing largely on Brown and Campione's [1994] work on communities of learners; Brown, 1992), as well as our own prior work on pedagogical content knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy (Grossman, 1990; Wilson & Wineburg, 1993). We located our project in a large urban high school, where members of two departments (history and English) came together to pursue a joint goal: the exploration of understanding in the humanities that would lead to an interdisciplinary humanities curriculum.

In this article we draw on our experiences with this project, along with the work of others, to propose a model of teacher community. This is the first of three articles based on this project. Here, we describe the group during the first 18 months of the project. We begin by laying out some of the conceptual and theoretical issues related to the uses of community in the literature and then try to show how unprepared we were for the challenges we faced. Second, using our own project as a case, we sketch the developmental trajectory of intellectual community among teachers. Third, we discuss how community manifests in speech and action, noting the twists and turns of pursuing community in an urban high school. We end by addressing the "so what" question: What is community good for and why even care about it?

In a second paper (Grossman, Wineburg, Sc Woolworth, 1998), we describe more fully how we analyzed the learning of both individuals and the group as a whole. We explain at some length our coding scheme, which draws on the work of Robert Scholes (1985) to distinguish different levels of reading in our group discussions. Such a coding scheme is essential if we are to make claims about changes in the intellectual quality of our discussions over time. In a third paper, we will describe the final year of the projecta year characterized by the contradictions of cohesion and conflict. It is in this final paper that we address head-on the fragility of community.

We offer our experience not as a success story (for, as will soon become clear, every success we experienced was accompanied by an equally dismal failure), but as an instructive case that sheds light on the birth pangs of teacher community (cf. Thomas, Wineburg, Grossman, Myhre, & Wool-worth, 1998; Wineburg & Grossman, 1996). We offer a bounded history of our project, drawing on data from the first half of our 3 years together. Confining our narrative to these 18 months allows us to focus on how a group of people came together, struggled to find a common language, and worked to create a collective vision for ongoing professional development in the workplace. In telling our story, we deliberately alternate between theoretical aspects of community that go beyond our setting and the unique features of individuals and context that have no direct parallels elsewhere. Our goal is to tie our conceptualization to the concrete particulars of a single setting but also to show how our experience speaks to issues that extend beyond this one school and district. Before we turn to our story, we offer a brief review of community, as that construct has been understood more generally in the social sciences and humanities.


The association between community arid the good life reaches across religious, cultural, and philosophical traditions where the value of individuals working together for the common good is upheld and respected. The German sociologist Ferdinand Toennies (1963) used the word gemeinschaft to differentiate community from gesellschaft (society) because he had observed that individuals cultivate stronger bonds of connectedness in community than in the larger society, which is often experienced as impersonal and alienating. Communities, he noted, are more apt to be defined by loyal relationships and a stable social structure.

Many have expressed concern over the loss of traditional social community. Popular and scholarly accounts have detailed how we are less grounded by place, less likely to know our neighbors, and less committed to civic life than during any other time in our nation's past (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton, 1985; Etzioni, 1993; Oldenburg, 1989; Putnam, 1995). Traditional communities, built on personal and active engagement in organized groups, have withered in favor of more individual pursuits, like those symbolized by the "virtual communities" we alluded to earlier, where people drop in and out of social networks by interest and whimnot because of association or shared purpose. Many theorists see social responsibility and commitment crumbling in a culture of unrestrained individualism. What we risk losing, many agree, are those communal spaces where meaningful social interaction broadens people's sense of self beyond the "me" and "I" into the "we" and "us."

In Habits of the Heart (1985) Robert Bellah and his associates describe this loss as a decline in civic membership, the junction between one's personal and social identity. According to this argument, Americans have disengaged from the body politic and are less involved in the civic institutions that Tocqueville saw as softening and containing the individualistic tendencies at the heart of American society. In response to this perceived crisis of individualism, a social movement that aims to restore the community ideal has emerged. Amitai Etzioni (1993), writing as the spokesman for the communitarian movement, claimed that rights now outweigh responsibilities in American society. What is needed, he argues, is "a renewal of social bonds" and a commitment to public life based on shared values and mutual understanding. Similarly, the sociologist Robert Putnam (1995), in his widely cited paper "Bowling Alone," suggests that current social conditions reflect a decline in "social capital," a term he used to invoke the social networks, norms, and levels of trust that "facilitate" how well people cooperate and work together for their mutual benefit. Vibrant communities, according to Putnam, have a "substantial stock of social capital" that makes life easier and more meaningful for their members.

Because of the nature of our school-based work, we are most interested in community at the local level, where face-to-face interactions, dialogue, and trust are necessary ingredients to building cohesion. In this regard, we find Bellah and colleagues (1985) definition of community to be useful: "a group of people who are socially interdependent, who participate together in discussion and decision making, and who share certain practices that both define the community and are nurtured by it" (p. 333). Our experience confirms Bellah and colleagues' observation that such communities are not quickly or easily formed. It takes time for individuals to develop a common history so that they, in effect, become a "community of memory" where public discussion revolves around members retelling the "constitutive narrative" of the group.

We are also interested in the formation of group norms and how they come to define community. For the legal theorist Stephen Carter (1998), norms represent the shared moral life of a communitythat element which encourages participants to discipline their desires "for the sake of membership in the group." For Carter, participation in genuine communities is marked by civility, or what he refers to as the "etiquette of democracy," whereby individuals are mindful about how they express dissent and negotiate disagreement. In our attempt to establish community we were confronted from the get-go with challenges over how to handle disagreements expressed in the context of a "professional" community, where individuals already shared a prior history and where there was more at stake than winning an argument.

A rich history of integrating notions of professionalism with community extends back to reformers and social workers of the Progressive period, who developed systems of support and fellowship around child welfare practices and policies (Muncy, 1991). However, for researchers interested in documenting the formation of professional community, especially among teachers, there is less to build on. One of the first scholars to link the construct of community to issues of professionalism was William J. Goode (1957). Goode observed that professions such as law and medicine vary in the extent to which that they are indeed communities, but they do display certain "characteristics" of community. Members of the same profession share a sense of identity and common values, they share the same role definitions in relation to members and nonmembers alike, they share a common language, and they control the reproduction of the group through selection procedures and socialization processes. Professional community, Goode observed, is a "contained community," a group that exists within the structural constraints and supports of the larger society. This metaphor of containment applies as well to our efforts at building a community that was embedded within the larger organization of the school, the district, and the profession at large.

Goode's work, however, sheds light on the unique features and challenges of teaching compared to the touchstones of medicine and law. Depending on grade level, subject area, prior education, and type of student served, teachers vary in their understanding of the goals of teaching, the purposes of education, the structure of the curriculum, the role of testing, and just about anything that has to do with teaching. Focusing on any one of Goode's criteria highlights the problems of establishing professional community in teaching. For example, teachers in public school settings often have little to do with selection and recruitment of new teachers, a task controlled by administrators removed from the day-to-day demands of the classroom. When it comes to policing the ranks and enforcing group norms, teachers accomplish this task informally: Sanctions that count most (those with repercussions for tenure and employment) are administered at a district level. Compared to medicine or law, education has been unable to forge a shared language of norms and values; and practically every significant question in education remains contentious. Indeed, one way to interpret the standards movement sweeping the country (including the formation of the National Board of Professional Standards) is as an attempt to create a collective professional vision for teaching where none has existed before.


A key rationale for teacher community is that it provides an ongoing venue for teacher learning (Cochran-Smith Be Lytle, 1999; Darling-Hammond Sc Sykes, 1999; Lieberman & Grolnick, 1996; McLaughlin Be Talbert, 2001; Nelson & Hammerman, 1996). The interweaving of teacher learning and professional community is prominent in discussions of the embedded contexts in which teachers work, such as national networks, district committees, and state-level organizations (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001). But when we turn to the school level (particularly the high school), the most logical venue for day-to-day community, we butt up against a series of structural, cultural, and vocational impediments.

The simple fact is that the structures for ongoing community do not exist in the American high school.iv From the teacher's perspective, one of the peculiarities of the workplace is that learning aimed at deepening knowledge of the subject matters of instruction must be done outside of school, during so-called free timehence, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer institute. Despite lip service to lifelong learning, the norms of American schools create a situation in which community for teacher learning is found (if found at all) outside the workplace.

Much has been written about the occupational norms of privacy that impede joint work among teachers (Little, 1990; Lortie, 1975). These norms are maintained, in part, by the temporal organization of the school day, which limits teachers' interactions to fleeting encounters at lunchtime or to the rushed minutes before and after school. The most common form of school-based teacher learningthe district inservice daydoes not help the situation much (cf. Miller Be Lord, 1995). The episodic and piecemeal nature of typical professional development dooms any attempt to sustain intellectual community. By their very structure, scattered inservice days are confined to technical and immediate issues such as learning new assessment schemes, translating test results into lesson plans, implementing a new curriculum or textbook series, and so on.

Efforts to build intellectual community have historically taken place outside school walls, thus removing teacher learning from the temporal and spatial milieu of the workplace. Teachers leave the school building to travel to an "institute," often far away, to work and learn with others.v While these institutes can be collegial experiences, teachers do not learn with the people they rub shoulders with in the workplace. And although summer learning experiences can be rewarding to those who participate, they pose problems as well. On a structural level, they suggest that learning is a "summer activity" accomplished during teachers free time rather than an ongoing part of professional life. On a practical level, these learning opportunities are often viewed as optional (it is the rare school that requires teachers to attend an NEH institute), and they attract a particular kind of volunteer: individuals passionate about their own learning who can afford the time and tuition. Most important, the voluntary nature of such institutes means that there is already a match between the programs offered and those who volunteera fact that raises questions about teachers who choose not to participate. In many cases, the teachers most in need of such an intellectual broadening are the least likely to volunteer.

The biggest drawback to the summer or weekend approach to teacher learning rests on the assumption that it is possible to take individuals out of their workplaces, transform them in other settings, and then return them to an unchanged workplace to battle the status quo. Seymour Sarason (cf. 1990) has steadfastly argued for 2 decades that such models may affect individuals but they are unlikely to change the workplace in any significant way. We argue, therefore, for a vision of professional community that is located within the workplace, offering the possibility of individual transformation as well as the transformation of the social settings in which individuals work.


We created a "community of teacher learners by declaration and invited teachers to join us. We located our project in the context of the workplace by soliciting participation from two departments, English and history, in an urban Seattle high school. We hoped thereby to effect change not only in individuals but in the culture of the workplace. What we did not appreciate until later was how working with a group of teachers who already knew each other would affect the formation of community.

In many ways, starting with a group of colleagues who have worked together may be worse than convening a group of perfect strangers (Wine-burg & Grossman, 2001; cf. Rothman, Erlich, & Tropman, 1995). Unlike the people who attend a summer institute, drawn from different venues and often on their best behavior, our group already had a rich and not always congenial history. They had heard about each other from students, worked together on school projects, and engaged in past skirmishes. The conflicts and tensions of the workplace accompanied us from the start. Many teachers had fully developed opinions of each other. In most cases these impressions were developed not from actually seeing each other teach, but from years (in some cases, decades) of reports by 15- and 16-year-old informants. We also did not choose departments distinguished by a collegial culture. In fact, these two departments rarely met formally and only then for practical tasks. All of these factors made the creation of community more difficult but also more ecologically valid.

A second crucial feature distinguished our project from the volunteer summer institute. We were able to draw into our fold teachers who normally would not seek the kind of "high-brow" intellectual experiences offered by national humanities groups. The stipend we offered for time spent on the project outside of class (approximately $1,200 a year) was an incentive for some, and the on-site nature of the project made participation convenient. Most important, while all teachers in the project were technically volunteers, there were several whom we came to think of as impressed volunteers. Just as sailors were once abducted on the open seas and pressed into service, certain teachers /^ere advised by their department chairs that participation in our project would be "a good idea." The gentle persuasion of department chairs resulted in the participation of several teachers who would have been highly unlikely to seek outside professional development related to the nature of understanding in the humanities.

Teachers in these two departments came together once a month for an entire day to read and discuss literary and historical works and to plan an interdisciplinary humanities curriculum. Grant money allowed us to provide substitutes on these days so that teachers could focus on their own reading and reflection. The monthly meetings were supplemented by after school meetings every other week and by a 5-day retreat during the summer (see Figure 1).

Our own role was to convene the group and, with the help of the two department chairs, set the initial frame for the meetings. While we documented the entire process (recording all meetings, arranging individual interviews with all participants, collecting and collating all materials from the project over 3 years), we saw ourselves as something of a cross between "project organizers" and "project leaders." We had no set agenda for the teachers other than a desire to provide opportunities for continued learning and interactions around the subject, matters of history and English. We straddled a rather ambiguous line: as researchers, documenting the progress of the project and as co-participants, reading books, discussing curriculum, and sharing our own ideas with the group of learners. Our efforts to share leadership occasionally frustrated some members of the group, who wanted us to take on the more familiar role of group leader. Because we had built multiple activities into our project, teachers also sought greater clarity about our purposes as a group and argued about how our time together should be spent.



As a form of professional community, teacher community differs in key ways from other forms .of community in social life. For example, when a group of boaters come together in a "boating community," their locus is self-referential; they are concerned with their common interests, goals, and aspirations. Teachers' professional community, in contrast, looks outward to the multiple contexts in which teachers work. National, state, district, and school contexts all shape definitions of the profession and the role of teachers in it.vi

But professional community, as we use the term in this article, must be concerned with its clientele. When communities of doctors or nurses come together, their focus is on the well-being of their patients. Similarly, for a group of teachers to emerge as a professional community, the well-being of students must be central. According to this criterion, not all gatherings of teachers, even those in which teachers offer each other fellowship and support, constitute professional community: Teachers who gather to read mystery novels, even if they do so in the school library, would not meet our definition of professional community.

The improvement of professional practice is the most common rationale for the formation of teacher community and constitutes one pole in what we refer to as the essential tension of teacher community. In settings across the country, teachers come together to write new curriculum, create new assessments, and formulate standards and benchmarks aimed at improving practice and enhancing student learning. This form of teacher community (and teacher professional development) carries with it enormous face validity among teachers, policy makers, and the public at large.

We believe, however, that a second aspect of teacher community must be considered if teaching is to truly emerge as a learning profession" (cf. Darling-Hammond Sc Sykes, 1999). This second, less familiar pole focuses not on the mastery of a new pedagogical technique or new form of group work. Rather, it highlights teachers' continuing intellectual development in the subject matters of the school curriculum. This aspect of teacher community assumes that teachers are lifelong students of their subjects who must continue to grow in knowledge and keep up with changes in their disciplines. This vision of the teacher is central in classical formulations, a fact that is preserved etymologically in languages as diverse as Hebrew and Norwegian, where the word for "teacher" is the iterative, or intensive form of the word, for "learner."vii

These two aspects of teacher developmentone that focuses teachers' attention on the improvement of student learning, the other focused on the teacher as a student of subject matterdo not always mix harmoniously. Often they do not mix at all. District-based inservices focus almost exclusively on helping teachers learn pedagogical techniques for immediate implementation. Summer institutes in the humanities, on the other hand, make broad claims about "renewing teachers" by reacquainting them with the excitement of the college seminar. In practice, however, these institutes concentrate almost exclusively on disciplinary content with no more than a nod to lesson planning or direct classroom application.

At the heart of these two approaches is a contrast between the promise of direct applicability and the more distant goal of intellectual renewal. The challenge in creating workplace community is to heed both aims simultaneously: to maintain a focus on students while creating structures for teachers to engage as learners with the subject matters they teach. This latter goal, in contrast to the former, does not have a strong school-based tradition. Few examples exist of teachers deftly navigating both agendas in the hurried context of the urban high school. We contend that these two foci of teacher learning must be "brought into relation" in any successful attempt to create and sustain teacher intellectual community in the workplace. Teacher community must be equally concerned with student learning and with teacher learning.

We use "brought into relation" because simpler alternatives like "combine" or "integrate" don't work. We don't think that these two foci can be reduced or bridged or that a proper alignment between them will produce a grand synthesis. Both are at the essence- of teaching. Both represent key ingredients in successful professional development, and holding them in relation is a dynamic process subject to change at a moment's notice. The essential tension is not the sort created by stretching a rope between fixed poles but of a different kind entirelya tension created by the ever-shifting movements of personalities, identities, and human desires. A better metaphor might be of a parachute in the game of the same name. In "parachute," individuals stand in a circle grasping the edges of a parachute trying to prevent a ball in the center from escaping. When the tension around the circle is balanced, the ball bounds higher and higher. But as people invariably shift positions, loosening and tightening their grasp with sudden pulls and jerks, the ball leaps off the stretched fabric and skips to the ground. In a similar way, the dual foci of teacher learning can be held in a productive tension. But they can just as easily be at odds, antagonistic and dismissive of each other's basic worth. It is precisely the paradox of simultaneous attraction and aversion that makes navigating the essential tension the core challenge in teacher professional development.viii


We built the essential tension into our project right from the start. We billed our community as an opportunity both to develop an interdisciplinary humanities curriculum and to engage in discussions of history and literature. Not all teachers came equally interested in both parts of this agenda. Some were interested only in developing curriculum, and others were more interested in reading together. Our enactment of this essential tension ensured that we attracted a diverse group. It also embodied our belief (which was built into the project design) that successful forms of professional development must offer multiple corridors for participation. Given the diversity of experience, educational level, background, and individual taste among teachers in the urban high school, a project that offers only one corridor for professional development by necessity ignores the needs and interests of many other groups. There were clearly subgroups of teachers who would not have joined our project had it focused solely on curriculum development or on reading texts. Keeping the essential tension at the forefront not only attracted a varied group, but also meant that we spent much of our 1st year trying to balance different agendas and expectations.

At the heart of our work was the belief that before we could create interdisciplinary curriculum (a felt need among teachers, and a goal that elicited strong school and district support),; we first had to get to know each other as thinkers and learners. We had to grapple with the two disciplines we planned to integrate. To lay the foundation for understanding, we borrowed the model of book clubs that meet in people's living rooms and imported it into the meandering hallways, aluminum-sided trailers, and classrooms-without-telephones of the urban high school. From our first meetings, we read short texts (poems, primary source documents, etc.) in small groups. At our second full-day meeting, we compiled and read a set of texts that included a section from the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife's Tale by the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (1991); a section of the poem "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet" by John Berryman; a poem by Anne Brad-street, a colonial poet; and finally, an excerpt from an American history textbook that described the lives of colonial women.

At our first whole-group meeting, teachers agreed that one goal of an interdisciplinary curriculum would be to teach students to "read critically." We were not able, however, to arrive at a satisfying definition of critical reading with which all could agree. We hoped that this follow-up textual exercise along with a short reading from Robert Scholes's (1985) book Textual Power would spark a conversation about what it meant to "read critically."

Instead of a lively conversation based on our own reading of texts, the discussion floundered. Sam introduced the topic, only to be met by 8 seconds of silence. In the first 20 turns of the discussion (4 min. 53 seconds), there were 47 seconds of silenceparticularly uncomfortable with 15 people sitting in a circle.

This early discussion (see below) was also marked by unequal participation. Lee, an experienced history teacher, dominated the interchange by holding the floor for more turns than any other participant.ix Pam and Sam, as project facilitators, served here as primary discussion brokers. Listening to the tapes of this discussion 4 years later, we are chagrined by how "teacherly" we sounded in trying to get the discussion going. The initial exchanges have the feel of the worst form of recitationa fishing expedition in which the participants seem convinced that we, as the group leaders, have specific answers in mind. Given the lack of common purpose, it is not surprising that we found it difficult to sustain a conversation. Most of the discussion followed the pattern of the following exchange: relatively brief remarks punctuated by insufferably long silences.x

(01) Sam: . . . Okay, ↑we-----we ↑thought, we ↓hoped, we prayed that this exercise would shed some light on this notion of needing to teach students to read texts critically, which is something that everybody subscribes to- - -↓even when they hold completely divergent views. So let's see if we can—put some flesh on these bare bones. ((silence-8.5 seconds))

(02) Lee: What do you mean?

((group laughter))

(03) Pam: What is the experience that you had in the groups with the, with the text and ↑ talking about what made the text difficult at those three different levels. ↑How does that shed any light on this issue of what it means to read texts critically?

(04) Lee: [Well, I think, I think we definitely need to have—kids have some context before they ↓-read these things.

((silence-9,5 seconds))

(05) Pam: We talked a lot about background knowledge is that?

(06) Lee: [Well, it's just—or what-what exactly? ↑Why? ↑Why are they reading this? —I mean why? What is the purpose of the assignment, I guess? Not just background knowledge. That's--↓l think I was the only one who felt that way.

((laughter & joking asides))

(07) Female Voice: ((sarcastically)) This is a surprise?

(08) Alice: ((sarcastically)) Wasn't it the same last time?

(09) Patricia: ((jokingly)) Weren't you all by yourself last night?

(10) Alice: ((sarcastically)) [Is this your role, Lee?]

(11) Pam: Who else?

(12) Barb: II think that it's absolutely essential that you undertake the classroom work in the spirit of exploration, of tentativeness, of-of-multiple responses, of open-endedspeculation thatthat, that has that atmosphere has to exist in-in order to deal with the text. - -And that there's never a sense from the teacher's part that, where Scholes was talking about kind of holding the goodies that, that we have the answers that we're trying to, you know, - -play 20 questions with them that-that-that it has to be a collaborative effort where you're ↑not, you're not punished for even far out suggestions.

(13) Mary: mm-hm

((silence-5 seconds))

This opening exchange shows our difficulty in defining a common purpose. Much of the discussion focused on the difficulties students might face in reading this particular set of texts, even though no one ever suggested that these texts would be used with students. As the day-long meeting came to a close, the discussion trudged toward a lukewarm convergence on the importance of using multiple texts to teach "critical reading." This platform struck us as being as wobbly as the one we started with. By the session's end, 2 long hours after we started, we had barely touched on the questions that we hoped would frame the discussion: (a) What does it mean to read critically? and (b) What makes critical reading difficult for students? As project facilitators, we were left scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong and where to go next.


As community starts to form, individuals have a natural tendency to play communityto act as if they are already a community that shares values and common beliefs. Playing community, or pseudocommunity, draws on cultural notions of interaction often found in middle-class, typically White, settings. The imperative of pseudocommunity is to "behave as if we all agree." An interactional congeniality is maintained by a surface friendliness, hypervigilant never to intrude on issues of personal space.xi

The maintenance of pseudocommunity pivots on the suppression of conflict. Groups regulate face-to-face interactions with the tacit understanding that it is "against the rules" to challenge others or press too hard for clarification. This understanding paves the way for the illusion of consensus. Because there is no genuine follow-up, conversation partners are able to speak at high levels of generality that allow each to impute his or her own meaning to the group's abstractions. For example, if notions of "critical thinking" or "interdisciplinary curriculum" are never defined, every discussion member can agree to this common cause without giving it so much as a second thought.

Pseudocommunities regulate speech by appointing a facilitator to control discussion or by allowing a group memberoften the most voluble or pushyto seize the conversational reins. These group mouthpieces emerge not because they express the collective will (a will that in any event remains vague) but because they are verbally agile or because no one else is willing to challenge their dominance. In pseudocommunity, implicit rules dictate that discussion leaders make no attempt to elicit the thoughts of the whole group in order to bring to the surface underlying tensions or disagreements. Silence goes unquestioned because the rules of interaction militate against direct interrogation or unexpected exchanges, such as publicly turning to the person next to you and asking, "What is your position on that last point?"

At the heart of pseudocommunity is the distinction between hidden and revealed, or to use the dramaturgical language of Erving Goffman (1959), the distinction between back stage and front stage. The key to maintaining a surface esprit de corps is the curtain separating front from back stage and the fact that only some group members are allowed behind it. So, for example, although nonverbal behavior may be noticed and registered by the group, it becomes the topic of back stage rather than front stage discussion. "Did you see Ed roll his eyes when Ann started speaking" is whispered furtively near the coffee dispenser but never brought before the whole group for public inspection. Even if the whole group hears a hurtful remark, such as a barb that masquerades as an innocent joke, the victim's wound is dressed off-stage (in the restroom, in the parking lot after the meeting, on the phone that evening). If some type of redress is demanded of the offending party, it is an issue between individuals rather than a topic for the entire group. This fact reveals the lie at the heart of pseudocommunity: There is no authentic sense of shared communal space but only individuals interacting with other individuals.

The predominant mode of interaction in pseudocommunity is what Goffman calls "impression management," where individuals perform identities that typically (but not always) reflect positively on them. We say not always because some social roles are performed not because they flatter the performer but because they achieve other desired ends. Individuals may don the mask of victim who, through expressions of incompetence, hurt, or low self-esteem, seeks the group's sympathy.xii The execution of roles in pseudocommunity goes smoothly as long as everyone gets to play the role he or she wants without being challenged. But a threat to pseudocommunity one which looms larger as brief, infrequent meetings turn into longer, more frequent onesis the question of authenticity: Is a given player "authorized" to give a particular performance? In teaching, where social norms prescribe the role of competent, committed educator, the question before the group is the fit between an individual's publicly performed identity and the "book" on the performer in the region hidden from view. This hidden region is, of course, the classroomseen daily by scores of students but largely veiled from the eyes of coworkers. Because information from this region can disrupt one's performed identity, it is viewed as dangerous territory, access to which is guarded, and information from which is tightly controlled.xiii


The tenuous consensus reached at the end of the "critical reading" discussion was short-lived. Two weeks later we got a call from Dave, an experienced English teacher with deep subject matter knowledge who was widely respected for his dedication to students. Dave informed us that he was leaving the project 3 months after joining, because he was disheartened by comments from several of the younger teachers during a small-group exercise. Dave stressed that his decision had nothing to do with us, the contingent from the university. Rather, he was worried that if he stayed he would become impatient with colleagues and say things he would later regret. Dave's comment, Tm better off staying to myself in my classroom and working with kids because I can make the most difference there" should be interpreted in light of professional norms that honor the commitment to student growth but carry no parallel commitment to colleagues' growth. Dave also feared that he might lose patience with his department chair. More was at stake here than if he lost his temper with a new teacher. Because his chair set his teaching schedule and controlled department resources, Dave figured that his most prudent course of action was to minimize contact.xiv

In the weeks between the 2nd and 5th months Of the project, it became harder and harder to ignore the cracks in pseudocommunity. Incidents of eye rolling, ridicule, and muttering under the breath continued to occur. Often this behavior came clothed in a jocularity that provoked laughter but left a sting in its wake. When Frank, a social studies teacher and coach of the baseball team, suggested a book for our upcoming summer institute, he was cut off with the comment, "We're not going to all read the sports page!" Chuckles echoed, but the intent of putting Frank in his place was unmistakable.

Four months after we launched our project, our group of 22 teachers had divided into multiple factions and alliances. Preexisting workplace conflicts, normally held in check by limited contact during the school day, were given new life by our lengthy meetings. As project leaders, we knew we needed to do something to hold the group together. In our darkest moments we feared that our 3-year grant would finish 2 1/2 years ahead of schedule. As we saw it, the most pressing need was to formulate some ground rules for civil discussion, some way to restore a safe space for all participants.

This situation laid bare our own lack of knowledge and skill in dealing with the predictable challenges of group dynamics. The emotional work of managing group interactions was outside the theoretical framework (derived largely from cognitive psychology) that we brought to this project. Our ambivalence about our own role, and the ambiguity it carried, got us into trouble. On the one hand, keenly aware of the resentment teachers feel toward outside "experts," we worked hard to counteract the image of the know-it-all professor arriving on the scene with a binder of answers. Reluctant to take on this role, we may have been too hesitant to provide' leadership that the group genuinely needed. On the other hand, we were also mindful of the tendency of funded projects to vanish once the money is spent. By sharing ownership of the group from the outset, we hoped to create leadership within it that would help sustain the community beyond the time allotted to the grant. But we may have tried to fade away too quickly from our role as leaders, particularly in responding to group dynamics.

As fractures in the group became apparent, people came to us and asked us to intervene. We patched together the project as best we knew how with Band-Aids for individuals rather than splints for the group, through phone conversations with individual teachers late at night, side conversations during meetings, and e-mail correspondence. But these remedies were all conducted backstage. Part of our strength in dealing with the group was that we were outsiders and generally seen as fair brokers. But secrets and asides thwart the formation of community. We knew that sooner or later we had to get these issues onto the main stage.

At a planning meeting for the summer institute with four of the teachers, we broached the issue of incivility and had a frank discussion about our fears that the project was falling apart. There was unanimous agreement that we could no longer avoid these issues and that they had to be brought into the open before any real work could get done. Lee (the lightning rod for several incidents) and Mary (a special education teacher who had emerged as an evenhanded member) agreed to take responsibility for starting a conversation with the whole group.

Our first week-long summer institute in August 1995 began with the issue of norms for discussion. Lee turned to the 22 teachers assembled and began:

Today we want to have energized dialogue without judgment, without people having t6 be concerned about having their feelings hurt, having respect for each other. But the question is how to do that within the confines of this kind of process . . . and in democratic process some people are going to assert themselves more than others. The steering group talked about some of the problems we had during the year and that some people might have felt intimidated by some of the other people. . . . We have department chairs and people who have been teaching a long time and people who are new in the building and there is a sense of who has the right to talk and who doesn't. . . . What can we do so that everyone feels safe as a group but there is still a healthy exchange of ideas?

Lee paused and took a deep breath: "I know I tend to make quips but I hope I don't cross the line where these quips offend people. But if they do, they probably might put a damper on the conversation,"

Lee's comments brought to the surface conflicts that had long simmered underground. By formally acknowledging status differences, divisions, and hurt feelings, his opening words marked an early step in the transition from a "meeting of teachers" to the formation of teacher community. For the first time in the group's history, its "groupness" was explicitly recognized; and the spotlight turned on the less-than-smooth functioning of the group as a whole. Lee offered a public confession about the effect of his incisive barbs. His opening confession demonstrated that the public masks we had worn to that point could be removed, thus raising the possibility that we could relate to each other on deeper, more authentic levels.

Lee's comments made public what was by then commonly understood: The united front of pseudocommunity was a facade; and if we were going to continue, we would have to build our community on a different foundation. Lee's remarks formally initiated the process of naming differences in the group: differences between departments, between new and old teachers, between department members and department chairs, between building veterans and newcomers, between those who talked and those who remained silent. With these differences placed in the public space, it was only a matter of time before the discussion turned to the essential tension. xvOlivia, the ESL teacher, declared that although she would not be able to use curriculum materials the group might produce (because of the limited English skills of her students) "the energy that comes out of these meetings-even when we come and disagree all day" sent her back to the classroom "with so much more energy and inspiration."

At this remark, Lee rejoined the conversation by comparing the value of generating curriculum materials with that of reading texts. His own views were unmistakable:

For some of us, maybe all of us, there is a sense we want to see improvements in the educational system, and we see [this project] as a vehicle to improve curriculum and instruction. . . . For me the "community of learners" is fine, but, on the other hand, I think I am more interested in doing something that might improve the kinds of things that happen in schools.

Lee characterized the divide in the group as one between the desire to read books ("the community of learners") and the desire to write curriculum. His beliefs about the moral differences between these two foci were also clear. On one side were teachers interested in school change and improving the lot of students; on the other side were those who came to the project because they liked to read, an activity that, by implication, had less to do with students and more to do with personal developmentat best, a luxury, at worst, a self-indulgence. Despite our attempts to persuade the group that these elements of the project could be fruitfully combined, we found ourselves swimming upstream against an entrenched institutional and vocational culture.

Two comments during this discussion capture the depth of the divide. Grace, a social studies teacher with 7 years' experience, spoke "with deep conviction about her disappointment:

I guess I totally had a misconception about what. . . we were going to do here. I thought we were going to get in here and roll our sleeves up and try to integrate Language Arts and Social Studies departments as far as curriculum . . . to me that's exciting to develop something . . . we can use. I'm very product driven. . . .I am goal-oriented, that's just my nature. It seems to me that with all the stuff I have to do, reading a book like this [holding up and waving her copy of The Sweeter the Juice, the first book for discussion at the summer institute] is like torture to me. I don't get into it, I'm sorry. I don't . . . This abstract stuff is killing me. . . . It's like, what do I need this for? How am I going to put this into World History?

Dave threw down the gauntlet for the other side. Having left the group several months earlier, Dave was persuaded by his English department colleagues to return for the summer institute. He left no doubt about his disdain for writing curriculum:xvi

Grace had a good ideaI think we ought to go around and say what we are afraid of. I am afraid [irritatedly] of being bored. I just won't do it [voice rising}. I will run from it every chance I can. And curriculum development sounds really boring. But talking about texts, and listening to different perspectives about books I haven't read, that sounds very interesting and it can't help but make me a better teacher.

These two comments capture the essential tension of professional development in terms more vivid than any we could ever invent. It is easy to demonize Grace's comment that reading is "torture" and be shocked at these words from someone who teaches students to navigate the world of written texts. But this would be unfair. Grace's lament speaks to the occupational reality of teaching, where, despite outward support for notions of lifelong learning, there is no time to read without an immediately apparent goal. Dave's ability to mine his own experience and education, to turn book discussions into concrete ideas for teaching, was far too abstract for Grace. Moreover, the differences between these two teachers go beyond years of experience. Dave and Grace came to the project with different intellectual backgrounds. Dave was an English major and avid reader whose education was shaped by the culture and ethos of the seminar. For him, reading books in a circle with other adults was deeply familiar. For Grace, who majored in education at a large state university, the atmosphere of the seminar was foreign and uncomfortable. Nothing in her experience prepared her for the loosely structured give-and-take of the book club.

Despite this territorial divide, at least one teacher offered a way to negotiate the essential tension, a way that reading books might connect to her daily work as teacher. Kathy, a 2nd-year English teacher, made this admission to the group:

I had a feeling of frustration as I was reading The Sweeter the Juice and thinking, "Well, how is this going to fit into my curriculum?" But as I was thinking about it I realized that I had forgotten how to read for pleasure. We live by the bell, 15 minutes to do this, a half-hour to do that. I don't have time to do this pleasure reading thing. . . . But what I am realizing is that I need to build this reading into my life. The Sweeter the Juice was a great start because I started to think about things I haven't thought about in a long time. And I realized, "You know whatyou need to readjust to read. You tell your kids to do that, and you are not even doing it yourself."

It was on this reflective note that the group turned to its afternoon activity, a discussion of Shirley Haizlip's (1994) memoir The Sweeter the Juice.


Researchers often implicitly treat professional community as generic, but teacher community differsjust as teaching doesby grade level, subject matter, and student population. A model of community developed for one population of teachers may not work for others. In community as in clothing, one size does not fit all.

The most developed models of teacher community originated in elementary mathematics (Carpenter, Fennema, & Franke, 1996; Schifter, 1996; Wilson & Berne, 1999). These models address the essential tension by having teachers learn (or relearn) the elementary school curriculum. At the core of this kind of teacher community is the assumption that teachers cannot teach concepts they themselves have not mastered. Adult learning is defined as understanding fractions or the meaning behind algorithms for elementary school arithmetic. Elementary teachers often do not possess extensive mathematical knowledge, and one of the reasons for community is to mitigate teachers' negative affect around difficult subject matter (Schifter, 1996).

The limitations of this model become apparent when imported to the high school. A group of secondary teachers may include those with advanced degrees in their subjects and who have chosen to teach that subject because of their own passion for it.xvii Someone like this differs fundamentally from the prototypical elementary teacher, anxious about his or her own mathematical understanding and solving math problems with other teachers in a group. By relying exclusively on research findings from elementary math teachers, we risk the same kinds of simplification that characterized research on teaching in the 1970s, when the findings of process-product research, conducted almost exclusively in elementary school, were generalized to all teaching. We need to examine the differences, as well as the similarities, between communities of elementary teachers and those consisting of high school teachers.

One key difference between these groups lies in the assumption of subject matter knowledge. Elementary teachers are not expected to be experts in all of the subjects they teach; most have a proclivity for certain aspects of the curriculum and not others. Secondary teachers are defined, in part, by their subjects. Subject matter provides an important part of their professional identities (Siskin & Little, 1995). The assumption that teachers do not possess adequate content knowledge would offend many high school teachers, and rightly so.

Teacher communities differ as well with regard to subject matter. If subject matters operate as distinct subcultures (Grossman & Stodolsky, 1995; Siskin Sc Little, 1995), then it is not surprising to find that norms within subject matters differ as well. We argue that the sociocultural norms of the humanities differ in important ways from those in mathematics. These norms may have important consequences for the kind of discourse that is expected of a community.

Lampert (1990) suggests that mathematical discourse involves arguing about what is true after people have agreed on a common set of axioms.

While individuals can argue for different ways of making sense of a problem and for using inventive heuristics to solve it, the ultimate goal in mathematics- is convergence. There may be many roads to an answer, but participants who elect different routes expect to arrive at the same destination. Parsimony is another virtue of mathematical culture. Of the many routes to a solution, the simplest is often seen as the most virtuous and the most "elegant."

The humanities, in contrast, cannot seem to agree on common axioms. Scholars do not agree on what constitutes a text or how to read one, or how to do history, or even how history differs from fiction (cf. Friedlander, 1992). Discussions are characterized by a seemingly endless divergence. Nor is this a sign of something gone awry. A humanities discussion that huddled around a single interpretation would not be regarded as successful; it would lead to the conclusion that either the text was weak or the discussion poor. We expect rich texts to yield multiple interpretations. Scholars' readings of Hamlet have produced more ways of interpreting the play than Horatio could have dreamt of. Given the proliferation of interpretive communities, parsimony is hardly a virtue in a humanities discussion, although elegance of expression is.

The sociocultural norms of the humanities also differ with regard to issues of the self. Math can certainly evoke emotion: As noted above, teachers' math anxiety is one of the problems professional community seeks to solve. But the actual content of mathematics does not by necessity invoke parts of the self. In the humanities, the very subject matter addresses what it means to be human; our selves and our own humanity form the core of the subject. To read Toni Morrison's (1987) Beloved or Daniel Goldhagen's (1996) Hitler's Willing Executioners and not question our own capacity for evil is to excise the human from the humanities. Affect in the humanities is not by-product but essence. The question is not our competence (as it may be in mathematics) but our very capacities as human beings.xviii

Finally, the humanities engage deep issues of identity. Discussions of history or literature inevitably position us by gender, race, religion, class, geography, and generationwhat Huntington (1993) has identified as the "fault lines" of contemporary society. These fault lines identify the predictable lines along which people may differ. Any group of public school teachers represents a microcosm of the larger society.xix As we grapple with basic issues in the humanities, these differences in our own backgrounds and perspectives predictably emerge. If we see the humanities as fundamentally about understanding what it means to be human and if race, class, gender, religion, politics, and geography contribute to our identities, then there is no way a serious discussion can avoid these fault lines. The task becomes how to navigate these differences productively.


Following the morning's treatment of interactional norms, we began our first summer institute by discussing The Sweeter the Juice. Unlike the short texts used in our initial meetings, this full-length memoir was chosen by a steering committee of five teachers and the two project directors. The decision emerged from discussions in the curriculum development groups. One group had selected identity as its organizing theme and suggested that Haizlip's memoir of racial identity would be a promising text.

This discussion began more smoothly than previous ones. Talk alternated between personal evaluations of the book and comments about how students might react to it, a discursive seesaw that evoked the essential tension of our work. An English teacher began: "I think students would have a difficult time," to which another responded that "the whole idea about how people perceive themselves and how important that is to them, versus what you think of yourself and is important to you . . . would be an interesting discussion piece."

As the discussion turned from students to teachers, individuals began to tell stories of how their own backgrounds helped or hindered their connection to Haizlip's life. Alice told of her efforts to befriend an African-American woman and how class, more than race, divided them. Patricia revealed her surprise that she and Haizlip shared so much in common despite racial differences: "She and I had the same experience growing up except that we were a few years apart. . . it was just small town New England middle-class family and all the kinds of things you did." Helen shared memories of attending pow-wows with her Native American mother and feeling excluded because of her fair skin. In the first half of this discussion, 8 of the 22 participants located themselves along the fault lines of class, race, religion, ethnicity, or geography.xx

As people publicly marked themselves, it became clear that we were far from the homogeneous set of readers of previous meetings. Our reactions to the book reflected our own mixed identities. Patricia expanded on her earlier point:

Having grown up in a town that had no Blacks, we didn't have anything except Whites and Indians. . . . To find that a family living as a Black family was so similar to my White family and all my White friends was kind of an interesting surprise to me. And I don't know that I consciously thought there'd be a lot of differences, but I was aware that I was surprised at the similarities.

Even as individuals let down their guard, the group continued to test the boundaries of legitimate discussion and how to talk about charged topics like race. With the morning's exchange about norms still fresh, teachers tried hard to listen attentively and not hurt each other's feelings. As Alice fumbled in telling about her African-American friend, she added, "I hope I'm saying things politically correctly, I might, make some mistakes here," signaling both the difficulty of talking about this topic and a hope that the group would give her the benefit of the doubt.

Yet conflict erupted quickly. It happened when Alice turned from Haizlip's family relationships to the more general issue of racism.

(83) Alice: . . . ↑l have a question. When the two people drown at the church picnic, and her comment afterward was that it took her many years to realize that the reason this had happened is because that these people were poor, because they were Black, and the kinds of opportunities for taking swimming lessons and so forth were not open to them and shortly after that her father managed to integrate the- -the YMGA. Um, ↑l've heard, you know, a statistic, for example, like a thousand babies die in Harlem every year, a thousand newborn infants because of- — inaccessibility to health care, and this is considered institutionalized racism. And, the reason these children drowned was considered institutionalized racism. And, are we ↑ still? I don't want to say, are we still accepting that as an excuse, that isn't what I mean. But are we ↑still thinking in those terms? Are we ↑still — saying - making allowances for all kinds of acts or deeds that might be negative because of institutionalized racism and how do-------- African Americans? Minorities?

(87) Patricia: [It still exists] ((firmly)) [It still exists, Alice.

(88) Alice: Well, I-I'm- -I know that.

(89) Patricia: Okay.

(90) Alice: I'm aware of that. But at the same time, on an individual one to one level, when you are dealing with kids, students, or other pupils, do you want to,- - - -↓I don't know ((exhale)). Is that to be emphasized? Is that what you?

(91) Lee: Well, it depends on what you're talking about. I mean, if you are talking about, in what- in what context?- - - -I mean why would?

(92) Alice: ↑l don't know, something as simple as school tardiness!

(93) Lee: Is that institutionalized racism?

(94) Alice: Yeah.

(95) Lee: Some people might say that the tardy policy is- -because some people have a different sense of time. - - --But,-why would you discuss that? I don't-I- that's where I'm trying to figure out what you're talking about.

(96) Alice: [↑Well, I-'- ------------------- I guess I shouldn't, ((angrily)) Should I? I shouldn't have brought it up

(97) Ed: [I think it's good we're discussing this book.

The exchange exposed the fragility of the newly established group norms, but the larger group did not address this breach. In fact, immediately after Alice's angry retort, Ed, ah affable history teacher, tried (at line 97) to put a positive spin on the exchange. "I think it's good we're discussing this book," he reassured the group and moved to bring the discussion back to how the book might be used with students. The long silences afterward revealed the fractures in the norms set during the morning's discussion.

This discussion also uncovered divergent ways of approaching a literary text. At one point Steven, chair of the history department, asked the group, "Is there a way in which Haizlip could bring these pieces of identity together so that she is comfortable with her identity?" Barb, an experienced English teacher, responded by commenting on the differences between fiction and memoir as genres:

The way it happens is it's fiction. . . . The next step for her is she's gonna have to start writing stories and novels. She's gonna have to tell it a different way. . . . you can piece it together in fiction, but when it's memoir, it's just baggage.

Barb's point, picked up by no one, was essentially a literary reading that pointed to the possibilities and constraints characteristic of different genres. But Steven took the discussion elsewhere:

What this story shows once again is the truth of Degler's observation of American and Brazilian society.xxi That in Brazilian society after slavery when abolition came, there existed what he calls a "mulatto escape hatch" so that fair-skinned descendants of slaves became upwardly mobile and enjoyed the multiple benefit^ of class. In America that did not exist. . . . So it seems to me that the author, in her quest to try to resolve these issues of identity, is constantly running into the fact that race continues to matter in the United States.

Steven's reading was informed by history, not literature. He saw the memoir as proof of racism's historical legacy. The distinctively different ways of reading implicit in Steven and Barb's comments foreshadowed yet another major conflict that was to surface among us: the fault line of subject matter.


At the heart of the curriculum reform movement is the claim that existing subject matter divisions contribute to the fragmentation of the school day for students and teachers alike. This belief has led to the growth of interdisciplinary curricula, a movement that by some estimates has affected nearly two-thirds of American schools (Cawelti, 1994; Wineburg & Grossman, 2000a)

The move to integrate curriculum has been easier among some subjects than others, and one of the most common pairings is English and history. Both disciplines are rooted in the study of text and both draw on common narrative forms. Beyond these similarities, the different foci of these disciplines can mutually enhance one another. The study of literature in a history class brings to light cultural aspects of social life lost in straight presentations of diplomatic and political history. Similarly, the study of history in English classes can situate literary works in time and illuminate aspects of context that render otherwise obscure references understandable.

Indeed, the commingling of literary and historical approaches can be seen in contemporary trends in the academy. Dead Certainties (1991) by Simon Schama (a prominent historian and author of the acclaimed Citizens [1989]) blurs historical and fictional genres. Novelist Tim O'Brien's (1995) In the Lake of the Woods is a piece of fiction that employs historical footnotes (some of them fictional) as backdrop to a narrative about atrocities in Vietnam. Perhaps the apex of blurred genres is Dutch, the recent biography of Ronald Reagan by Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer Edmund Morris (1999), which employs the technique of a fictional narrator who accompanies Reagan throughout his life.

It is precisely historians' outcry over Dutch (see Masur, 1999; cf. Ozick, 1999) that reveals the enduring fault lines between history and literature. The unarticulated (unarticulated because it is so taken for granted) pact between historian and reader is that the historical story (no matter how engaging or suspense-filled) is a true story. The notion that the historical story is tied to something real, something that can be verified using evidence, is, as the Harvard historian Oscar Handlin (1979) put it, the historian's "operational article of faith." In the face of postmodern assaults, such a belief, wrote the historian Gordon Wood (1982), "may be philosophically naive, may even be philosophically absurd in this skeptical and relativist-minded age; nevertheless, it is what makes history writing possible. Historians who cut loose from this faith do so at the peril of their discipline" (p. 59).

The outcry over Dutch points to these perils and to enduring differences between history and English. These differences might not be apparent during the honeymoon phase of the interdisciplinary marriage, but they begin to surface once the relationship gets cozy. Epistemological differences between history and literature have sociological analogues in the world of schools. According to research on teachers of different school subjects (Grossman Be Stodolsky, 1995; Siskin Be Little, 1995), English teachers tend to share intellectual backgrounds (in general, majoring in English), whereas social studies teachers come from more diverse backgrounds, majoring in any number of different fields.xxii Subject matter departments also differ by gender; English teachers tend to be female, whereas their counterparts in social studies tend to be male. Members of these two groups also differ in how they view the purposes of schooling and the curriculum. English teachers overwhelmingly support "personal growth" as the goal of their efforts with students, while social studies teachers report a range of goals with no single unifying theme. English teachers generally report more autonomy in choosing content to be taught than teachers of other subjects. In social studies, the ubiquity of the history textbook still demands fidelity to a body of content to be mastered and tested. These differences between English and social studies teacherssome epistemological, some sociological began to emerge in our readings of texts.


A group discussion that took place 12 months into the project and 6 months after reading The Sweeter the Juice illustrates the tenor of these differences. Prior to this meeting, a recurrent theme in our discussions had been whether there were genuine differences between history and English. Two of the main actors were Charlie, an English teacher with 8 years' experience, and Lee, a social studies teacher with 20 years. In broad terms, Charlie maintained that all texts are literary because they all "do things with language." Distinctions between disciplines, he argued, were more a matter of convention than reflections of fundamental differences. Lee, on the other hand, saw irreducible differences between the subject matters, which he often cast dichotomouslyEnglish being concerned with "process" and history with "content." Exchanges between Lee and Charlie became a familiar leitmotif during our 1st year. When undercurrents of this argument surfaced in discussions, other participants would murmur "Here we go again" or "Oh, no, grinding the same old wheat."

In individual interviews with us, teachers characterized the debate as a personality clash between two strong-willed, argumentative individuals; noticeably absent was an awareness of the epistemological issues that seemed to motivate the disagreement in the first place. To the majority of teachers, the exchanges between Lee and Charlie were diversions from the more important issues of working out the specifics of the marital agreement between English and history.

The theme of disciplinary difference came to a head in a discussion that occurred 6 months after we discussed The Sweeter the Juice. Worrying that our proposed focus on students understanding in the humanities had failed to materialize, we planned an activity in which we shared findings from research on student learning in history (cf. Wineburg, 1991, 2001). We created a set of primary source documents on the Battle of Lexington, along with an historian's and a student's readings of these texts. One of the primary documents explored norms of battlefield conduct and military propriety in 17th-century Europe that helped to explain actions at the Battle of Lexington. This 1703 document, a letter written by Solomon Stoddard, addressed Indians' avoidance of confrontation on an open battlefield in favor of small-scale symbolic acts. Stoddard claimed that wholesale killing of Indians could be interpreted as inhumane ("contrary to Christian practice") only if the Indians waged war as other people did. "But they are to be looked upon as thieves and murderers . . . they don't appeare openly in the field to bid us battle, they use those cruelly that fall into their hands . . . They act like wolves and are to be dealt with as wolves" (Stoddard, in Hirsch, 1988). In historical context, such metaphors dehumanized native peoples and provided a justification for the colonists to burn entire Indian villages to the ground (Hirsch, 1988, cf. Wineburg, 1999).

Following comments about how students might struggle with the language and spelling, Lee observed that the Stoddard letter made an important point about what was considered "natural" by Europeans of the mid-18th century. He then asked the group whether the letter was simply a "text," open to any interpretation, or a window that helps us to see how people in the past construed their social reality. He argued

You can't read this [letter] in a vacuum. Are you trying to have kids understand the differences in perceptions of Native Americans by the White people who came over here, or are you just trying to get them to analyze "text"? I mean, I think it really depends on what your objective is.

The English teachers who responded focused not on historical elements of the letter but on approaches to teaching students to deal with complex texts. Kathy, a beginning English teacher, commented on her own attentiveness to issues of subject/verb agreement in reading complicated texts and wondered if perhaps the text she was planning to teach her freshmen, The Odyssey, might be too challenging. Barb, her experienced colleague, added some suggestions for helping students gain a foothold into such texts by using the technique of free association:

One thing I've done that works really well is I give the kids a poem but you give them it one line at a time. Put the line on the board and say okay, I want you to write as much as you canstream of consciousnesson that line, any and alljust free associate, any associations that come, words, images, this reminds me of. And you go a line at a time, and it's something like "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

This interaction had many analogues during our 1st year. Lee's question What is the relationship of the text to a wider historical context?-was stripped of its distinctive epistemological cast. Lee was implicitly asking "How do we read history?" But in the very next turn, the question for Kathy and Barb became "How do we teach reading?" In the space of a few short minutes, Lee's question boomeranged back, refashioned as a recommendation to teach students to read closely by presenting them a text line-byline and having them "free associate." It was this latter suggestion that brought Lee to his boiling point.xxiii

"I mean, you write a line up on the boardthis 'Gold' one [referring to the poem Barb had mentioned earlier]that could mean anything you want it to mean," Lee objected, his voice cracking. Leaning forward and shaking the Stoddard letter in his hand, Lee glared at his colleagues. "This one can't!" Lee's bald claim that there is a restricted set of meanings for a historical text was the signal for Charlie, Lee's sparring partner from English, to enter the fray.

(90) Charlie: ↑l think I could probably break this up into verse and make a poem out of it.

(91) Lee: Well, I'm sure you could, but that doesn't mean that it, that it, that it means, it's as ambiguous as a line of ↓poetry.

(92) Rhonda: It may not be ↑as ambiguous, but I think anytime you're dealing with primary sources you have to take the same things into consideration that you would have to if you were dealing with a literary text.

(93) Charlie: Look! "They act like wolves and are dealt with all as wolves."

(94) Lee: [↑A literary]

(95) Rhonda: [______act like wolves that are↓]

(96) Nancy: Yeah, that's the exact line. ↑How do wolves act? And how do you deal with that?=

(97) Charlie: [↑That's poetry!

(98) Nancy: = that's the question I had.

(99) Charlie: ↑in fact! I would call that poem ((said melodramatically))"They Act Like Wolves"

(100) Nancy: [How would you approach that?]

(101) Kathy: ["Dances with Wolves"] ((chuckles & asides))

(102) Lee: Okay, you call that poem "They Act Like Wolves" but if you just wrote on your board=

(103) Nancy: [Historically, what would you do with that?

(104) Lee: =if you took this out of context and just wrote on your board: "They Act Like Wolves," then we're talking about something completely different. But when you're taking the context of something that's talking about a specific ↑action by a specific group of ↑people, and you know THAT when you give them the assignments!=

(105) Charlie: So did they act like wolves?

(106) Lee: =[then that's ↑different than writing a line of a poem up on a board.

Several turns later, Barb reentered the conversation, this time to reassure Lee that her goals were closer to his than he might think. She addressed him directly:

(169) Barb: Lee, this is the place where-where we ↑meet so, we meet so ↑ completely in this text as History and LA people. We meet in—in ↑language=

(170) Lee: [Doesn't sound like we're meeting very well.

(171) Barb: =We ↑are, ((scattered laughter)) We're meeting in language, and ↑you're talking, Lee, you're talking objectives, and that's nothing to do with what we're talking here. You're talking about language, deciphering language, understanding language.

Barb's initial comment skirts the possibility that there is a difference between history and English. To Barb, Charlie, and several other English teachers at the table, disciplinary differences merged into a sea of textuality. Lee, on the other hand, held firmly to the belief that a textual representation did not equal reality, that text is a partial and sometimes impoverished referent that must be viewed in a larger context before it can be understood. Without paying attention to factors outside the text, Lee implied, the process of reading a historical document loses integrity.

The distinctions teachers argued about were made without recourse to explicit disciplinary markers. The exchange felt diffuse and scattered. When Barb talked about the need to "have a dialogue back and forth with the self and the text" or Dave, another English teacher, claimed that the main imperative of reading was to "pay attention;," they did not refer explicitly to traditions of reader response or efferent or aesthetic readings. Nor did Lee refer to the dangers of presentism in reading historical documents. In fact, the efforts to convince Lee that there was a "way to read," a way that came with a pedagogical strategy of focusing on the text and encouraging student response, assumed that strategies for reading in history and literature were interchangeable. When Lee failed to yield, it was not because he drew on disciplinary warrants but because he was, at least in some people's eyes, stubborn. In this sense, disciplinary differences were cast as a personality clash. The discussion ended with deeper entrenchment and an unwillingness by either group to step outside their perspective to understand the other.

We do not deny that personality issues played a part in these and other discussions. Lee, Barb, Charlie, and others were strong-willed, articulate individuals with histories of relating that long predated this project. In addition, Lee's tone, sometimes deliberately provocative, detracted from the substance of his comments. But these interactions cannot be explained away by personality factors. We did not hear these discussions as "grinding the same old wheat," but as beginning to address, however tentatively, contentious issues at the heart of textual disciplines, where scholars argue, debate, and challenge received notions about the relationship between text and reality. Issues of textuality are at the epicenter of the linguistic turn in the humanities and have spawned an array of conceptual approaches from postmodernism, to feminist readings to cultural studiesthat have breathed fresh energy into the humanities. The issues of text as representation are problematic in the best sense of the humanities. They jar us out of complacency and ask us to reconsider our beliefs about how we know what (we think) we know.

To surface these kinds of readings, people need time to read together and become aware of different approaches to grappling with the written word. These are the kinds of issues that rarely get addressed in the fleeting interactions that typify interdisciplinary marriages of convenience (cf. Hamel, 2000; Wineburg & Grossman, 2000a, 2000b). In such marriages, there is a leap toward agreement, as participants search for what disciplines have in common rather than what makes them distinct.

But an approach to interdisciplinarity that preserves difference, casting it as a strength rather than a problem, must allow for the articulation of multiple voices. In this case, the "problem" for several English teachers became getting Lee to expand his textual horizons rather than trying to understand, at a deeper level, the points he was making. Instead of agreeing to disagree, a useful way station to higher understanding, this was an act of appropriation as one discipline sought to subsume another. At no time during the 83 minutes of this discussion did anyone ask Lee a follow-up question. Instead, the group members assumed that they understood Lee; the goal was to persuade him of his errors. Although outnumbered by English teachers, and unsupported by other social studies teachers, Lee did not back down. At the same time, Lee did not attempt to clarify his point or to make an effort to understand the perspectives provided by the English teachers. From the outset, he cast the debate in either/or terms.xxiv

While the conflict left teachers unsettled, we saw it as evidence that disciplinary positions were beginning to surface. The relationship between text and the larger social context is a core issue in the humanities; in this discussion we heard the voices of Hayden White and even Stanley Fish represented by Charlie's position, and Gordon Wood's argument that history loses meaning when it forsakes "the truth" voiced by Lee. The different ways to engage the same phenomena, at the heart of interdisciplinary efforts, swam just beneath the surface of this discussion. In contrast to the exchange over The Sweeter the Juice, these issues were picked up by the group as a whole. While group members were not yet able to name the differences that divided Lee and Charlie, they were engaged and invigorated by the debate.

In this discussion, conflict signaled affective engagement. We had clearly moved beyond the stage of pseudocommunity in which we tepidly agreed on "critical reading" as a goal. How to read and teach text was no longer a neutral topic but one that sparked intellectual passion, as Lee and Barb debated the merits of free association and Charlie and Lee wrestled over the "poetry of history." The respective refusals of either side to yield set the stage for further debate. The interaction also clarified the critical importance of having multiple voices at the table, although this diversity of perspectives hardly produced harmonious discussion. Barb's failed attempt to persuade Lee to adopt a more literary perspective, a move made in part to restore harmony, actually widened the gap between them. But in many ways it was this very questionthe protean nature of text in the humanities that would ultimately lead to new learning later in our project's history. Without Lee's voice at the table, the debate never would have occurred. The group's capacity to learn from this argument, to learn to listen more thoughtfully to different ways of engaging and reading text, depended upon both the intellectual and the social resources of the community as a whole.


Forming a professional community requires teachers to engage in both intellectual and social worknew ways of thinking and reasoning collectively as well as new forms of interacting interpersonally. The traditional high school offers few opportunities for learning to interact with colleagues outside of abbreviated interchanges. Extended periods of adult-to-adult interaction in the workplace are irregular, episodic, and rare and run counter to teachers' professional socialization (cf. Little, 1990; Lortie, 1975). When such interactions do occur, they are typically focused on instrumental goals. Few teachers have the experience of spending regular time together as adults, in the context of the workplace, in which they engage each other as learners for longer than a 25-50 minute block.

One of the first lessons to be learned in the development of teacher community is that some people know things that others do not know and that the collective's knowledge exceeds that of any individual. Although this may seem self-evident, teachers spend most of their working lives in situations where they serve as the primary authority and where their knowledge of the subject typically exceeds that of their students. (This is particularly true at the secondary level.) Learning from colleagues requires both a shift in perspective and the ability to listen hard to other adults, especially as these adults struggle to formulate thoughts in response to challenging intellectual content. Schools and the social forums they offer for adults are conditioned by the dictates of the moment. The emphasis is on doing, and often on doing quickly. Listening carefully to the ill-formed thoughts of another adult is a new activity that may seem strange and exotic, and teachers certainly have no vocational antecedents to fall back on.

The notion that a group's collective wisdom and knowledge exceed that of any one individual taps into one aspect of the concept of distributed cognition, as the idea was developed by the late Ann Brown and her colleagues (cf. Salomon, 1993). In a discussion about a given topic, say the Roosevelt era, one individual may know about the decision to pack the Court, another about attempts to integrate the military, and another about issues of Social Security, and others may have family members who participated in the WPA or CGC. For the collective to benefit from this distribution, social conditions must exist that allow individuals to share what they know publicly rather than keeping it to themselves.

The Roosevelt example corresponds to how educators have adapted certain techniques developed by social psychologists, such as the "jigsaw" method, for classroom settings (Aronson Sc Goode, 1979; Brown Be Campione, 1994). The jigsaw technique provides a social architecture for carving up knowledge into distinct "puzzle pieces" that can then be reassembled. In the form of jigsaw learning adapted by Brown and her colleagues, students learn about different aspects of a common topic and then pool their learning in small groups or in a whole class setting.

A second form of knowledge distribution relevant to interdisciplinary work is the distribution of fundamentally different ways of knowing. Here, what is distributed among individuals are ways of reading, ways of asking questions, ways of adjudicating truth claims, and ways of coming to warranted judgments of quality. These distributed epistemologies enrich discussion but do not necessarily lead to any higher-order syntheses. Unlike the metaphor of a puzzle, in which pieces fill in a common form or contour, we might think of the metaphor of a kaleidoscope, in which fragmented patterns form and disappear with slight changes in perspective and refraction. The question to ask of an "epistemological jigsaw is not how the pieces fit together but how the different positions make the discussion more textured and complex. The goal in this exercise is not to solve a preexisting puzzle but to deconstruct pedestrian and self-satisfied notions of form and content.

A good discussion in the humanities thus requires both kinds of intellectual diversity among membersindividuals who bring different knowledge pieces (literary knowledge of Shakespearean drama, personal experience touring the Globe Theater, knowledge of dramatic production in Elizabethan times, etc.) as well as individuals who bring different ways of reading Shakespeare, from close readings in an explication de texte tradition to feminist critiques to personal responses.xxv For a community to learn from each other, we would want both kinds of intellectual resources represented.

But there is another aspect to consider in a community of teacher-readers. Within professional community, the collective learning of the group is necessary but not sufficient. In the existing social structure of schooling, teachers return to their respective classrooms individually not collectively. Given the present reality of schooling and the likelihood that it will persist into the foreseeable future, the collective must serve as a training ground for individuals to think in new ways, to learn to listen for and try out new ways of knowing and reading. In other words^ in the supportive context of the teacher reading group, teachers who bring a reader-response orientation to texts must also learn that there are alternative ways of reading ways that privilege a text's historical context or that locate the text within an intertextual tradition. Teachers need to possess a supple understanding of the different intellectual roles played by their peers before, they can identify the proto-forms of these voicesoften more subtle and difficult to discernin their students' comments.

From this perspective, it is not enough for teachers to enact the same intellectual role over and over in the groupto give only an aesthetic reading to a literary work or to ignore questions of social history and representation. Over time, we would want teachers to develop sufficient understanding of the different perspectives represented by group members so that they would be able to try on these perspectives themselves. This is precisely what happens in successful reading groups, when individuals begin to interiorize the voices of group members and report "hearing" each other's voices as they read books in the solitude of their own homes. Without the movement from distributed cognition (in which individuals bring different aspects of content to a group and share these collectively) to cognition distributed (in which there is a rotation and redistribution of epistemological roles) teachers may not be able to identify and thus recreate multiple ways of reading and knowing in their respective classrooms. Teachers' professional community must maintain a dual focus, both on its own collective learning and on the social group as the crucible for individual change.xxvi

The ability to alternate roles within a group of supportive peers does not, of course, guarantee that one can or will do so with students. But if teachers are not able to discern differences between their own familiar ways of reading and the radically different and well-articulated perspectives of peers, it is unlikely that they will be able to identify and engage the inchoate forms of these ways of knowing among their students.


Two months after discussing the Stoddard letter and 14 months into the project, we met to talk about The Organic Machine by the MacArthur prize-winning historian Richard White (1995). The Organic Machine narrates the story of the Columbia River, the waterway that has played a pivotal role in the settlement and development of the Pacific Northwest. Unlike conventional histories organized around major events and key personalities, the protagonist of this story is the Columbia itselfa narrative strategy that defines the field of environmental history White pioneered. White's recruitment of literary technique and evocative language provided a rich opportunity to engage questions at the heart of the interdisciplinary enterprise, particularly issues of narrativity that straddle the boundaries between history and fiction.

Indeed, it was the literary quality of The Organic Machine that sparked the initial discussion as participants weighed in about White's use of metaphor. Shortly thereafter, the conversation flowed from the story of a river to a river of stories. Participants moved from White's narrative to a description of how their own lives mingled with the landscape, economy, and development of the Columbia. Teachers who had said little in group meetings to that point moved to the center. Frank, the social studies teacher who had been silenced earlier on, embarked on his longest single turn in 8 months, comparing the Columbia to the rivers of his childhood in Michigan.xxvii Ed described growing up on the banks of the Columbia and the tensions between gill-netters and sport fishermen. Mary described going down the river with her grandmother, whose 91 years spanned many of the changes White described. Like the discussion of The Sweeter the Juice, this conversation provided a springboard to self-disclosure, an opportunity to explain who we are and where we came from.

The surging currents and the tranquil tributaries of the Columbia served still another function. The river gave us a metaphor for our own development as a group. Several people spontaneously compared the history of the Columbia to our own unpredictable course of coming together, creating curriculum, and learning to read books. The effect of such comparisons was to mark, with an explicitness unknown to this point, the emerging sense of group memory, the constitutive narrative that weaves individuals into an "us." When Lee made a provocative comment that would have derailed us in earlier meetings, Rhonda, Lee's student teacher,xxviii offered a meta-commentary on group process. "The great thing about Lee is that up to now [we've] all been sort of making our own individual comments. Now Lee jumps in," Rhonda joked, "and now we're all going to have to respond and jump on top of him!" In making explicit the conversational patterns that had polarized earlier meetings, Rhonda's light touch defused a potential explosion. More important, it held up a mirror that allowed the group to ponder its collective image, its familiar roles, and its well-worn exchanges. Making these patterns explicit released the group from having to go down the same well-beaten path. The next turn cycled back to the topic that had been on the table prior to Lee's comment.

Rhonda was not the group's only linguistic monitor. In contrast to the first meetings, we said little, except for some initial framing at the discussion's start and end.xxix When conflict again threatened to erupt over the charged question of technological "progress," Grace assumed the role of discussion broker:

You guys, wrong reasons or right reasons, remember we all have opinions here and some of us may not think some things are wrong or right. Let's be careful of value judgments here.

Typically uncertain arid often self-deprecating, Grace tried on a leadership role for the first time in over 14 months of meetings.

Like the eddies of a river, members' stories coursed in different directions. At one point Dave wondered aloud, "I've got a question for somebody and you can tell me during the break, I've always been curious, how do you build a dam?" The question sparked an interchange among five participants, who collectively constructed an, answer.xxx

The excerpt in Table 1 shows one way in which the group pooled individual knowledge to construct a broader understanding. We liken this exchange to the description of jigsaw activities mentioned earlier, in which individuals contribute knowledge pieces to the group's collective understanding. We also see the interchange as evidence of the group's growing capacity and willingness to engage with and learn from each other. Dave, keenly intelligent, headstrong, and incisive in his interpretations, first confesses his ignorance to the group. In our early months such confessions were unknown, for the group norm was to perform understanding and mask ignorance (what Goffman called "impression management"). Given his role as an intellectual leader, Dave's willingness to turn to the group for help was symbolically important. To get his question answered, Dave pressed the group to supply increasingly detailed information about coffer dams; and in the give-and-take that followed, he acted as a midwife to the emerging explanation. A similar episode occurred when teachers jointly told the story of how an entire town on the banks of the Columbia disappeared. In this exchange, Lee served in the role of discussion broker pressing the group for further details.

The discussion of The Organic Machine constituted an important way station on the road to the group's consciousness of its own identity. The conversation elicited the participation of several members who had been spectators and thrust other participants into new roles as discussion brokers and conflict mediators. Nonetheless, we ourselves noted members' limited engagement with the intellectual aspects of White's experimental history. For example, early on, Lee expressed frustration with White's writing style,


Well, I had a really hard time with his writing style, kind of singsong style was confusing, driving me crazy after a while . . . I think what [White] wanted us to do was to relate to the river as if it was a living organism and I have a hard time doing that. After all, it's just water.

Lee's declaration was left hanging even though three English teachers had earlier expressed their appreciation of White's style. (Alice went so far as to read aloud a particularly evocative passage.)xxxi Although this book afforded the possibility of engaging issues of narrativity, style, and epistemology in historical writingissues at the center of any genuine interdisciplinary undertakingthey went unexploited and unaddressed in the ensuing discussion.

Indeed, the tone of the discussion was decidedly social, and it was on this note that the meeting drew to a close. Toward the end, Ed Berry, the affable history teacher mentioned earlier, suggested to the group that we take a field trip to the Columbia River to see firsthand its varied landscape. This playful suggestion provided further evidence of an emerging sense of a collective organized to learn and grow together. Our conversation around the river and our embarking on this figurative field trip required new forms of social and linguistic engagement. It is to this "social work" of community that we now turn.


The construction of community requires ongoing social negotiation including the regulation of social interactions and group norms. At the beginning of the group's history, a few key individuals may do most of this regulation. For a community to form, however, members must begin to take on this responsibility themselves. This requires new forms of participation in leadership. Over time, we would expect more people to take on the work of brokering discussions or addressing violations of norms rather than leaving that responsibility to a single individual or facilitator. From this perspective, we could chart the growth of community by looking at the evolution of its leadership. The degree to which discussion brokering is distributed among individuals, the degree to which it is shared rather than monopolized by one or two people, is itself an indicator of group equity and maturity.

Communities are microcosms of larger social collectives in that they pivot on the tension between the rights and the responsibilities of membership. For a community to be sustained, members must believe in their right to express themselves honestly without fear of censure or ridicule. But genuine communities also make demands on their members-membership comes tied to responsibilities. In a professional community of teachers, a core responsibility is to the learning of other teachers. This responsibility might entail contributing to group discussions, pressing others to clarify their thoughts, engaging in intellectual midwifery for the ideas of others, and providing resources for others' learning. If a feature of pseudocommunity is withdrawal from the public space when conflict erupts, then a feature of a mature community is the willingness to engage in critique in order to further collective understanding.

The work of school-based community demands new forms of social participation from its members. In a profession constructed around norms of privacy, taking responsibility for the learning of other adults is a radical departure from business as usual. Pressing colleagues for clarification in a public setting requires not only a particular intellectual stance but enormous social skill and careful negotiation to prevent hurt feelings and possible shutdown. Learning to argue productively about ideas that cut to the core of personal and professional identity involves the skillful orchestration of multiple social and intellectual capacities.

While this vision of community may seem Utopian, we believe that it is exactly the kind of work that teachers must require of students if classrooms are to become "communities of learners." The literature of reform-oriented teaching rings with accounts of teachers who engage students in risky intellectual and social work: teachers who ask youngsters to state their ideas but also listen hard to others; who ask students to hone their ability to commit to what they think while avoiding entrenchment; and who ask students to focus on their learning and still consider the needs of the group. We believe that such classroom communities will have little chance of enduring if teachers, as adult professionals in the workplace, do not develop opportunities to engage in similar activities. Schools cannot become exciting places for children until they first become exciting places for adults.


Eighteen months into the project and 4 months after our discussion of The Organic Machine, the group gathered for its second summer institute. Our text for the 1st day was Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (1992), a text that Mary had suggested 7 months earlier.

Mary, the experienced special education teacher and a member of our steering group, led off. Referring to a set of guiding questions generated by Dave, Mary suggested that the group adopt a guiding question for the week.xxxii

(2) Mary: Well, ↑l-I just have thought a ↑lot since, I guess Dave Collins really brought it up—dramatically last spring, about having, you know, this list of questions that we think about 4and-um—the impact that they might have on actually publishing such questions, and having them be part of one's ↑ curriculum throughout the year, or a unit, or whatever. And, so one of the things that I've been doing in thinking about this fall is really addressing that issue, tat least for myself and maybe with the people that I'm planning curriculum with. One of the things that I thought about-umin reading the short stories, was this book and this question, I hadn't read this book yet, but I thought what would it be like to be able to read this series of short stories with the guiding question being, what it means to be an American? Or, what does it mean to be an American? . . . ↑l wondered if it would be appropriate for ↑this group—to have—a guiding question this week? To experiment with that idea if we think it's important enough to—use in our classrooms-that we might -↑ consider —creating guiding questions for ourselves this week. ↓One or two from there.

↑Is that what you were referring to _____?

((15 seconds of silence))

(3) Helen: ↑The questions are section three in the notebook. 4l'm trying to remember what they are.

(4) Grace: I like the idea of reading the book with guiding questions, ↑it was a neat idea. It would give us the ↑practice—or train us—<l-does that make sense?

From this first comment, changes in the group are evident. First, Sam and Pam no longer brokered the discussion. Neither the choice of this text nor the use of guiding questions came from us. Mary and Helen took on the work of facilitating the discussion with support from others. Their emergence as group leaders was nothing short of remarkable, for both began their tenure in the project feeling like outsiders. Initially somewhat on the margins because of her role as a special education teacher, Mary moved to the center; her voice, initially tentative, gained assurance and authority as people recognized her leadership skills. Helen came to the project as a 2nd-year teacher; initially hesitant to join the discussions, in part because she worried about getting "fried" by the more experienced teachers, Helen played a pivotal role in this conversation.

Mary's suggestion to use questions to guide our discussion vividly demonstrated how the group had begun to navigate the essential tension. Here we explicitly agreed to experiment with an approach that we had talked about using in the classroom, using our group as a crucible to test out approaches that might be used in the classroom. Throughout the discussion, people continued to make connections between our own readings of this work and classroom teaching. Later in the discussion, for example, Lee, who had months earlier vehemently questioned the value of eliciting students' personal response, said:

I was wondering if a good guiding question might not have something to do with connection because I was thinking about, you know, the story about the little girl and, you know, mymy connecting with this is I had been in New Orleans recently was how much the story seemed, that his portrayal of New Orleans seemed real, and it did. So I think there's something where we connect with literature. You know, that to me would be a guiding question, where is there a connection? And how do we get to that connection for our students?

Lee's question represents a fundamental shift in his participation. Of-ten seen as a provocateur or resident cynic, here he builds on the ideas of his colleagues. Rather than throwing a monkey wrench into this intellectual construction, here he assumes the role of intellectual laborer asking questions that build on the foundations of the discussion. Lee's question is significant for a second reason. Early on, Lee had criticized the "touchy-feely" aspects of language arts; here he asked a genuine question about how teachers can help students make connections to literature, a pedagogical move he had earlier rejected. We see Lee's role throughout this discussion as profoundly altered. In using the collective pronoun "we" to talk about teaching, he cast his lot with the groupa marked departure from his earlier stance. Indeed, a sense of collective membership was manifested in the way members referred to themselves. In this discussion 22% of all turns contained a reference to the group as "we," "us," or "our," compared with only 5% of turns a year earlier (at the meeting where we talked about The Sweeter the Juice), an increase of 325%!

One of the proposed guiding questions came from Rhonda, a student teacher. She reported that her small group had discussed whether Butler's stories are valid, given that the author is a white male speaking in a Vietnamese voice, and whether "authors of fiction have responsibility for giving us something that is absolutely true and accurate." This question cut to the epistemological core of literature and to questions of validity and voice that had resided below the surface of many of the group's arguments. Immediately, Alice jumped in.

(34) Alice: ↓Lee had some things to say about that.

(35) Lee (quietly): ↓-What's that mean?

(36) Alice: I just volunteered you to address yourself to Rhonda's comment about the validity—and his voice.

(37) Lee: ↑Yeah, I mean, I just thought that-why is the expectation of validity different in this case than in any other fictional work? And if that is the major question why did we read the book?

This short exchange illustrates the .movement from pseudocommunity toward community. In community, ideas are public property, their pursuit a communal responsibility. Group members can be held accountable for contributing their individual insights to the larger group. In this interaction, Alice asked Lee to ante up and, just as importantly, he complied. His questions about the nature of validity in fiction became the centerpiece for an extended debate about the nature of "truth" in literature.

We see a second example of holding individuals accountable for their contributions later in the discussion. In attempting to define a guiding question that builds upon Lee's idea, Helen suggested adopting the question first generated by Dave, "How important is the truth in what we teach?" In response Quentin, an experienced English teacher, volunteered that "fiction is truth-plus" and "the curiosity piece is always to ask, what part is true? What part is plus?" Quentin's enigmatic comment was not left unscrutinized. Olivia pressed him to explain.

(82) Olivia: What part is what?

(83) Quentin: What part is true part? What part is plus? Andand I think your concern

(84) Olivia: [How? What? How do you separate the two? I don't understand.

(85) Quentin: I don't know.

(86) Alice: Truth and what's added to truth. Is that what you're saying?

(87) Quentin: I think

(88) Olivia: [↑Isn't the whole piece truth from one person's point of view? This is Butler's truth about whatever he's telling the truth about

Here, Quentin was held accountable for an off-handed and opaque comment. Olivia's desire to understand Quentin's point and what it might add to the discussion led to an intense but respectful exchange in which Olivia and then Alice pushed for definition and elaboration. This interchange suggests the opposite of what might be called a poker model of discourse, in which individuals throw ideas, much like poker chips, into the center where they lie inert, untouched by discussion. Here, Quentin's chip is picked up, examined, and analyzed before the discussion moves on. In this alternative model, group members have responsibilities as participants: Listeners have the responsibility to admit their own confusion in understanding others, and speakers have the responsibility to clarify their initial ideas. This exchange more closely resembles a game of bridge in which partners try to understand each other's bids and build upon their understanding of their partner's strengths in order to determine the best possible strategy.

Further, this exchange underscores the communal nature of understanding in an intellectual community. Olivia's understanding is not a private matter to be addressed with Quentin later over coffee. Instead, her expression of confusion is a gift to the collective as it provides opportunities for everyone to benefit from Quentin's efforts at clarification. Throughout this discussion, people take up others' points, press for clarification, arid revoke what they have heard in an effort to understand the issues raised.

We see these interactions as forms of intellectual midwifery in which the group assists in the birth of new ideas. For such births to occur, the group must provide a safe environment in which individuals are free to voice uncertainty, explore ideas, state and retract opinions. The press for clarification must therefore affirm the potential value of a speaker's contribution. During this discussion, several participants responded to a speaker by saying, "I fully agree with you, but . . ." or "I share with you your concern, but . . ,"xxxiii We see these linguistic markers as an effort that both affirms a prior speaker's perspective and at the same time pushes an idea further. Such turns of phrase acknowledge mutuality while also asserting difference. The initial expression of agreement lessens the sting of having an idea challenged in a public forum. Such micro-features, crucial but often overlooked, contributed to what we think of as an invitational conversational climate.

The discussion of Good Scent from a Strange Mountain exemplified the group's commitment to its own learning. Individual members were asked to make private contributions public and were then pressed on their ideas. Group members also demonstrated this commitment through their actions. Building on a practice begun by Nancy early in the project, Charlie and Olivia brought published reviews of Good Scent from a Strange Mountain to the group meeting. When the group debated how Vietnamese might view this book, Charlie offered to ask his neighbor, a Vietnamese-American who had read it, if she would be willing to engage in an e-mail dialogue with the group. Olivia tracked down other resources from the Vietnamese community. The commitment to the learning of others went well beyond the boundaries of this single discussion. In fact, another way to document the formation of intellectual community is to look at the distribution of material resources (book flyers, lecture notices, newspaper articles) that appeared in teachers' mailboxes and in e-mail exchanges. Over time, people began to share more and more resources in this way. What began as the practice of one notable individualNancywas picked up by others.xxxiv

Throughout the discussion of Good Scent, the question of fiction's "truth" was hotly debated. Once this question was raised, in turn #69 of the discussion, members continued to develop and elaborate this point through the next 74 turnsan unprecedented display of coherence in our year-long history of reading together. xxxvIn the midst of this conversation, the following exchange took place.

(121) Nancy: So you're looking at the point of view, and then I heard yousay that they're presenting opposing viewpoints and trying to make them—valid, and then, ↑Lee, are you saying outside knowledge that you have about a situation so that when you're reading it you can interpret whether it, it ↑corresponds with what you already know or what you don't know?

(122) Lee: I'm saying that if you are approaching it in that way. I'm saying, I think what I hear from some people is that this, they question the validity of the voice because he's not^Vietnamese. It's not his point of view that's presented. And mymy, what ↑I'm saying is that, okay, you can question his voice, but you have more ammunition to question his voice if you have & frame of reference to question it with. And I might question his voice, but I won't question his voice about the story about the fall of Saigon because it feels real in relationship to other things that I've read about the if all of Saigon. So that's—that's my point. On the other hand if you don't want it, on the other hand it could stand alone, I guess. I mean if you are using it to ↑teach kids about the fall of Saigon, or to teach kids about Vietnam—the Vietnamese immigrant experience in t America, then that's different than if you're just looking at it as ^literature, that's-that's what I think.

(123) Helen: ↑Do we use? It sounds like what you're saying is that—you use your evidence, the ↑historian's evidence standard to decide whether it's a valid text or not. What you know about Saigon, does it match up with what's here? You know.

(124) Lee: (Actually, if I'm reading it in the way that I think the expectations are for us to read it. If I'm just reading it as literature, then none of that matters.

(125) Helen: ↑Well, I would imagine that as an historian you bring that-— way of thinking to whatever you read. That's one of the ways you decide if something is true, does it match up with the evidence that you have about the subject, or about

(126) Lee: But if I read a book about something that I know nothing about then that doesn't come into play=

(127) Helen: [Right, then it doesn't come into play, of course.

(128) Lee: =And for a lot of people, they know nothing about Vietnam, ↓so it's beside the point.

(129) Helen: I'm wanting for us to develop a guiding question that we can all use. And I'm wondering-do language arts teachers use the same—evidence—thing?—That historians are always talking about questions of evidence. Do we do the same thing?

In this exchange, the disciplinary perspectives that had divided the group, at least since the discussion of the Stoddard letter, are explicitly named. Helen revoiced Lee's comments, trying to clarify his point at line 123: "It sounds like what you're saying . . ." She attributes his perspective to his "historian's evidence standard" and goes on to speculate how this perspective might color his readings of text. Helen uses the interchange to propose a guiding question about whether or not language arts and history teachers use the same notions of evidence (line 129): "Do we do the same thing?"

This exchange was a turning point. For the first time in our collective history, participants acknowledged the disciplinary differences that frame reading and struggled to understand how these differences manifest themselves. In contrast to earlier exchanges between Lee, Barb, and Charlie over the Stoddard letter, Helen seems to recognize that Lee might be bringing a fundamentally different perspective to his reading. As the discussion continued, group members tried to understand what notions of evidence and believability might mean in fiction.

Helen's questioning of Lee also suggested a new willingness to hear a different perspective and to enter into a different way of thinking about text. Lee, too, struggled to understand how fiction might represent a realm in which it is not the factual proximity to actual events but verisimilitude that contributes to the truth of a text (cf. Bruner, 1985). In the midst of this discussion, Grace, always a hesitant participant in these discussions, made her first epistemological comment in 18 months, trying on a new intellectual role in the group.

(144) Grace: I don't know, ↓I'm having a problem with why does the person have to be-the author if it's a he or she, if she's writing about a woman's experience, why does a she have to write about a woman's experience? Couldn't a he write about it and research it, and interview people and-and do a study on it and maybe write something on it? And just because he's not a woman doesn't mean that he may not be able to capture the essence of a woman or whatever. And I don't know, in this I don't necessarily think that this guy has to be Vietnamese to capture some of this information. . . . . . . .I—I have a problem with you being what you're writing about.

(145) Helen: ↑We talked about that in our, in our small group, does—did he have a right to write that book? And we said, I "Hell yes!" And then he—he can't, I think you just—questions arise because his name is Robert Owen Butler that wouldn't arise if his name was Thu Nguyen.

This foray into literary criticism by the member most resistant to the practice of reading together, the one who had called reading not directly connected to the curriculum "torture," represented a profound shift. Just as she played an important social role in the discussion of The Organic Machine, here she takes on a new intellectual rolethat of literary critic. Reluctant to voice her opinions and unfamiliar with literary discourse, Grace learned how to participate in such talk and was recognized by the group for her contribution.

In this discussion, Helen, Mary, Lee, and others take on new social and intellectual roles within the group. But what has also changed is the ethos of the group as a whole. The eyerolling and side comments were largely absent from this discussion; the conversation was characterized by respect for others' viewpoints and the assumption of good faith. As Lee struggled with his ideas about fiction and history, people did not dismiss him as "being difficult" or complain about "grinding the same old wheat." Instead, we engaged in the work of understanding the epistemological issues that separate fiction from history, speculating about what such issues might mean in the classroom.


We now return to the question we asked at the beginning of this article: What distinguishes a community of teachers from a group of teachers sitting in a room? We offer some initial ideas for a model of emergent community based in the realities of the workplace of an urban high school the stages, obstacles, and elusive achievements that characterize the developmental trajectory of community formation. In developing our model, we have drawn on our participation over time as members (and sometimes reluctant leaders) of this group, captured in fieldnotes, e-mails, journals, and notes from phone conversations. We have also drawn on an extensive database that includes teacher interviews, written evaluations, and think-alouds.xxxvi But the primary source of evidence for this analysis has been the transcripts of group discussions of text that occurred over the 18 months of the project, as represented by the six whole-group discussions that we take up in this article.

We have relied on these transcripts for several reasons. Foremost, if we claim that our group grew toward community, we should be able to hear it and see it in the venues in which the group met. In other words, claims about teacher community should be supported by evidence from the interactions of its members. One of the contributions we hope to make to research on teachers' professional community is to suggest ways of documenting how community manifests itself in speech and action. Throughout our discussion, we have adduced numerous instances in which new forms of discourse and social participation appeared that were significant not just to us but to the participants as well. Changes in our discourse were not only documented in our fieldnotes but were commented on by teachers. For example, Olivia turned to the group at the end of the second summer institute and said, "Do you guys hear how much differently we talk to each other than we did last March? The voice of this group, I think, has gotten so much more hones? (August 25, 1995). This was one of the first occasions in which the group exhibited linguistic self-awareness by explicitly marking its growth as a collective.

By way of summary, we provide a schematic of the markers of community formation we have focused on throughout this article.


The first dimension of community involves the formation of a group identity and the development of norms for interaction. Initially, members of a group may identify with subgroups or factions within a larger group. In our project, teachers initially identified more with their departments or with other 1st-year teachers than with the group as a whole. In a meeting of teachers, individuals are interchangeable; if a member leaves and someone else joins, little is lost. However, as community evolves, people begin to recognize the unique contributions of individual members and feel a keen sense of loss when members leave. This loss is not only personal. Over time, community members recognize the distinct voices and perspectives that individuals bring to a group and mourn the loss of these perspectives. In a meeting, participants do not see themselves as individually responsible for the functioning of the group as a whole; in fact, this responsibility rests squarely with the group leader. However, as community develops, members begin to formulate a sense of communal responsibility for the regulation of norms and behavior. In our project, teachers initially complained to us about the behavior of their colleagues; over time, they assumed responsibility for addressing violations of group norms.

A second dimension of community formation has to do with the navigation of fault lines. In its initial stages, a group may deny differences and proclaim a false sense of unity. During this stage, conflict is hidden in order to preserve the sense of a united front. But if a group spends enough time together, conflict will inevitably erupt onto the main stage. As differences become impossible to ignore, members may try to appropriate other perspectives by claiming them as mere variations of the dominant view. In our group, English teachers tried to convince Lee that reading historical texts was no different than reading literary texts. With the formation of community, differences among participants can be acknowledged and understood. With such recognition comes the ability to use diverse views to enlarge the understanding of the group as a whole.

Negotiating the essential tension is an inevitable task for teachers' professional communities. Initially, members may see attention to student learning and efforts to promote teacher learning as irreconcilable, locating themselves at one end of the continuum or the other. With time, teachers may agree to disagree over the relative value of the two poles, with different individuals fanning out in either direction. In a professional community, however, teachers come to recognize the interrelationship of teacher and student learning and are able to use their own learning as a resource to delve more deeply into issues of student learning, curriculum, and teaching.xxxvii

A final indicator of teachers' professional community is the willingness of its members to assume responsibility for colleagues' growth and development. As schools are currently constituted, teachers' responsibility is to students, not colleagues. Professional growth is the responsibility of the individual (with occasional nudges from administrators) rather than that of the faculty as a whole. Initially, participation in group discussions is solely a matter of individual volition; if individuals feel like it, they contribute. If they have pertinent knowledge that could push the thinking of the group forward, individuals can choose whether or not to contribute. As community develops, individuals begin to accept responsibility for their colleagues' continuing growth. Members begin to accept the obligations of community membership, which include the obligation to press for clarification of ideas and to help colleagues articulate developing understandings,


Our project also vividly demonstrates that time and resources are necessary but insufficient ingredients for building community. In planning this project, we thought we had addressed the primary desiderata that had foiled efforts at creating learning environments. We located our work in the midst of the teachers' workplace, believing that a group that took root in its everyday context had a much greater chance of survival than one imported from a more distant locale. We tried to steer a middle course between individual and whole-school change by focusing on the department. We had buy-in across multiple levels of the systemfrom the district, principal, department chairs, and teachers themselves. And we had the luxury of day-long meetings once a month, in addition to the more rushed, and typical, after-school meetings.

In providing time to reflect, to read together, and to plan curriculum, we thought we were providing water to parched travelers, giving teachers the time and space to learn. What we didn't fully understand is that in offering these resources, we also created an unfamiliar and confusing social forum, one that demanded new forms of social and intellectual participation (cf. Rogoff,1994; Rogoff, Baker-Sennett, Lacasa, & Goldsmith, 199$. Our first lesson as change agents/researchers was that structural arrangements alone cannot teach people how to interact differently (cf. Westheimer, 1998). Four months into the project, we worried that our intervention was destroying what little goodwill existed between the two departments before we arrived. By providing a regular extended forum for teachers to meet, we had inadvertently created a public stage on which coworkers could enact long-standing conflicts and question each others' credibility as teachers.

In retrospect, we should have known how difficult it would be to change the familiar folkways of schooling. Privacy persists in the large urban high school for good reasons (Little, 1990). Such norms shield both outstanding and weaker teachers from the public gaze. Few teachers entered the profession to work with other adults. When pressures develop from working with other adults in crowded and often financially strapped settings, retreating to the classroom provides a convenient safety valve. Given a setting in which teachers do not necessarily share common visions and pedagogical philosophies, it is far easier to mark papers alone than to negotiate with other adults who do not share your beliefs.

In contrast to the idealistic visions sketched in the advocacy literature on teacher community, bringing teachers together can hurt as well as help, especially when norms for interacting in a public sphere are ill defined. Reducing isolation can unleash workplace conflicts that were, ironically, kept in check by the very isolation in which teachers work. To assume that teachers, just because they have experience in creating social organizations among children, can spontaneously organize themselves into congenial social units reflects a romanticism that misrepresents the realities of group dynamics in complex settings such as schools (cf. Margraves, 1996). Teacher community works most smoothly when teachers self-select into groups of like-minded colleagues. Long-standing teacher collectives such as the Bay Area Writing Project, the TLC group in Philadelphia, or the Brookline Consortium in Massachusetts most often consist of such self-selected volunteers. Similarly, discussions of school community often focus on sites such as Central Park East where teachers are chosen because of their adherence to the school's clearly articulated mission and philosophy. While such schools may represent an ideal, they are far from representative of the typical U.S. urban comprehensive school, composed of teachers with a dizzying mixture of philosophies, educational backgrounds, subject matter commitments, political and religious beliefs, and opinions about students and learning, as well as varying commitments to their own continued learning.

We do not believe that our group was particularly contentious; if anything, the culture of the Pacific Northwest discourages overt conflict and encourages congeniality. If other projects that seek to create community in the workplace do not encounter the obstacles we describe, we suspect that they either began with motivated, self-selected volunteers (sometimes described as "going with the goers") or met for only a limited amount of time.


A primary goal of a community of learners in a pluralistic society is to learn to see difference as a resource rather than a liability. We experienced momentary recognition of this possibility even as we struggled to hold on to it. We have consciously refrained from claiming that we attained community, in part because we believe that community is always in flux, always an attempt by imperfect human beings to move closer to a Utopian goal. Despite our ability to traverse a good stretch of the territory between a group of teachers and a community of teacher-learners, we remain painfully aware of the fragility of the group that came together. For us, community is a journey rather than a destination, a verb rather than a noun.

Grant monies and incentives allowed us to put together a diverse group of teachers who, left to their own devices, would not have chosen to spend time together. The group mirrored the fault lines we have described, from ethnic, racial, political, and religious differences to differences that matter in the context of school: differences in educational philosophy, subject matter perspectives, pedagogy, and beliefs about students. As the group began to coalesce, individuals who saw themselves and were seen by the group as deviating from the mainstream were pushed to the margins. This process of defining both a center and a periphery is a natural process in any collective dedicated to maintaining a diverse membership. But our experience refutes idealistic notions of the community's desire for diversity. Community and diversity are in constant tension. As individuals forge a common vision, the centripetal forces of community pose a constant threat to the centrifugal force of diversity. By its very nature, community presses for consensus and suppresses dissent. Without constant vigilance, diversities of many kinds may not survive the formation of community. Left on their own, participants retreat from the public space and begin to congregate into smaller groups based on perceived or actual similarity. Given this constant threat to diversity, much care has to be given to fostering experiences that bringand keepa group together.

Common experiences provide a foundation on which to build communityhence the team-building exercises, from tugs of war to obstacle courses that have become so popular in the corporate as well as the educational world. We too realized the importance of common experience as a counterbalance to the centrifugal forces of diversity. But instead of trekking through the woods or scaling Mt. Rainier, we located the common experiences for our project in something much closer to the spirit of schooling and the humanities. We shared common texts.

In the beginning, these texts only highlighted our differences, but this was a crucial step that pushed us beyond the limitations of pseudocommunity. Our collective growth came not because we lost the distinctiveness of the different readings we brought to Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, No Ordinary Time, Makes Me Wanna Holler, and The Organic Machine, but because we came to understand these differences more fully.

In the humanities, which seek to expand and enrich understanding of the human condition in all its multiplicity, a good text is one that can be pushed, pulled, and stretched to cover this vast terrain. As our list of common texts grew, we also began to understand how individuals responded to certain types of texts or to particular themes. People came to know each other in new ways as a result of our joint readings. We came to realize that our collective readings were far richer than the reading of any one member. The process of reading together changed the reading we did alone. As in successful book clubs and seminars, we began in a true Bakhtinian spirit to hear the "voices" of group members as we read alone. Our whole way of reading had come to be shaped by our anticipated responses to predicted readings of other group members. To be sure, our reading patterns were continuous with the predispositions, predilections, and tastes that each individual brought to the group. At the same time, the communal space of listening, learning, and arguing over meaning stretched us in ways that no one could have anticipated.xxxviii


If we are right in saying that even with substantial resources community is difficult to attain and even harder to sustain, we may reasonably ask: Why bother? Why bother with a costly process that has shallow roots in the culture of schools and is destined to fail far more often than it succeeds? We think the effort is worth it, for several reasons.


As Seymour Sarason recognized years ago, we cannot expect teachers to create a vigorous community of learners among students if they have no parallel Community to nourish themselves. "It is virtually impossible to create and sustain over time conditions for productive learning for students when they do not exist for teachers," noted Sarason (1990, p. 45). The opportunity for intellectual community in schools is rare; the predominant mode of learning, for those high school teachers who avail themselves of it, is some type of summer enrichment experience. But the notion that someone can teach for 9 months and then start to learn for 2 weeks in the summer is fatally flawedsomewhat akin to having a marathoner train all week long but eat only on the weekends.

The intellectually barren atmosphere of many schools is evident. The high turnover among teachers costs millions of dollars in replacement and training, and the attrition rate is most acute among the most academically able. The higher the SAT scores, the more likely new teachers are to leave the profession (Murnane, Singer, Willett, Kemple, Be Olsen, 1991).

The intellectual ferment of our group offered hope to new and old alike that teaching did not have to mean intellectual suffocation. Wilma, a student-intern with the group, had her first field experience in the context of our project. Only when she went to her second field placement (at a suburban high school considered to be better than the urban site of the book club) did the meaning of her internship with our group come into focus:

[At the second placement] I was amazed at faculty lounges and disappointed . . . They're like any other work cafeteria or something. People gossip and piss and moan, but they don't relate on a professional level. And I don't know what I thought . . . I thought everyone would be there with their books and their professional ideas, exchanging high-flown stuff, which is naive. But I guess I thought that there might be some place in the school, within the school environment, where teachers would come together. But they don't, it doesn't happen in the faculty lounge and it doesn't happen at staff meetings,

The intellectual and professional conversation that Wilma refers to was also evoked by Mary, the special education teacher, when she reflected on the group's role in "reinvigorating" her for her last 10 years of teaching:

I thought at first that I wasn't going to be able to really engage in conversations with other people about these readings in a comfortable way. So it was a challenge for me. I started out feeling very unsure about it and ended up liking it a lot, and feeling acknowledged most of the time, and listened to by my colleagues. So I learned a lot through that experience with the readings themselves but also the experience of being able to talk about it later. . . . When I applied for the project thinking, well, I have another ten years or so teaching, what can Ithis might be something that will reinvigorate me about what I do. And it has done that through the book groups, through the connections that I made with my colleagues that I never would have made.

Cultivating professional community within schools can help retain teachers who might otherwise leave the profession or choose early retirement.


From mastery learning to cooperative learning, from outcome-based education to standards-based assessment, educational reforms come and go. But one thing remains constant: Teachers will always need to find ways to stay abreast of developments in the subjects they teach. In fields like history and English, new knowledge is produced all the time. But for many teachers their lifelong resource for teaching is their undergraduate major, a major that can become stale within a decade. New teachers' grand notions of keeping up are soon scaled back and modified by the culture of schooling. In the context of the urban school, professional development most often means learning about new pedagogical innovations or new ways to integrate technology into existing practice. Within the occupational structure of schools, there are virtually no long-standing venues for continued learning about the subject matter of instruction. For example, it's difficult for an English teacher educated at the height of "New Criticism to confront, through self-study, the ferment in her field created by deconstructionism. These deep challenges to how and what one was taught need to be mulled over, confronted, thrashed out, and argued in social settings. Workplace community is the most logical place for this to occur for a wide range of teachers, not just the motivated who seek it on their own.

Within our project, teachers learned not only new content related to World War II or Northwest history; they learned new ways of thinking about the subject matters of history and literature. For example, Grace learned the importance of checking the sources of historical documents in evaluating the credibility of the evidence.xxxix Although she taught social studies, her own background in history was thin. The group discussions provided her with a new understanding of how historians develop and evaluate historical claims.

Similarly, Helen, a 1st-year language arts teacher who had also earned an endorsement' to teach social studies, began to teach history classes during the 2nd year of this project. Reading Tom Holt's (1990) Thinking Historically (1990), along with the full-length histories that were part of our group discussions, provided her with a fresh perspective on what it means to know history.xl As Helen evolved into a teacher of U.S. history over the course of the project, she used the primary source documents she first encountered in project meetings in her own classroom and asked students to question the perspective and credibility of those texts. At one meeting, she reported that her students had begun "to think about what that means, to question text." She attributed her success to the project: "Every single bit of the lessons I've done this week have come directly from discussions about what it means to be a teacher and what it means to think about text that we've had in this group."

Even teachers who did not acquire critically important knowledge, as Grace and Helen did, found value in the opportunity to read unfamiliar texts in the company of colleagues. Patricia, an experienced English teacher, confessed that it is easy to pay lip service to the importance of multiple interpretations without really paying attention to the different interpretations that students propose:

As educators we can once again experience the joy of sharing ideas, as well as the discomfort of voicing ideas with peers. Thus we not only begin to realize anew . . . that there are many interpretations to reading, but also that feeling of vulnerability that we expect our students to undergo on a regular basis. . . . I have seen many teachers fish for particular answers as though theirs is the only way to see a piece of literature. This project has made it clear that literature is open to many interpretations.

Our group allowed teachers to remember how different reading a text for the first time is from the repeated readings that make up much of a teacher's life. Rabinowitz (1998) talks about the difference between first readings and reading against memoryrepeated readings of the same text. The gap between English teachers and their students consists, in large part, of this difference. Students are encountering for the first time difficult texts that their teachers have read and reread many times. This experience of first readings in the book club helps teachers remember what it's like to puzzle one's way through a text, forming and reforming interpretations along the way, working against confusion. Patricia eloquently articulated the value of entering into a "discomfort zone."

Going into the discomfort zone helps us understand what our students experience. To say, "I know this is not easy," when we've not experienced that recently is very different from having known the difficulty in recent experience.


Leadership is not a personality trait but an attribute of self-development in social relationships. In schools, leadership, at least its formal sense of titles and administrative impact, depends on possessing the right credential rather than attaining the consensual judgment of one's coworkers. Too often the school leader is someone who has completed a degree program rather than someone who has emerged from the social group and earned the right to represent the collective vision.

Existing modes for developing indigenous school leadership tend to fall into the realm of the administrative and politicalsite councils, site-based management teams, school councils, etc. These venues often draw individuals skilled in building coalitions and in negotiating among teacher unions, parent groups, and district personnel. These skills are all-important in large organizations with multiple constituencies, but they are not uniquely "educational." Indeed, the fundamental concerns of such groups and the collaborations formed in them remain distant from the core aspects of the work itself: actual classroom teaching and the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to do it well (Bird Be Little, 1986).

In our group, where the intellectual aspects of teaching were at the core, an indigenous leadership emerged based on a different set of impulses or at least a different set of starting points. Dave, the experienced English teacher who left the group only to return 2 months later, underwent a transformation in his leadership role. At first ambivalent about his responsibility to other teachers (but never wavering in his commitment to students), he emerged as the group's intellectual lynchpin and spokesperson.

For Dave, already deeply immersed in issues of subject matter and teaching, the group provided a training ground in which he came to see his own fate as a teacher as bound to the collective capability of his colleagues. Ultimately, he agreed to take on the responsibility of chairing the English department when that position became open.

Mary began her membership in the group at the periphery, both physically and intellectually. Her special education classroom was in another wing of the school, distant from the English and social studies classrooms. Many of the English and history teachers knew Mary only casually prior to the project; she herself felt unsure how she might fit in and 'wondered whether she knew enough about history and literature to participate in discussions. For Mary, a thoughtful reader with an uncanny ability to connect different interpretations, the group provided a crucible in which she gained confidence in her leadership skills in both intellectual and social realms.

Together Dave and Mary were responsible for taking the idea of the book club out of the two departments and bringing it to the entire school. Two months after the Good Scent discussion, they requested and received time during the monthly faculty meeting (run by the principal) to present the "Community of Teacher-Learners" project to the entire school as a model of professional development that is "centrally concerned with what teachers do and think." This presentation led to a spin-off book club open to the entire faculty and staff. As our project neared the end of its funding, group members began to take on leadership responsibilities for the school as a whole. Several members helped chair the professional development committee for the high school and planned professional development days, modeled after project activities, for the entire faculty. Other project members led the effort to create a new block schedule in order to provide for extended discussion time with students.

These efforts at effecting change within the school as a whole show the deep nexus between the growing sense of community within the group and the growing sense of collective moral purpose. A subgroup such as this one (22 teachers out of a faculty of 80) can easily be perceived and can easily come to perceive itself as an exclusive club with special privileges and "goods" not enjoyed by all. Often subgroups surround themselves with moats; the "school within a school" becomes more than a metaphor. The subgroup, rather than paving the way to larger community, can become an impediment to its development (cf. Hammerness Be Moffett, 2000).

In this case, as the group moved toward community, it also became aware of its responsibility to the larger group; having had the luxury of time, it felt a heightened sense of responsibility. Many of the later group meetings were devoted, in fact, to strategizing for whole-school change that would support the kinds of teaching and learningfor both students and teachersexplored in the project. Group members, many of them sour on traditional district-mandated staff development, came to see our less directive and somewhat circuitous path as the model for adult learning in the workplacean insight that countered many people's predictions at the project's start. In the words of Steven, the history department chair

What I've liked, ultimately, is the unanticipated outcome, the 'aha' that we might be on to something here that can be developed into an ongoing experience, perhaps a model for staff development. I don't think anybody anticipated that. Many of us came in with high hopes that perhaps we could hammer out a cross-disciplinary curriculum for 9th-10th or llth-12th graders. [We] ran into frustration with that, and perhaps got back more to reality about the difficulties of doing that. But the unanticipated outcome was, I think, one of the great accomplishments.


We argued earlier that professional community must serve the interests of both teachers and students simultaneously. But how can teachers' intellectual and professional community benefit students?

Before we turn to more traditional measures of student learning, we first want to address some effects that, while amorphous and difficult to measure, may be among the most valuable. What does it mean for students to spy the same books on different teachers' desks and hear teachers' varied responses? What might it mean for students to see their teachers return from a project meeting simmering with thoughts and ideas? What could it mean that students ask to borrow the books their teachers are reading, eager to participate in the larger conversation? How does one measure the effect on a 16-year-old of seeing an adult who is angered, moved, brought to tears by a book, who cannot stop talking about it, who has conversations in the hallway with other teachers about it? While we have slogans galore about helping students become "lifelong learners," we provide them with few opportunities to witness, firsthand, what lifelong engagement with learning might look like among their teachers.

A youth culture shaped by MTV and Road Rules provides few venues where students can encounter adults who care passionately about ideas and books. If high school represents preparation for adulthood, it offers few opportunities for students to see adults engaged in the core work of the humanitiesreading and discussing texts. The "gentle inquisitions" (Eeds & Wells, 1989; Marshall, Smagorinsky, & Smith, 1995) about literature that students experience in the vast majority of English classes are hardly an advertisement for lifelong engagement with books and ideas.

Cultivating communities of learners among teachers can reculturate high schools, creating a space where ideas matter to teachers and to students. Students can observe teachers engaging in the same activitiesreading and discussing textthat occupy so much classroom time. When Patricia reminded her students to provide critical evaluations of books in their book reports, "not a piece of fan mail," one student teased her, "Just like you, Ms. T, with your books for your Community of Learners project." More important, perhaps, students need to see adults argue over text, disagreeing over interpretations or responses to characters. If the sources of these disagreements can be made explicit to students, perhaps they can begin to understand why history or literature can differ from one class to the next, that differences among teachers are not simply idiosyncraticMrs. X likes us to focus just on the text, while Mr. Y wants us to talk about our own responses but rather may be grounded in different disciplinary traditions.

There are clearly other potential benefits for students. This model of professional community highlights the relationship between teachers' opportunities to engage in rich discourse about history and literature and their own ability to provide similar opportunities for students. One way of capturing such benefits would be to look closely at the nature of discussions in classrooms over time. To what extent are changes in the teachers' book club reflected in changes in the classroom? How do questions raised in the teachers' group find their way into the classroom? How do new ways of thinking about history or literature, first explored among teachers, begin to manifest themselves in curricular or instructional change in the classroom?

We do not have data that would answer these questions, although we hope that subsequent design experiments (Collins, 1992) might build the collection of such data into their designs. Researchers would need to be prepared to wrestle with issues of the appropriate time frame for looking at classroom changes and the kinds of measures that might capture the changes that matter in the teaching of the humanities.

This still begs the question of more traditional measures of student learning in the humanities. We could imagine adapting document-based exercises from the Advanced Placement history exam or essay questions from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that deal with the interpretation of literature to measure changes in students' interpretive acumen. While such pleasures would address some of the outcomes we would hope for, they do not go all the way. Central to our vision of learning in the humanities is learning to participate in discussions of books. As we have tried to make clear, we do not regard discourse as a proxy of something else but as a powerful achievement in itself. We have yet to develop valid and reliable indicators that would allow us to assess changes in students' ability to contribute to a lively and critical exchange of ideas. Our ability to make a strong case for the relationship of teacher learning to student learning will be halting until we, as a field, develop such measures.

Student learning was not the focus of our project, which was designed to look at teacher learning in the context of community formation. But we could not ignore the project's effect on the school's humanities curriculum. Project books found their way into reading lists for students. New courses and units within courses explored interdisciplinary links between history and literature. Guiding questions discussed by the group appeared on classroom walls and became a part of some teachers' instruction. Several teachers, including Helen, as described earlier, attributed changes in their instruction to the project.xli


There are many reasons to cultivate teachers' professional communityfrom providing opportunities for teacher learning to enriching the possibilities for student learning, from retaining talented teachers to enabling teachers to work together toward a common goal. We believe that local professional communities can help achieve these goals. But there is also a larger imperative. A democratic society such as ours rests upon the premise that individual voices are important, that different perspectives can be productive, and that ultimately the wisdom of the collective exceeds the wisdom of any one individual. But in a pluralistic society such as ours, democracy also involves traversing the fault lines that threaten to divide us. From Hamilton's factions to the politics of identity, the unity envisioned by e pluribus unum has proven difficult to achieve.

If public schools are indeed the cornerstones of a democracy, charged with instilling in future citizens the skills and sensibilities required to participate in public life, then the struggles of community formation take on a larger meaning. If teachers themselves cannot reclaim a civil discourse and an appreciation and recognition of diverse voices, how can they prepare students to enter a pluralistic world as citizens? If we are unable to broker the differences that divide us, how can we tell students to do otherwise? Of all the habits of mind modeled in schools, the habit of working to understand others, of striving to make sense of differences, of extending to others the assumption of good faith, of working towards the enlarged understanding of the groupin short, the pursuit of communitymay be the most important. In an era of narrow academic standards and accountability, it is all too easy to forget that the ultimate accountability of schools is to the sustenance of a thoughtful, engaged, and vigorous democratic society.

The writing of this article was supported by grants from the James 5. McDonnell Foundation Program in "Cognitive Studies for Educational Practice n and the MacArthur-Spencer Professional Development Research and Documentation Program. We gratefully acknowledge this support but note that we alone are responsible for the opinions expressed herein. We thank Barbara Scott Nelson and Rich Lehrer, who provided invaluable feedback at an AERA session in April 2000, and to our colleagues at the University of Washington, Debby Kerdeman and Reed Stevens, who patiently showed us where we erred. We also thank Howard Gardner, Ann Lieberman, Susan Oas, Judith Reyni, Barbara Rogoff, Suzanne Wilson, and Bob Wineburg for their comments on previous drafts. We acknowledge the help of our research assistants, Fred Hamel, Guy Thomas, and Oddmund Myhre. Most of all we thank the teachers in this project, who gave so generously of their time to help us understand issues of community.


Ambrose, S. E. (1996). Undaunted courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the opening of the American west. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Aronson, E., & Goode, E. (1979). Training teachers to implement jigsaw learning: A manual for teachers. In S. Sharon (Ed.), Cooperation in education (pp. 47-65). Provo, UT: Brigham Young.

Bellah, R, N., Madsen, N., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1985). Habits of the heart; Individualism and commitment in American life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Beniger, J. R. (1987). Personalization of mass media and the growth of pseudo-community. Communication Research, 14 (3), 352-371.

Bernstein, R. J. (1992). The new constellation: The ethical-political horizons of modernity/ postmodernity, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bird, T, & Little, J. W. (1986). How schools organize the teaching occupation. Elementary School Journal, 86(4), 493-511.

Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2 (2), 141-178.

Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice (pp. 229-270). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Browning, C. R. (1992). Ordinary men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the final solution in Poland. New York: Harper.

Bruner, J. (1985). Narrative and paradigmatic modes of thought. In E. Eisner (Ed.), Learning and teaching the ways of knowing, Eighty-fourth yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (pp. 97-115). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Burke, P. J., & Reitzes, D. C. (1981). The link between identity and role performance. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44 (2), 83-92.

Burke, P. J., Be Reitzes, D. C. (1991). An identity theory approach to commitment. Social Psychology Quarterly, 54 (3), 239-251.

Butler, R. O. (1992). Good scent from a strange mountain. New York: Penguin Books.

Carpenter, T. P., Fennema, E., & Franke, M. L. (1996). Cognitively guided instruction: A knowledge base for reform in primary mathematics instruction. Elementary School Journal, ' 97, 3-20.

Carter, S, L. (1998). Civility: Manners, morals, and the etiquette of democracy. New York: Basic Books.

Cawelti, G. (1994). High school restructuring: A national study. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.

Clark, H. H. (1992). Arenas of language use. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. In A Iran-Nejad &: P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Review of research in education. Vol. 24 (pp. 249-306). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Collins, A. (1992). Toward a design science of education. In E. Scanlon & T. O'Shea (Eds.), " Proceedings of the NATO advanced research workshop on new directions in educational technology (pp. 15-22). Berlin: Springer.

Damon, W. (1991). Problems of direction in socially shared cognition. In L. B. Resnick, J. M. Levine, & S. D. Teasley (Eds.), Perspectives on socially shared cognition (pp. 384397). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Darling-Hammond, L., Be Sykes, G. (Eds.). (1999). Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Degler, C. N. (1986). Neither Black nor White: Slavery and race relations in Brazil and the United States. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.

Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people's children. Harvard Educational Review, 58 (3), 280-298.

Denby, D. (1996). Great books: My adventures with Homer, Rousseau., Woolf, and other indestructible writers of the Western world. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Eeds, M. & Wells, D. (1989). Grand conversations: An exploration of meaning construction in literature study groups. Research in the Teaching of English, 23 (1), 4-29.

Etzioni, A. (1993). The spirit of community: Rights, responsibilities and the communitarian agenda. New York: Crown.

Fredriksen, J., Sipusik, M., Gamoran, Be Wolfe, E. (1992). Video portfolio assessment. Paper prepared for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. Berkeley, CA: Educational Testing Service, April, 1992.

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the city. New York: Continuum.

Friedlander, S. (1992). Probing the limits of representation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gee, J. P. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology and discourses. London: Falmer Press. Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure and contradiction in social analysis. Berkeley, GA: University of California Press.

Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society. Berkeley, GA: University of California Press.

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Vintage. Goldhagen, D. J. (1996). Hitler's willing executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Knopf.

Goode, W. J. (1957). Community within a community: The professions. American Sociological Review, 22 (2), 194-200. Goodwin, D. K. (1994). No ordinary time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The home front in World War II New York: Simon & Schuster.

Grossman, P. L. (1990). The making of a teacher. New York: Teachers College Press.

Grossman, P., Be Stodolsky, S. S. (1995). Content as context: The role of school subjects in secondary school teaching. Educational Researcher, 24 (8), 5-11.

Grossman, P. L., Wineburg, S., & Woolworth, S. (1998, April). The formation of teacher community: Standards for evaluating change. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Haizlip, S. T. (1994). The sweeter the juice. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hamel, F. (2000). Disciplinary landscapes, interdisciplinary collaboration. In S. Wineburg Be P. Grossman (Eds.), Interdisciplinary curriculum: Challenges to implementation (pp. 7492). New York: Teachers College Press.

Hammerness, K., & Moffett, K. (2000). The subjects of debate. In S. Wineburg & P. Grossman (Eds.), Interdisciplinary curriculum: Challenges to implementation (pp. 134-152). New York: Teachers College Press.

Handlin, O. (1979). Truth w history. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Hargraves, A. (1996). Revisiting voice. Educational Researcher, 25 (1), 12-17. Hirsch, A. (1988). The collision of military cultures in seventeenth-century New England. Journal of American History, 74 (4), 1187-1212.

Holt, T. (1990). Thinking historically: Narrative, imagination, and understanding. New York: College Board.

Homans, G. C. (1950). The human group. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Huntington, S. P. (1993). The clash of civilizations. Foreign Affairs, 72 (3), 22-49.

Kerdeman, D. (1999). Between memory and difference: (Radically) understanding the other. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 31 (2), 225-229.

Lampert, M. (1990). When the problem is not the question and the solution is not the answer: Mathematical knowing and teaching. American Educational Research Journal, 27 (1), 29-63.

Lieberman, A. (Ed.). (1988). Building a professional culture in schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lieberman, A., & Grolnick, M. (1996). Networks and reform in American education. Teachers College Record, 98 (1), 7-45.

Little, J. W. (1990). The persistence of privacy: Autonomy and initiative in teachers' professional relations. Teachers College Record, 91 (4), 509-536.

Little, J. W., & McLaughlin, M. W. (1993). Introduction: Perspectives on cultures and contexts of teaching. In J. W. Little & M. W. McLaughlin (Eds.), Teachers' work: Individuals, colleagues and contexts (pp. 18). New York: Teachers College Press.

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marshall, J. D., Smagorinsky, P., & Smith, M. W. (1995). The language of interpretation: Patterns of discourse in discussions of literature. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Masur, K. (1999). Edmund Morris's Dutch: Reconstructing Reagan or deconstructing history?

Perspectives: Newsletter of the American Historical Association, 37 (9), 12-14.

McCall, N. (1994). Makes me wanna holler. New York: Vintage Books.

McLaughlin, M., & Talbert, J. (2001). Secondary schoolteaching in context Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Meier, D. (1995). The power of their ideas: Lessons for America from a small school in Harlem. Boston: Beacon Press,

Merton, R, K. (1968). The bearing of empirical work on sociological theory. In R. K. Merton (Ed.), Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.

Miller, B., & Lord, B. (1995). Staff development in four districts. Newton, MA: Educational Development Center.

Morris, E. (1999). Dutch: A 'memoir of Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House. Morrison, T. (1987). Beloved: A novel. New York: Knopf.

Mukherjee, B. (1989). Jasmine. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.

Muncy, R. (1991). Creating a female dominion in American reform, 1890-1935. New York: Oxford University Press.

Murnane, R. J., Singer, J. D., Willett, J. B., Kemple, J. J., & Olsen, R. J. (1991). Who will teach? Policies that matter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Nelson, B. C., & Hammerman, J. K. (1996). Reconceptualizing teaching: Moving toward the creation of intellectual communities of students, teachers, and teacher educators. In M. W. McLaughlin & I. Oberman (Eds.), Teacher learning: New policies, new practices (pp. 321). New York: Teachers College Press.

O'Brien, T. (1995). In the lake of the woods. New York: Penguin Books. Oldenburg, R. (1989). The great good place. New York: Paragon House.

Ozick, C. (1999). The rights of history and the rights of imagination. Commentary, 107(3), 22-27.

Peck, M. S. (1995). In search of stones. New York: Hyperion.

Perry, R. (1997). The role of teachers' professional communities in the implementation of California mathematics reform. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.

Putnum, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America's declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6 (1), 65-78.

Rabinowitz, P. J. (1998). "A thousand times and never like": Re-reading for class. In P. J. Rabinowitz & M. W. Smith (Eds.), Authorizing readers: Resistance and respect in the teaching of literature (pp. 88-102). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Ravitch, D. (2000). The educational backgrounds of history teachers. In P. N. Stearns, P. Seixas, & S. Wineburg (Eds.), Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives (pp. 143-155). New York: NYU.

Rogoff, B. (1994). Developing understanding of the idea of communities. Mind Culture and Activity, 1 (4), 209-229.

Rogoff, B., Baker-Sennett, J., Lacasa, P., & Goldsmith, D. (1995). Development through participation in sociocultural activity. In J. Goodnow, P. Miller, Be F. Kessel (Eds.), Cultural practices as contexts for development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rogoff, B., Turkanis, C. G., & Barlett, L. (Eds.). (2001). Learning together: Children and adults in a school community. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rothman, J., Erlich, J. I., & Tropman, J. E. (Eds.). (1995). Strategies of community intervention: Macro practice, 5th ed. Itasca, IL: F. E. Peacock. Salomon, G. (1993). Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Salomon, G., Be Perkins, D. N. (1998). Individual and social aspects of learning. In P. D. Pearson & A. Iran-Nejad (Eds.), Review of Research in Education, Vol. 23 (pp. 1-24). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Sarason, S. (1990). The predictable failure of educational reform: Can we change course before it's too late? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schama, S. (1989). Citizens: A chronicle of the French Revolution. New York: Knopf.

Schama, S. (1991). Dead certainties: Unwarranted speculations. New York: Knopf.

Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Schiffrin, D. (1994). Approaches to discourse. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Schifter, D. (Ed.). (1996). What's happening in math class? New York: Teachers College.

Scholes, R. (1985). Textual power: Literary theory and the teaching of English. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Scholes, R. (1989). Protocols of reading. New Haven, CT: Yale.

Scott, R. W. (1995). Institutions and organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Shollenberger, M., Sc Swaim, S. C. (1999). Teacher time; or, rather, the lack of it. American Educator, Fall, 21-26.

Siskin, L. S., &: Little, J. W. (Eds.). (1995). The subjects in question: Departmental organization and the high school New York: Teachers College Press.

Smylie, M. (1994). Redesigning teachers' work: Connections to the classroom. In L. Darling-Hammond (Ed.), Review of Research in Education. Vol. 20. (pp. 129-177). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Thomas, G., Wineburg, S., Grossman, P., Myhre, O., & Woolworth, S. (1998). In the company of teachers: An interim report on the development of a community of teacher learners. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14 (1) 180-195.

Toennies, F. (1963/1887). Community and society. New York: Praeger.

Ulrich, L. T. (1991). A midwife's tale: The life of Martha Battard, based on her diary, 1785-1812. New York: Vintage.

Westheimer, J. (1998). Among school teachers: Community, autonomy, and ideology in teachers' work. New York: Teachers College.

White, R. (1995). The. organic machine. New York: Hill and Wang.

Wilson, S. M., & Berne J. (1999). Teacher learning and the acquisition of professional knowledge: An examination of research on contemporary professional development. In A. Iran-Nejad & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Review of research in education, Vol. 24 (pp. 173-209). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Wilson, S. M., & Wineburg, S. S. (1993). Wrinkles in time: Using performance assessments to understand the knowledge of history teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 30 (4), 729-769.

Wineburg, S. (1998). Reading Abraham Lincoln: An expert/expert study in the interpretation of historical text. Cognitive Science, 22 (3), 319-346.

Wineburg, S. (1999). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts. Phi Delta Kappan, 50(7), 488-499.

Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Wineburg, S. S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28 (3), 495-519.

Wineburg, S. S., & Grossman, P. L. (1996, April). Teachers' representations of student understanding in the humanities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.

Wineburg, S,, & Grossman, P. (1998). Creating a community of learners among high school teachers. Phi Delta Kappan, 79 (5), 350-353.

Wineburg, S., & Grossman, P. (Eds.). (2000a). Interdisciplinary curriculum: Challenges to implementation. New York: Teachers College Press.

Wineburg, S., & Grossman, P. (2000b). Scenes from a marriage: Some implications of interdisciplinary humanities curricula in the comprehensive high school. In S. Wineburg Be P. Grossman (Eds.), Interdisciplinary curriculum: Challenges to implementation, (pp. 57-73). New York: Teachers College.

Wineburg, S., & Grossman, P. (2001). Affect and effect in cognitive approaches to instruction. In D. Klahr & S. Carver (Eds.), Cognition and Instruction: The Thirtieth Carnegie Symposium on Cognition (pp. 479-492). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Wood, G. (1982, December 16). Writing history: An exchange. New York Review of Books, p. 59.

Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation. (2000, Winter). Schools and scholars bridge the divide.

Princeton, NJ: Author.

Yalom, I. D. (1995). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.

PAM GROSSMAN is Professor of English Education and co-chair of Curriculum and Teacher Education, Stanford University.

SAM WINEBURG is Professor of Cognitive Studies in Education and Adjunct Professor of History, University of Washington.

STEPHEN WOOLWORTH current serves as Project Director for Title II, University of Washington, Tacoma.


i For a critique of the widely used "community of learners," see Rogoff, Turkanis, and Bartlett (2001).

ii We recognize that virtual environments offer possibilities for community that are just now being explored by many researchers. We object, however, to the loose use of "community" that accompanies many new technological innovations. Consider the description of a new on-line partnership between university scholars and high school students that claims that it will use email to create "common intellectual community among the different institutions" ("Schools & Scholars Bridges the Divide," 2000, p. 2). This claim is treated as self-evident without any specification of what community means (beyond participation on a joint listserve), how it will be evaluated, and how project coordinators will know if they have succeeded or failed in "creating community."

iii Sociology, social work, and social psychology have generated a broad literature on the formation of groups and group dynamics. See, for example, the classic works of Homans (1950), Yalom (1995), Merton (1968), and Rothman (e.g., Rothman, Erlich, & Tropman, 1995).

iv Much has been written about the barriers to developing a professional community in schools (cf. Bird & Little, 1986; Lieberman, 1988; Smylie, 1994.) Time is perhaps the biggest barrier. For example, Shollenberger and Swaim (1999) have shown that the average high school teacher contracted to work 35 hours a week teaches 125 students per day in five classes. To spend more than 10 minutes reviewing the written work of each student and 15 minutes planning for each class, Shollenberger and Swaim calculated that the average high school teacher would have to work more than 70 hours a week.

v Many summer institutes, including Breadloaf School for English teachers and Sum-mermath for math teachers, have succeeded in creating rich environments for teacher learning (Schifter, 1996). The NEH has a long tradition of funding summer institutes that provide teachers with opportunities to learn from cutting-edge scholars.

vi Teacher unions represent another crucial venue for professional community. Under the banner of "new unionism" the AFT and the NEA have initiated numerous programs aimed at teachers' ongoing professional development. We are grateful to Judith Reyni for reminding us of the role of unions in teacher professional community.

vii So, for example, the word "to learn" in Hebrew is Ll'MoD. The same three letter root (L-M-D, or latned-mem-datet) is used to form the iterative, liLaMeD, the verb "to teach" but a word that can also be understood as "to act as intense learner."

viii The language of attraction and aversion is borrowed from Adorno by way of Richard Bernstein's The New Constellation (1992, p. 9). See Kerdeman's (1999) incisive framing of the aversion/attraction issue using the lenses of Gadamer and Derrida.

ix Twelve teachers were present at this meeting, 10 of whom contributed to the discussion. Of the teachers who spoke, Lee had 22 turns, which accounted for 29% of all turns. For purposes of comparison, the other nine teachers' turns were distributed more evenly: Mary (Special Ed) 13%, Helen (English) 11%, Olivia (ESL) 12%, Patricia (English) 11%, Alice (English) 7%, Grace (Social Studies) 5%, Tad (Social Studies, student intern) 9%, Barb (English) 3%, Nancy (English) 1%. Counting turns is only one measure for accounting for "floor time" in large group discussions. In terms of words spoken, Lee's 439 accounted for 23% of all words spoken by teachers. Even when the initial structuring comments by Pam and Sam are factored into die total number of turns, Lee's contribution still remained high: 23% of all turns during the discussion.

x We use the following notation to recreate our discussions as accurately as possible in the form of a textual transcript. In doing so, we have drawn on the work of Schiffrin (1987, 1994), Gee (1990), and Clark (1992).

1. t 4: Indicates rising and descending changes in intonation immediately prior to the rise or fall.

2. Italics: Words emphasized when spoken.

3. Capitalization: Words spoken with increased volume and emphasis.

4. [: Overlapping utterances begin.

5. ]: Overlapping utterances stop.

6. =: Used to join different segments of a single speaker's utterance when part is carried over to another line to accommodate an interruption or overlapping utterance.

7. (( )): Used to characterize manner of speech (e.g., tone, volume) or details of the scene (e.g., laughter, pounding on the table)

8. -: Indicates a slight pause in a speaker's speech utterance; separates repeated words during a continuous flow of speech.

9. __: Indicates where words were spoken but were unintelligible to the transcriber.

xi The term "pseudocommunity" has been used in various ways. Our use here focuses on face-to-face relations that appear congenial because the expression of conflict and dissent is squelched (cf. Peck, 1995). The term has also been used in mass-communication research but in a different way. For example, Beniger (1987) uses it to refer to communications that appear personal and folksy, such as mass mailings in political campaigns written on personal stationery and printed in fonts that resemble handwriting, but are actually generated by machines. Our use of the term here pursues a different direction.

xii We recognize here the conceptual problems associated with the phrase "performing an identity," particularly for theorists who see identity as a fluid construct with no stable boundaries. Nonetheless, we find Goffman's examples compelling, particularly in the ordinary ways we construe social life. So, for example, newspaper reports about Rudolph Giuliani's withdrawal from the U.S. Senate campaign (e.g., New York Times, May 20, 2000, p. 1) draw attention to the discrepancy between Giuliani's performed identity as moralist (i.e., someone who advocated posting the Ten Commandments in every classroom) and revelations about his own marital infidelities. The undercurrent of these reports is the discrepancy between Giuliani's "identity performance" and his dubious qualifications to give it.

xiii No feature of our project exemplified this better than our attempt to establish "video clubs" (cf. Fredriksen, Sipusik, Gamoran, & Wolfe, 1992). Part of our project design included the establishment of video clubs in which project participants showed excerpts from their teaching to a small group of colleagues. Our hope was that the video clubs might allow teachers to elicit feedback from their colleagues and thus strengthen aspects of their classroom practice in the same way that videos are used in professions like medicine, counseling, sports and law enforcement. In the end, however, we had only a single meeting of the video club because the majority of teachers in the project decided not to continue with it. We see two reasons for this. First, we introduced video work less than a year into the project, which, in retrospect, was premature given the levels of trust and respect needed to make such an activity a learning experience. Videos, more than any other feature of our project, contravene the norms of privacy in schools. Second, videos pose a threat to the authenticity of one's performance. Paulo Freire (1993) has observed that videos "help us to understand better our own practice and to perceive the gulf that almost always exists between what we say and what we do" (p. 121). We suggest that it is precisely the gulf between reality and performance that videos threaten to expose. Interpreted in these Goffman-like terms, video work represented a region of danger: If the quality of teaching captured on die video was not consistent with, or did not reinforce, the performance participants gave during project meetings, then one was at-risk for being seen as an impostor. The fact that teachers chose not to continue participating in this aspect of the project speaks to the enormous challenges of building an intellectual community that reaches into the interior and well-protected world of the individual classroom.

xiv Dave's initial departure from the project calls attention to Little's (1990) work on the culture of isolation in schools. Participation presented Dave with an opportunity to step away from the seclusion of his classroom and engage collaboratively with colleagues. When he didn't like what he found, his initial reaction was to return to the private domain of his classroom, the most familiar and sanctioned venue in the vocational (as well as spatial) context of schools. Nor should we underestimate the role of choice in guiding Dave's actions. Giddens's (1979, 1984) writings on agency, Burke and Reitzes's (1981, 1991) research on identity, and the work of rational choice theorists (Scott, 1995) all speak to how individuals pursue their own interests. We interpret Dave's decision to leave the project as an effort to protect himself within the larger political context of his department. Rather than remain in the group and risk conflict with his chair, Dave removed himself from the situation. In other words, he chose the path of least resistance and the one that seemed to make the most sense given the existing social organization of the school.

xv We note that "essential tension" is our term for understanding these differences, not the one used by teachers. Teachers referred to the same tension as frictions between the "curriculum group" and the "reading group" or between the "curriculum group" and the "community of learners." The whole group was referred to as the "McDonnell Project," so named because of our funding source.

xvi Dave's return to the group points to the complexity of both the process we were engaged in and the story we are trying to tell. Despite on-going tension in the group, there was still an excitement (as Olivia's comment above attests) about reading books, arguing about texts, and engaging in discussions about literature and history. Dave, a voracious reader who was already a member of several reading groups, was convinced by Barb, a fellow English teacher and a personal friend, that he was missing out on "something interesting." After a 2-month hiatus, Dave rejoined the group. Over the 3-year history of the grant, the boundaries of the group remained permeable, with several members coming and going, student interns finishing their internship and being replaced by new ones, and teachers new to the school joining the group. The size of the group ranged between 22 and 26 teachers at any given time.

xvii For example, in our own group one teacher was ABD in history, another was in the midst of writing a thesis in Russian history, and two members of the English department held MAs in their subject.

xviii We recognize that at the highest levels of mathematics, particularly as represented in writings of Lakatos and others, the subject can be viewed differently. Our point here is not about mathematics and history/English in their most rarefied forms, but rather about the ways these subjects coalesce around communities of practice in high schools and universities. So, for example, undergraduate classes in the humanities (cf. Denby, 1996) often seek to engage the self as their core mission. We would be quite startled to see die "engagement of self" listed as the central aim of an undergraduate course in mathematics or engineering; a similar statement on a humanities syllabus might be considered mundane.

xix The make-up of our group was predominantly White and native to the Pacific Northwest, although it included an African-American woman and a woman of Native American descent, both of whom were also from the Pacific Northwest. There was a fairly even breakdown along gender lines throughout, the first 18 months of the project. Among the group were several Evangelical Christians, a practicing Catholic, and several Jews, including the two project leaders. The overwhelming majority of the group identified themselves as liberal Democrats, but several members were politically and socially conservative.

xx Examples (in addition to Patricia and Helen) included Ed, a White man, who reflected that "the church was very important, the church events were the most important, but coming back home we didn't practice in the way you might picture a family practicing," and Grace, who noted, I'm Caucasian obviously, but not quite obviously, [since] my dad's Armenian, so I could go either way."

xxi Carl Degler's (1986) book compares slavery in Brazil and the United States.

xxii Ravitch (2000, p. 148) presents data showing that two-thirds of high school teachers who teach a class called "history" or "world civilization" have not majored or minored in history.

xxiii In responding to this article, Barb reminded us that Lee's question was not as simple as "How do we teach history?" Instead, Barb felt that Lee had phrased his question dichoto-mously: Do we read texts in a vacuum or do we read them from a historical perspective? In thinking about her own role in this interaction, she wrote, "This discussion keeps assuming that Lee asked a fair question to which people were directly responding. Frankly, I don't think Kathy or Barb was paying much attention to Lee's original either/or question anymore. . . . Unfortunately, Barb then fuels Lee's fire unintentionally. In giving her free association spiel just at this time, she is inadvertently suggesting that such techniques should be used on the Stoddard letter. Heaven forbid. But since Lee believed that anything goes in the English department, he automatically assumes she is offering it as a way to read Stoddard. No wonder he blows up" (Barb, personal communication, June 7, 2000).

xxiv Barb provided another perspective on the conflict. She argued, "This whole conflict seems to be built upon Lee's misconceptions of what it means to read literature and what happens in the English classroom. The English teachers, in defense, try to give Lee a lesson on what it means to be an English teacher. Lee misinterprets this to mean he's being told how to become a better history teacher. . . . [In your paper] you suggest he was, in some people's eyes, stubborn because he failed to yield to a belief in these interchangeable strategies. I don't think that's true at all, although again, I suppose the transcript supports this interpretation. I'm beginning to think Lee's stubbornness came from die same place our persistence didwe sensed he was attacking our integrity. . . . and we were trying to defend it. We sensed he was putting us in an anything-goes box and we were vehemently suggesting he come out of his own perceptual box and see our discipline as we see it. This was the real conversation happening underneath it allbut I can only see it in hindsight. I don't think any of us understood it at the time, but the emotionally charged nature of these exchanges should have been a clue to all of us that fundamental issues of integrity were at the heart of this disagreement" (Barb, personal communication, June 7, 2000).

xxv We draw here on notions of reading in the humanities based on the work of Robert Scholes (1985, 1989).

xxvi Here the contrastive foci of situative .and cognitive approaches to social learning sharpen the issue for professional community. As Salomon and Perkins (1998) note, situative approaches conceptualize learning holistically, and the "hoped-for transfer is to other similar activity systems" (p. 10). In this respect a teacher community formed around reading books might transfer to other contexts in which adults come together to readin a church setting or even in social settings in the home. But in the cognitive approach, the focus is on how the social context equips the learner with new capacities, new ways of seeing, hearing, and listening hat serve the learner in other contexts (cf. Damon, 1991). Here the classroom represents a dramatically different context from a collegial forum.

xxvii Frank's long turn here totaled 507 words, which was considerably longer than any other single turn he took in previous discussions. Prior to the discussion of The Organic Machine, his longest single turn in any meeting came to 146 words. Frank's usual participation was limited to short (20 words or less) responses to his colleagues, a fact that underscores the difference in his participation here.

xxviii Student teachers came to play an important role in this project. Viewed simultaneously as both insiders and outsiders, they straddled the worlds of university and school. Rhonda, in particular, stood out in her capacity to function as a broker between the two sites. For instance, she successfully introduced several professional education texts to the group, something we refrained from doing after the difficulty surrounding the discussion of Scholes's work in the 2nd month of the project. In Goffman's terms Rhonda derived a certain type of permission or authenticity from working as a student teacher at the school. In this sense, we see her occupying the liminal role of "insider-outsider" described by Victor Turner, which provided her and the other student teachers with opportunities to do things we couldn't.

xxix For example, in the discussion of The Sweeter the Juice we accounted for all of the structuring comments that framed the discussion; here, our structuring comments dropped to three comments total.

xxx As the excerpt in Table 1 shows, males dominated the conversation about the dam construction. We have identified several other places in group discussions where gender divisions were noticeable, but we are saving this analysis for a separate paper.

xxxi The passage that Alice read aloud from White is noteworthy in weaving literary and historical elements: "Planning was critical to die river, but plans for the Columbia rarely regarded it as anything more than abstraction, a prime mover providing potential kilowatts. . . . Lewis Mumford was not a planner, but he wrote eloquently of planning. It was a difficult task. Planning is an exercise of power, and in a modern state much real power is suffused with boredom. The agents of planning are usually boring; the planning process is boring; the implementation of plans is always boring. In a democracy boredom works for bureaucracies and corporations as smell works for a skunk. It keeps danger away. Power does not have to be exercised behind the scenes. It can be open. The audience is asleep. The modern world is forged amidst our inattention" (p. 64).

xxxii The guiding questions originated at the end of an all-day meeting when the group was deliberating over how to proceed with the curriculum development part of the project. In response to an article on interdisciplinary curriculum, we debated whether it would be a good idea to have a set of questions for each grade level or a set of questions that extended across the grades. At this point, Dave took the floor and informed the group that he used a series of questions to guide inquiry in his English classes. He wrote on the board a list of questions that included: What do we do when we read? What does it mean to write? How are reading and writing acts of composing? What kinds of strategies do we employ in the face of difficulty? Rhonda, one of the student teachers, recognized several of the questions as similar to those presented in The Power of Their Ideas by Deborah Meier (1995). She brought the book to the following meeting, at which time the group began to explore the habits of mind Meier articulates. The group eventually came up with its own set of guiding questions, which several teachers posted on the walls of their classrooms.

xxxiii This was a general trend in this discussion. For example, Lee expressed" dissent differently than he had in earlier meetings. Here he began by acknowledging that he has heard a point made by Charlie, his old sparring partner, with the phrase "I understand that" before he went on to press for further clarification. In this same discussion we hear Olivia initiate a response to Grace with the comment, "I fully agree with you, but . . ." Only after this affirmation did she go on to press Grace to consider the broader implications of her comments. In a response to Olivia, Charlie opened with "I share your concern, but. . ." Throughout this discussion, group members continually pressed each other for clarification and disagreed with each other in more civil and constructive ways as evidenced by these microfeatures of discourse.

xxxiv Throughout the duration of the project, we kept track of the material resources (e.g., readings, videos, lesson plans, examples of student work, announcements) participants brought to project meetings to share with the group. The first instance of this occurred at die first summer institute (7 months into the project) when Nancy shared a lesson plan she had designed around The Sweeter the Juice. From that point onward, different participants brought resources to almost every project meeting. For instance, Quentin brought in several articles on interdisciplinary curriculum; Nancy brought in two of her student's essays on Makes Me Wanna Hotter for the group to read after the discussion of the book; Lee brought in excerpts from the Lewis and Clark journals to supplement the group's reading of Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, Olivia brought in readings about Asian American authors to supplement Good Scent from a Strange Mountain; and two of the student interns called the group's attention to Lisa Delpit's (1988) "The Silenced Dialogue" during a discussion of assessment.

xxxv As part of our overall analysis of project data, we engaged in an extensive analysis of group discourse. For example, all text-based discussions were transcribed verbatim and then subjected to a four-tiered coding scheme. We coded each discussion turn from the standpoint of whether the speaker was responding to the previous comment, asking a question, directing the group to action, or informing the group of something. We then coded each turn according to the knowledge source informing what was said. For instance, a speaker's comments might reflect autobiographical information, his or her teaching experience, or subject matter knowledge (as opposed to general or popular knowledge). In addition, we coded each comment about texts according to a scheme of evaluating textual understanding that we adapted from the work of literary theorist and semiotician Robert Scholes (1985). His approach distinguishes between different levels of textual engagement identified in the categories of "reading," "interpretation," and "criticism." We included our own "epistemological" category as well. Our codes also allowed us to determine whether ideas were being revoiced by others and whether previous project discussions were alluded to so that we could look for evidence of a shared "project memory." We entered our discourse codes into the QSR-NUDIST (Non-numerical Unstructured Data Indexing Searching and Theory-building) software program which enabled us to look at broad quantitative changes in discourse over time, an approach that is quite different from the microanalytic qualitative examinations of discourse that we have relied upon here. The focus here on coherence of discourse is often a feature of group discussion analysis (cf. Schiffrin, 1987, 1994). But focusing on coherence of speech can obscure questions of the content and quality of talk. Speech may be more coherent, but the ideas discussed may not necessarily be better or more nuanced. This question, which by necessity varies across topics and subject matters, is typically not addressed by discourse analysts. By operationalizing our coding scheme, we were also able to assess the intellectual quality of our book club discussions over time, and to describe the changing nature of participation both for specific individuals and for the group. (See Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 1998, for details.)

xxxvi The data base for this project is extensive, comprising numerous sources of data on both individual group members and the group as a whole. In a series of five semi-structured interviews across the 2½ years of the project, we asked participants about their subject matter backgrounds, their views on the project, and their views on colleagues. One of these interviews involved a think-aloud task, using a set of readings including a poem, an excerpt from a memoir, and a historical document. From this task, we attempted to understand how teachers constructed interpretations from text and how their readings differed across disciplines. We then asked teachers to talk about how students might read these texts. We also collected a series of surveys and evaluations related to the project from individual participants, s well as copies of the documents teachers shared with each other and the email exchanges hat occurred over the course of the project. However, die primary source of data for this analysis consists of transcripts of discussions at our all-day meetings. We audio taped all project meetings, in addition to keeping extensive field notes. These tapes were transcribed verbatim and then carefully coded. For a discussion of coding, see the previous note.

xxxvii We must emphasize here that every negotiation of the essential tension is temporary. As the language we have used suggests, at the heart of the essential tension is a dynamism that resists stability. Just when the balance of tension seems productive, the human element shifts direction and produces a new constellation of relationships that must be negotiated anew.

xxxviii In a forthcoming paper, we explore the ways in which deep and irreducible differences in the belief systems of group members ruptured the relationships that had developed over the previous year and a half. Difference, once acknowledged, became a wild card that challenged the rules of the game to that point.

xxxix In the third meeting of the project, we assembled a series of short, primary-source documents in history and had teachers read and discuss them in small groups. Grace became impatient with members of her group who paused to consider the origin of each text before going on to the next one; she suggested that it would be "better to read them all first and then go back." Over time Grace came to understand some of the unique features of historical readings of primary source documents. The "sourcing heuristic," or the act of checking the, source of a document before reading its content, characterizes mature historical practice (cf. Wineburg, 2001).

xl We also benefited immeasurably from meeting and discussing the craft of doing history with two of the historians whose books we readChristopher Browning and Richard White.

xli The work of this project found its way into the school through a number of channels. Several of the texts we read as a group made it into the formal curriculum, including the novel Jasmine, as well as the primary source documents for the Battle of Lexington. In addition, two of the teachers developed an interdisciplinary unit on Vietnam, based in part on the work of our project, and a history and a language arts teacher coordinated their 11th grade curricula. Two of our members decided to team-teach a humanities course as a result of their interactions on this project; both thought it unlikely that they would have volunteered to teach together had it not been for this common experience^ The project affected instruction as well as curriculum. Several of the teachers attempted to integrate into their teaching the guiding questions we refer to above. Other teachers reported trying to foster in their classrooms the kinds of discussions we had as a group.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 103 Number 6, 2001, p. 942-1012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10833, Date Accessed: 1/20/2022 5:58:21 AM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review
Article Tools
Related Articles

Related Discussion
Post a Comment | Read All

About the Author
  • Pamela Grossman
    Stanford University
    E-mail Author
    Pamela Grossman is Professor of English Education and co-chair of Curriculum and Teacher Education at Stanford University.
  • Sam Wineburg
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    Samuel Wineburg is Professor of Cognitive Studies in Education and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Washington.
  • Stephen Woolworth
    University of Washington
    Stephen Woolworth is the Project Director for Title II at the University of Washington in Tacoma.
Member Center
In Print
This Month's Issue