A Case Study of One History Teacher’s Problem Solving in the Context of Collaborative Reflection
Popp, Jacquelynn S
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Understanding how teachers identify and address authentic, domain-specific problems of practice on an ongoing basis is fundamental to informing researchers and teacher-educators about how teachers learn. However, despite widespread agreement in the literature that teacher learning is situated and that teachers learn through reflection, very few studies actually investigate how teachers attempt to iteratively solve problems of practice in relation to the particulars of their context. There is also scant research on changes over time in reflective processes, instruction, or their relationship to what teachers regard as problems of practice. The current longitudinal case study closely examined one middle school history teacher’s ongoing process of reflection in collaboration with researchers (mainly the author) and how discussion of problems of practice that emerged in these reflections impacted the teacher’s knowledge and practices over a two-and-a-half-year period of time. Thus, this study takes a teacher-centered approach to exploring teacher learning, investigating the specific problems the teacher identified as important and her process of solving these problems in her classroom. The findings from this case study of teacher learning reveal a complex interplay among opportunities to learn, design, enact, and reflect. Findings from the study indicate that the teacher’s framing of problems generally progressed from a focus on facilitating inquiry-based historical discussions, to a focus on engaging students in discipline-specific inquiry practices, to a focus on getting students to take a more active role in deepening their historical inquiry processes. These shifts in framing were found to be related to changes in the teacher’s own knowledge and understanding of historical inquiry, her explorations of instructional practices for supporting students’ historical inquiry, and her reflection on enactments of them. The courses of action the teacher took to address problems of practice aligned well with theoretical models of practitioners’ reflection, including defining problems, developing solutions, testing solutions, and either experiencing resolution or redefining the problem. The teacher’s courses of action differed depending on the nature of the problem. These various findings offer insights about considerations for supporting teacher professional development and methodological considerations for studying teacher reflection, learning, and change.
problems of practice