Conceptual Tools for Teacher Community Research

| June 15, 2010

Article:

Levine, T. H. (2010). Tools for the Study and Design of Collaborative Teacher Learning: The Affordances of Different Conceptions of Teacher Community and Activity Theory. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37.

Article Review

Teacher professional community has been advocated by scholars in the field of education as a vehicle for professional development and growth. Inquiry communities (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1992), communities of learners (Barth, 1984), and community of practice (Wenger, 1998) are but some variations on this research theme of teacher community. While teacher community help educators to address historic isolation of its profession, this widely and loosely used term might become a shallow concept without careful conceptualization. Levine (2010) addresses this issue in this paper by summarizing various conceptualizations of teacher community and adding two theoretical foundations-activity theory and third space–to the popular conceptions of teacher community. Levine (2010) summarizes four camps of teacher community conceptions–inquiry community, teacher professional community, community of learners, and community of practice, and provides several caveats on these current conceptions. In the context of historic isolation of teacher’s work in the United States, scholars might romanticize the experience and work of teacher communities. Levine (2010) contends that teacher community should be understood as a means for educators’ self-specified ends. In addition, these teacher community conceptions should draw on more learning theories to frame the actual experiences and activities occurring within these teacher communities. He suggested that activity theory, with one of its focuses on (conceptual) tools, and the notion of third space that encourages divergent perspectives, could be two theoretical frames to strengthen the concept of teacher community.

EdLab Connection
Building strong online communities is a critical consideration of current development of Teaching & Learning Network (TLN). One of such TLN features is message channel/bulletin board that allows TC students and alumni to network through constantly sharing, updating and receiving professional information. In addition, expertise sharing will be the focus of TLN online community, which responds to Levine’s caveat of specifying ends for teacher/educator (online) community. Undoubtedly, there are more innovative ends we could create for the TLN community. Any thoughts?