Jump in, the Water is Fine: Job-Embedded Teacher Professional Development
This qualitative study explores teacher professional development with an eye directed towards job-embedded professional development, specifically the enactment of differentiated instruction (DI) utilizing the services of an ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) coach on selected campuses in a large suburban school district located in southwest Texas. The researcher examines the professional development experiences of two suburban middle school teachers in the midst of their second year of being coached and examined how these teachers described their learning experiences. Narrative inquiry (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990) provided the framework for studying teacher knowledge in teacher professional development. The four theoretical pillars on which this investigation relies are Dewey’s (1938) theory of experience, Schwab’s (1983) four commonplaces of teaching and educational thinking, Connelly and Clandinin’s (1988) concepts of personal practical knowledge and teacher as curriculum implementer verses teacher as curriculum maker, and Craig’s (in press, a) focus on “what individual teachers already know and do.” The questions guiding this study include: What is the experience of DI? How does DI impact teachers and how does it shape teachers’ thinking about their own practices? How does job-embedded professional development influence change in teaching practices? What might the researcher learn through creating a narrative case from teachers who are currently living their second-year of being coached by ASCD faculty? The findings identify four themes consistently expressed by the participants, including the impact of one's past on how one experiences the present, the complexity of teaching and learning, orientation towards change suggests that constant reflection, evaluation, and experimentation are integral elements of the teaching role, and the on-going construction and re-construction of narratives, which allows teachers to navigate their experiences. The implications of this research for educators are two-fold; the first is the need for a metacognitive understanding of how one perceives the role of narrative assembly in how one makes meaning, and the second is the usefulness and limits of job-embedded professional development. The implications of this study for researchers includes the process of navigating powerful professional development experiences for teachers, realizing and embracing narrative truths, and considerations about the tremendous need for schools and school districts to offer our current practitioners better and more meaningful professional development experiences.