Conversations Around Practice: Mediating Opportunities to Learn About Teaching Science

Open Access
Ricketts, Amy Rene
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 08, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Jim Nolan, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Greg Kelly, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Jim Nolan, Committee Member
  • Anne Whitney, Committee Member
  • Stephanie Knight, Outside Member
  • Professional Learning Communities
  • Professional Development
  • Teacher Education
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Microethnography
  • Science Education
This study contributes to the knowledge base regarding the ways in which school-based, ongoing, professional learning communities mediate teacher learning. Specifically, it investigates an organic learning group as they met in various contexts over a full school year, engaging in conversations around their teaching practices that focused on supporting students’ explanations of scientific phenomena. The group consisted of ten middle school science teachers from three schools in the same public school district, their district science coordinator and a professor of science education. Drawing on traditions of ethnography and discourse analysis, this case study: 1) characterizes each episode of the group’s conversations around practice in terms of its potential for generating transformative learning opportunities, 2) identifies which spontaneous and designed features of those conversations accounted for differences in the generative nature of the talk, and 3) explains how those features mediated the generative nature of the talk. In this group, the differences between more- and less- generative talk could be attributed to five features: the context of the conversation; the tools participants used to represent their practice; the stance with which they represented and took up one another’s practices in the talk; the resources they drew on (in terms of expertise); the conversational routines in which they engaged. These five features interacted in complex, patterned ways to mediate the generative nature of the group’s talk.