DRAFTING A NEW CHAPTER ON CRITICAL FRIENDS GROUPS: EXPLORING TEACHER LEARNING FROM A VYGOTSKIAN PERSPECTIVE

Open Access
Author:
Poehner, Priya Maria
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 19, 2009
Committee Members:
  • James F Nolan Jr., Committee Chair
  • Karen E Johnson, Committee Member
  • Bernard Joel Badiali, Committee Member
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • teacher professional development
  • Critical Friends Groups
  • Sociocultural Theory
  • teacher learning
Abstract:
Teacher learning can be examined and understood from a Sociocultural Theory perspective in that learning occurs through social interaction rather than through the acquiring of skills needed to simply transmit knowledge. This epistemology of teacher learning acknowledges that teachers have expertise that can be used to solve dilemmas that arise in their practice. Critical Friends Groups (CFG) are one such model of professional development that involves groups of teachers meeting on a regular basis to identify, present and reflect on questions that are inherent to a particular teacher’s classroom and practice. This study is one of the first attempts to look at Critical Friends Groups (CFG) from a Sociocultural Theory perspective. Employing SCT in this study underscores the social origins of individual teachers’ performance and helps us to trace the history of their learning as it took place at each stage of the CFG process: prior to, during and after the group session. Both the teachers whose development provided the focus for this study, Catherine and Anna, brought unique histories as teachers and learners to the dilemma that they presented to their group. These prior experiences created their initial orientation and framed how they understood the dilemma prior to their involvement in the CFG process. As much of current literature on teacher professional development is focused on the impact of collaboration and inquiry on teacher practice, this dissertation explores the potential contribution that the study makes to this field.