The learned teacher: Teachers' constructions of themselves as members of a professional learning community

Year: 2002

Author: Hardy, Ian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper argues for the need to further theorise the concept of teacher professional learning communities and provides empirical evidence to support this case. The paper presents findings from an ongoing research project, which investigates the nature of teacher professional learning communities. The study reveals that actual communities do not conform to a normailized articulation of features, as outlined in much of the literature on this topic. Consequently, it represents an attempt to engage in the difficult but necessary task of simultaneously fashioning theory from practice, whilst interpreting theory, in practice. The study proposes that current functionalist understandings of teacher professional learning communities are based upon a literature base which is insufficiently nuanced to capture the complexity inherent within these bodies. A broader base of a more critical sociological literature is also drawn upon to better understand actual, "lived" teacher communities, which are somewhat difficult to describe. In part, such communities exhibit features of functionalist conceptions but they are also organic entities which may be quite unpredictable in their outcomes and cannot be reduced to specific features; they each have their own specific "logic of practice" (Bourdieu, 1990) which influences their activities, in their particular field. The argument proposed here is that in one particular community, this complexity may be represented by the many purposes which the community served, arguably often unbeknown to its members, which fashioned the actual community. This paper tries to add to the existing theoretical base of literature, at the same time as providing evidence to support this theorisation.