Emergence of ideas within an unconventional teacher research group

Year: 2012

Author: Laidlaw, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The paper responds to the ethnographic performance The First Time from the perspective of a group of educators from Alberta, Canada, who meet monthly to discuss educational issues. The response is located within a discussion of our group's formation, workings and purposes. This teacher/educator inquiry and conversation group has worked emergently and alternately in relation to typical professional development endeavours, which often seemed to our group's founders-one university educator and one school-based early childhood educator-to be 'top down' and administration or professional association driven.

The group viewed the video of The First Time performance, then used it as both point and counterpoint for a discussion of their teacher identity formation in Alberta. Working both across our own experiences of teaching 'firsts', to the 'firsts' of new teachers we have worked with and supervised, we considered what the play said to us. After the experience of viewing and discussing the work, we met in conversation over skype with the ethnographer, Michelle Ludecke. The themes that emerged from this series of rich conversations have been developed into a series of thematic narrative provocations about teacher identity development and the positioning of new teaching recruits in the Albertan context.

This professional conversation group began with the "slow hunch" (Johnson, 2011) that creating and studying within a different kind of teacher research group, using more fluid and nonlinear structures for learning together might support thinking about matters of education, learning, and schools in new ways. In the context of a transformation agenda within the province, we questioned how real transformation might be possible without much larger and deeper changes to the interconnected systems: school-based, university-based, and other education stakeholders. As we considered 'who might be interested in participating,' we were drawn to the idea that rich "internal diversity" (Davis & Sumara, 2008)-in group members-might create possibilities that might not be present if our group were comprised of teachers all from the same learning/working environment, or at similar levels of experience (see Luke, 2007). Attending to "redundancy in a system-that is, those duplications and excesses that are necessary for complex co-activity" (p. 858, Davis & Sumara, 2010) we looked for commonalities. Thirdly, Johnson's (2010) notion that, "Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly" (p. 16) shaped our context for conversations that might generate exploration of innovative ideas.