Collaboration, innovation, and rule breaking: Advanced teachers' descriptions of their professional growth




Sprott, Ryan A.

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Despite the large amount of time and funds schools dedicate to teacher professional development, there exists limited indication of professional development's widespread effectiveness. Additionally, since teachers possess different ways of knowing, they, like students, require differentiated learning experiences to best meet their unique developmental needs. As such, this study utilized Drago-Severson's learner-oriented model of leadership, a framework for differentiated teacher learning, to study teachers' perspectives on their professional development. Participants were teachers who exhibited multiple characteristics of individuals beyond the socializing way of knowing. These teachers were selected because they exhibit a high capacity for collaborative problem-solving and critical thinking skills, characteristics deemed as growing in importance in contemporary educational contexts.

During three interviews, participants described professional development experiences that either promoted or deterred their growth. Findings pointed toward the importance of time and space for collaborative reflection which took place across five contexts: 1) incorporating students as professional development partners, 2) traveling as a teacher, 3) learning with an assumption-challenging academic, 4) developing a core, lasting professional relationship, and 5) working in professions outside of education. The participants reported that hierarchical mandates and structural obstacles to collaboration were the primary deterrents to their professional growth. The study also examined to what extent Drago-Severson's proposed professional development activities have played a role in these participants' growth. The study's findings illuminate potential supports and obstacles for teachers who possess ways of knowing that are especially suited to meet the diverse and changing challenges of today's educational settings.


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Adult learning, Professional development, Teacher development, Teacher training



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies