Situated Learning in San Antonio Writing Project Open Institutes
Situated learning provides a way to "speak about relations between newcomers and old timers, and about activities, identities, artifacts, and communities of knowledge and practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Studies have shown that teachers who participate in professional development opportunities that allow for teachers to reflect on their practice and consider how they will incorporate how they see their teaching communities are more likely to be socially just teachers that are active members of their education community. Analyzing the activities, interactions, and discourse of participants in professional development that considers learning by doing as well as community building is important to understand. The participants for this study enrolled in a week-long Open Institute sponsored by the San Antonio Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project. The data for this study included semi structured interviews, writing samples, websites, and transcripts of audio recordings of the institute activities. This study used a discourse analysis. Findings from this study suggest that the activities of the institute and the manner they were used created an environment that allowed teachers to solve problems that existed in their local school community. Findings also suggest teacher leader willingness to be open about their professional and personal life was paramount in creating an atmosphere that promoted solidarity and also allowed for innovative writing programs that were locally based and tailored to the needs of each community. Participants felt comfortable working alongside their colleagues that they already knew. This established a level of comfort that served as a catalyst for difficult talks about school culture and practices in need of reflection. Future research could continue to analyze programs such as the open institute's effect on teachers as they go back to their classrooms and practice their newly reflected sense of community with students and fellow teachers.