Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Joan Mazur

Abstract

This descriptive, holistic, single case study focuses on how an experienced teacher with 21 years of teaching was able to negotiate participation in a community of practice (CoP). The study applies Wenger’s (1998) Community of Practice framework as a lens through which to gain insight into the subject’s professional transformation. Wenger’s multilayered theoretical approach, including the four components of his social learning model, provides a common language to describe participation.

The specific research questions that frame this inquiry are: 1) How did an experienced secondary mathematics teacher, involved in an ongoing and dual-faceted professional development project, negotiate meaningful participation in a community of practice? 2) How did the kinds of participation in which she chose to engage affect her professionally? and, 3) How did her classroom practice change?

Findings from the study include: 1) Wenger’s Stages of Development (potential, coalescing, active, dispersed and memorable) for a CoP were in evidence in this teacher’s participatory experiences. 2) Internal and external factors worked in concert to support

transformed practice. 3) The tension between experience and competence is an important factor when thinking about the difference between an expert and experienced teacher. 4) The case subject negotiated her participation through intellectual partnerships formed through the interaction with her Peer CoP and educational experts and researchers—an example of legitimate participation in authentic professional activities at a level quite different from most “teacher professional development” activities. The evolving shared repertoire of changed mathematical instructional practices was tangible evidence of transformative interactions. These findings indicate that a viable, robust CoP can be stimulated through external scaffolding and coordination of learning activities in combination with a joint enterprise of growth-minded professionals.

The data provide insight into the professional transformation that occurred within the case teacher’s practice as she enacted the new, shared repertoire with students in her classroom. The new repertoire resulted in improved student learning not just during her active involvement in the CoP but after the community disperses, in a penultimate stage of a CoP described by Wenger (1998), suggesting that the results and transformed practice can be sustained.

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