Refining literacy practices through inquiry-oriented professional learning : a multiple case study with early career teachers.
Teacher learning in response to professional development is still an evolving field, and there is a need for more information about how literacy professional learning can support the specific needs, concerns, and practices of early career teachers (ECTs). The purpose of this descriptive, multiple case study was to examine the lived experiences of three ECTs as they took up inquiry-oriented professional learning and enacted change in their literacy classrooms. Using a critical constructivist perspective, the researcher framed the study through practitioner inquiry, which recognizes teachers as knowers and researchers, in collaboration with the Interconnected Model of Teacher Professional Growth, which was used to trace each teacher’s learning within their unique contexts. Over the course of a semester, the three ECTs identified a problem of practice, co-constructed a professional learning plan, explored relevant professional learning, and refined their literacy practices. The researcher facilitated the inquiry process, observed each teacher’s classroom twice a month, and conducted interviews to support the teachers’ reflections. This study addressed the following research questions: How do ECTs take up inquiry-oriented professional learning to investigate a problem of practice in their literacy classrooms? How do ECTs enact change in their literacy classrooms in response to inquiry-oriented professional learning? Through cross-case analysis, the researcher determined that the three ECTs found a balance between facilitation and self-direction that enhanced their professional growth, they redefined what counts as professional learning, they were empowered as learners and in turn empowered their students, and they became more knowledgeable agents of change within their literacy classrooms. Additionally, the teachers demonstrated similar pathways of professional growth as they worked within local social and political structures to enact new practices that addressed their internal dissonance, to experiment with practices to support their students, to identify dissonance in their teaching practices, and to unpack the relationship between their beliefs and actions. Ultimately, this study found that inquiry-oriented professional learning offers an effective model for literacy professional learning that can increase teacher ownership and self-efficacy, and support ECTs in acting and reflecting within the structures of their professional setting as they implement more responsive literacy practices.