Original Research

Conversations in a professional learning community: An analysis of teacher learning opportunities in mathematics

Million Chauraya, Karin Brodie
Pythagoras | Vol 39, No 1 | a363 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v39i1.363 | © 2018 Million Chauraya, Karin Brodie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 December 2016 | Published: 31 October 2018

About the author(s)

Million Chauraya, Department of Applied Education, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe
Karin Brodie, School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


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Abstract

The growing perception of professional learning communities as an effective professional development approach needs to be supported with knowledge of how such communities create learning opportunities for teachers. Activities in professional learning communities are underpinned by collegial conversations that foster learning, and in this article we analysed such conversations for learning opportunities in one professional learning community of mathematics teachers. Data consisted of audio-recorded community conversations. The focus of the conversations was to understand the thinking behind learners’ errors, and teachers engaged in a number of activities related to learner errors and learner reasoning. Our analyses show how opportunities for learning were created in identifying the origins of learners’ errors as well as learners’ thinking underlying their errors. Results also showed that the teachers had opportunities for learning how to identify learners’ learning needs and in turn the teachers’ own learning needs. The teachers also had opportunities for deepening their own understanding of the conceptual meaning of ratio. The learning opportunities were supported by the following: having a learning focus, patterns of engagement that were characterised by facilitator questioning, teacher responses and explanations, and sharing knowledge. Such mutual engagement practices in professional learning communities resulted in new and shared meanings about teachers’ classroom practices. Our findings also show the critical role of a facilitator for teacher learning in professional learning communities.

Keywords

Professional learning community; Professional learning conversations; Teacher learning; Learner errors

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