Collaboration in Preparation

In Canada, Ministries of Education mandate standards of professionalism that teacher candidates must achieve during initial teacher education [ITE] (Perlaza & Tardif, 2016). Although these standards are grounded in a discourse of care, collaboration, and ongoing learning, in reality, externally-imposed policy goals reinforce a type of professionalism based on efficiency, accountability, and competition (Holloway & Brass, 2018; Moore & Clark, 2016). Working in environments which emphasize performativity, teachers take up this logic as they construct their professional identity and concept of work around neoliberal ideals, leading to a decrease in their autonomy (Hall & McGinity, 2015). In a similar vein, professional learning communities (PLC) are often mentioned in educational policy as a way to achieve the standards of professionalism; however, forced participation risks leading teachers to assume that PLC learning is only professional when it is based on measurable and observable outcomes (Servage, 2009). Thus, while PLCs are a proposed professional learning model for ITE programs, their implementation may result in teacher candidates being initiated into the discourse of accountability (Hellsten et al., 2009; Rigas & Kuchapski, 2018).

To explore this issue, we piloted a novel course at an institution which structures its ITE program around a policy of PLCs. Taking a case study approach, we report the experiences of Amy, a French second language teacher candidate who participated in this course. Analysing the data through the lens of performativity (Ball, 2003), we organize Amy’s understanding of teacher work into three constructs of “professional” proposed by Servage (2009): professional as caregiver, as manager, and as scientist. Our findings demonstrate how Amy’s concept of the PLC becomes warped through the standards. Although Amy can express her commitment to care, collaboration, and ongoing learning, these commitments belie beliefs, values, and actions which are more in line with performativity. When collaboration fails between French second language teacher candidates, for example, Amy finds recourse in intentionally performing her language knowledge and skills. More generally, we recognize an inverse of the relationship between PLCs and professionalism: rather than adhering to professional standards to sustain PLCs, candidates may view PLC participation as a necessary performance which proves their dedication to the standards.

This study was presented in October 2022 at the International Study Association on Teachers and Teaching (ISATT) in Bordeaux, France. 

Kaszuba, A., Masson, M., Grant, R., Arnott, S. & Friesen, B. (2022, October 6). Supporting collaboration in language teacher education: Professional learning initiatives in a French as a second language context. International Study Association on Teachers and Teaching (ISATT), Bordeaux, France.