Online teacher learning communities : how can Facebook support professional development?
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Developing and supporting teacher identity has been largely overlooked in the professional development arena. Components of identity are typically associated with the more affective development of teaching capacities. This dissertation explored teacher identity as expressed on the Facebook page of a non-profit professional development organization, Ecorise. Teachers participated in face-to-face training with Ecorise and some were active participants of the private Facebook group. The Facebook page was used by the organization and teachers to share information and offer support. A framework of teacher identity was created from the literature. Four main categories included contextual identity, formative influences, professional identity and personal identity. Discourse analysis of the Facebook page interactions and analysis of survey responses highlighted use and impact of the Facebook page on and by teachers in the context of teacher identity. Findings in contextual identity focused in two main categories, discourse identity and affinity identity. The latter included indications of how the individuals aligned with the group identity. Liking and commenting on the Facebook page were gateways to moving to a more central rather than peripheral participation in the group. Facilitation of the group was not overt but occurred through group interaction, particularly validation. The nature of engagement differed between teachers new to the organization and those who were considered veterans. Some teachers reported preferring Canvas, an online course management tool focused on content delivery, as an online support, although many teachers were not aware of the Facebook page. Teachers using the Facebook page sought information on how to implement projects and topics. Facebook promotes reflection, an important formative influence. Through sharing stories teachers reflected on practice. These stories prompted validation providing encouragement to teachers. In exchanging “how-to’s” and telling stories teachers expressed and developed their pedagogical knowledge, the general focus being on instructional rather than content knowledge. Creativity was evident in the descriptions and photographs of student outcomes. Through all, the components of personal identity are intertwined illustrating the close connection between professional and personal identity and the concept of teaching as a calling. This emphasizes the importance of considering the affective domain in teacher training and investigating the use of tools, such as Facebook, that promote and support those qualities that build teacher identity.
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