Towards a critical approach to professional development: Teachers' construction of professional identities and issues in children's literacies

Mellinee Kay Lesley, University of Pennsylvania


This study was a year long investigation into the evolving knowledge and identities of elementary teachers as they worked through issues in children's literacies in a professional development program. The research took place with a group of fifteen faculty members teaching in a suburban school district outside of Philadelphia. The text describes the complexities of learning as it was both inspired and measured through the context of professional development. The professional development program for this research was based on a long-term, participatory model of professional development. Critical pedagogy was also infused into this model in the content for the program as well as the approach to and assessment of the program. Data and analysis for this study occurred generally through an interpretative methodology. More specifically, data was collected largely through teacher-research and narrative inquiry. Sources of data included focus group interviews, field notes, transcriptions of class discussions, the participants' journal writing and other writing assignments, pre/post surveys, course evaluations, and my reflective journal. Individual follow-up interviews were also conducted one year after the end of the program to gather more of a diachronic perspective into this study. Directed around the research question, what happens when faculty members reflect on and talk about—construct—knowledge of literacy learning, knowledge of assessment, and knowledge of parental involvement within the context of an inquiry oriented approach to professional development, this study investigates the often contradictory roles that are in dialogue with one another in teachers' professional identities. Some of the arguments arising from this study include questioning the role universities play in professional development collaborations with schools and the need for a critical agenda and approach to professional development initiatives. Finally, this study argues that reform in fostering more equitable processes of educating and assessing children's literacies is directly tied to reform in teacher's professional development. Stated simply, before we can create spaces for children's learning, we must first create a space for teacher's learning.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Lesley, Mellinee Kay, "Towards a critical approach to professional development: Teachers' construction of professional identities and issues in children's literacies" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9913490.