A socio-cultural analysis of teacher learning: developing professional identities amidst struggles for inclusive education
One of the critical imperatives for the development of inclusive school systems is the capacity to nurture and develop teachers who have the skills, critical sensibilities, and the contextual awareness to provide quality educational access, participation, and outcomes for all students; however, research on teacher learning for inclusive education has not yet generated a robust body of knowledge to understand how teachers become inclusive teachers in institutions where exclusion is historical and ubiquitous. Drawing from socio-cultural theory, this study aimed to fill this gap through an examination of teacher learning for inclusive education in an urban professional learning school. In particular, I aimed to answer the following two questions: (a) What social discourses are present in a professional learning school for inclusive education?, and (b) How do teachers appropriate these social discourses in situated practice? I used analytical tools from Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Grounded Theory to analyze entry and exit interviews with teacher residents, principals, site professors, and video-stimulated interviews with teacher residents, observations of classroom practices and thesis seminars, and school documents. I found two social discourses that I called discourses of professionalism, as they offered teachers a particular combination of tools, aiming to universalize certain tools for doing and thinking that signaled what it meant to be a professional teacher in the participating schools. These were the Total Quality Management like discourse (TQM-like) and the Inclusive Education-like discourse. The former was dominant in the schools, whereas the latter was dominant in the university Master's program. These discourses overlapped in teachers' classrooms practices, creating tensions. To understand how these tensions were resolved, this study introduced the concept of curating, a kind of heuristic development that pertains particularly to the work achieved in boundary practices in which individuals must claim multiple memberships by appropriating the discourses and their particular tool kits of more than one community of practice. This study provides recommendations for future research and the engineering of professional development efforts for inclusive education.