Understanding Collective Conversations in a Mathematics Professional Learning Network

  • Author / Creator
    Wang, Xiong
  • Online professional learning communities have become prominent in teachers’ professional development in recent years (Beach & Willows, 2014; Borba & Llinares, 2012; Dash, de Kramer, O’Dwyer, Masters, & Russell, 2012; Trust, 2012). As a new form of them (Trust, 2016), professional learning networks (PLNs) have the potential to make teachers’ professional learning more “participatory, grassroots and supportive” (Carpenter & Krutka, 2015, p. 708) and make it possibile for teachers to access important resources that they could not afford or even access in the local communities (Dede, Breit, Ketelhut, McCloskey, & Whitehouse, 2005). It is not surprising, then, that a growing number of mathematics teachers have participated in PLNs to extend their professional learning. Yet, what their conversation structures look like in PLNs and what could emerge from their conversations in relation to mathematics-for-teaching remains unknown. This study addresses this gap by investigating the collective conversations in a PLN to understand its affordances.
    This research used interpretive inquiry as the methodology and complexity thinking as the theoretical framework. One PLN was targeted to collect the archived data — blog posts and comments — from which four blog posts and their comments were selected as illustrative examples. Several data analysis techniques and conceptual frameworks including recursive dynamics, the features of fractal images, thematic analysis, mathematics-for-teaching, and necessary conditions for complex systems were adopted in this study.

    The results presented the diverse conversation structures through conversation weaving and conversation expanding as well as the multiple types of knowing emergent from the conversations including: mathematics-for-teaching, beliefs about teaching, social relationships, blog resources, and recounting experiences. The knowing of mathematics-for-teaching was enacted in the moments of mathematics teachers’ participation in the conversations. The other four types of knowing (i.e., beliefs about teaching, social relationships, blog resources, and recounting experiences) were implicated with the emergence of mathematics-for-teaching, the teachers’ participation in the PLN, and the evolvement of the PLN itself. However, they have not yet been explored in the predominant research on teachers’ disciplinary knowledge of mathematics.
    The study helps me to better understand mathematics teachers’ professional learning through their participation in the professional learning networks. It also contributes to the rapidly growing literature on teachers’ professional learning, particularly in online learning communities (Dash et al., 2012). Additionally, it offers a valuable reference for reviewing online and even conventional teacher professional development. Looking forward, the study will inform further exploration of the nature of the relatively new form of teacher professional learning when we come to realize the affordances of our digitally connected world and the intricacies of teachers’ professional growth as indicated by Brooks and Gibson (2012).

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
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