Exchanging Knowledge and Building Communities via International Networking (2017, developed version)

    Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


    This is a presentation taken to ECER 2017 that is basically a summary of my PhD. A FULL ABSTRACT SUBMITTED TO THE CONFERENCE IS HERE: The title of this paper is ‘Building professional communities and sharing knowledge: a study into teachers working together across national boundaries’. Within this paper I explore the forms of professional identity and the type of professional community that might be built when teachers work together across national boundaries. I also explore the types of knowledge that may be exchanged by the building of such communities and the value that teachers put upon this. The research for this paper was conducted within two countries, these were: England and Macedonia. However, the conclusions reached have relevance beyond these specific circumstances. They specifically have implications for international and pan-European projects involving teachers and also instances where teachers work with teachers from other countries in less formal ways too. There is an assumption in some research that the professional community that teachers belong to within their school is particularly significant, simply by virtue of the fact that these teachers work together as colleagues in the same workplace on a daily basis. The corollary of this is that it is therefore assumed that to strengthen or improve the professional experience of teachers and even the quality of any individual’s teaching re-shaping this immediate school community is fundamental. These assumptions have driven education policy in relation to teachers’ continuing professional development in various Europe nations during the past three decades. However, whilst accepting the importance of the immediate workplace, I explored in this research whether teachers build their identity and share knowledge in a more exploratory way and with more agency than is suggested by this model. Specifically in relation to this, I investigated whether teachers use opportunities for international engagement with colleagues to discover and build personally significant professional relationships and what forms of knowledge are shared by such processes. The participants were teachers from England and from Macedonia, all of whom had chosen to be involved in formally constructed projects and networking opportunities for teachers that crossed national boundaries. This study is situated in a broad theoretical context of discussions related to professional identity and its relationship to professional community but explores this within a specifically international context. There are a range of over-lapping definitions of what a professional community is that inform the development of these concepts. The theoretical model of ‘communities of practice’ was one that was particularly significant in terms of informing the conceptual framework for this research. Similarly there is a parallel canon of literature exploring the nature of knowledge exchange between teachers. The most significant model referred to in this regard are those produced within the context on the International Teacher Leadership Initiative based at Cambridge University. These models with their emphasis on the presence of knowledge within the discourse of teachers and the potential of knowledge exchange to facilitate non-positional leadership were particularly pertinent. The research questions: -In what ways do teachers perceive themselves as belonging to an international professional community of teachers? -How is the way teachers perceive their professional identity shaped by the experience of working with teachers from other countries? -Are there any significant obstacles or affordances to teachers perceiving the existence of a professional community amongst teachers from diverse countries? -In what ways do teachers define success when working with colleagues from other countries?
    Period24 Aug 2017
    Event titleEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2012
    Event typeConference
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • knowledge, communities, professional communities, teacher identity