EXPLORE THE STUDY
This website is a companion to Mimi Masson's doctoral project "A Critical Re-imagining of French-language teacher learning and professional identities"
Available for download here.
Watch a short video on the SSHRC-funded study.
As an official bilingual country, Canada depends on the work of French as a Second Language (FSL) teachers to promote bilingualism. But across the nation, it is not uncommon to hear stories about teachers who speak French, but adamantly refuse to teach FSL in their schools. FSL programs suffer from what I call ‘FSL teacher flight’: FSL teachers who enter the profession do not remain in it, they either leave or transition out of teaching French. Why is this happening? FSL teachers report feeling disenfranchised, marginalized and isolated in their practice (Macfarlane & Hart, 2002; E. M. Richards, 2002a). One way to address these issues is to offer FSL teachers the opportunity to participate in a Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) networks (Hollins-Alexander, 2013; Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2010; Kreijns & Kirschner, 2004). These blended (i.e., online and face to face) professional learning groups, based on the principles of learning as a social and transformational process, make teachers agents in their own professional learning and help them negotiate the complexity of their practice, and develop their professional identity and well-being through shared discursive practices.
While this issue of FSL teacher flight permeates across all FSL programs – core French, French immersion and intensive French – this study focuses on core French teachers. The vast majority (85%) of Canadian students are in core French programs (Early, Dagenais, & Carr, 2016), and yet core French teachers are the most under-researched (Arnott, Masson, & Lapkin, 2017).
This longitudinal multiple case study offers a unique opportunity for an in-depth look into the professional learning and identity formation of two core French teachers over the course of four years (2011-2015). To my knowledge, no other studies follow core French teacher learning in-depth for this long. The data consist of 40 monthly two-hour group meeting discussions during a full release day for site-based research, over 150 posts and essays shared in an online forum, and open-ended survey response.
Findings reveal that FSL teachers use a wide range of complex and interrelated discursive practices to help them negotiate their professional learning and identity formation. Their research inquiries were highly contextualized, based on their local needs. They also reported that the learning experience in the CSCL network helped them feel supported and engage in their practice in new and creative ways.
The implications for the re-professionalization (Kooy, 2015) of FSL teachers’ practice through their professional learning experiences reveals the potential contribution this study makes to address the issue of FSL teacher retention. The study provides a much-needed deeper understanding of what happens when FSL teachers actively participate in professional learning networks. It also provides a model for long-term FSL teacher learning that promotes collaborative professionalism (M. Fullan & Hargreaves, 2016) and teacher well-being. Canada prides itself on being a bilingual country since the Official Languages Act of 1969. To maintain this facet of our national identity requires re-imagining the narratives around FSL teacher learning so as to activate their professional identities and empower them to stay in the profession to promote bilingualism in Canada.
Developing multifaceted identities through learning:
The CSCL network offered the teachers a space to challenge/establish their sense of self and transform their professional practice. As the teachers became agents of their own learning, they repositioned themselves through their discursive practices as informed professionals. Understanding FSL teacher learning from a sociocultural perspective allowed the teachers to draw on experiential, contextual and situated resources and re-professionalize themselves as leaders in their FSL practice.
Being able to adopt a lens of teachers as learners in their professional learning practice enabled these teachers to grow and change. They were able to question what knowledge is, who contributes to it and problem-solve in areas they felt they needed improvement.
Discursive practices in teacher learning:
Analysis revealed the presence of three major types of discursive practices in the CSLC network.
Findings suggest the dialectics of learning are not linear and involve social, cognitive and emotional processes. The teachers connected with others to form social bonds, develop trust, respect and rules for their community of learning. They situated themselves in their practice and took stock of their current situation. They also reviewed elements of their practice and considered other possibilities for themselves.
Improving FSL teacher professional well-being:
The teachers reported an increased sense of support from participating in this professional learning network. The experience also helped them improve their confidence and engage in creative risk-taking behaviours to initiate projects that would benefit their school communities.
The findings suggest CSCL networks might be an ideal tool to help combat feelings of isolation and marginalization reported by FSL teachers in Canada. Providing these teachers with support in the field fostered a sense of re-professionalization and offered a cost effective way of encouraging collaborative learning and a sense of community.