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Professional Community or Communities? School Subject Matter and Elementary School Teachers’ Work Environments (WP-05-02)

Page Hayton and James P. Spillane

This study examines elementary school teachers' professional communities, showing that teachers belong simultaneously to multiple professional communities, centered on different school subjects. Using data from four urban elementary schools, we describe differences between math- and literacy-based professional communities and identify possible explanations for these differences. We argue that professional communities centered on mathematics and literacy instruction differ in form and function, partly because teachers' conceptions of these subjects differ in terms of flexibility, enthusiasm, and moral purpose. Understanding the nature of subject-specific professional communities is vital, as professional community has been shown to be an important determinant of teachers' learning, practice, morale, and implementation of reform policies.

Page Hayton, Graduate Student, Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University

James P. Spillane, Professor of Human Development, Social Policy, and Learning Sciences; Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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