Navigating Socio-emotional Risk Through Comfort-Building in a Physics Teaching Community of Practice: A Case Study

In teacher professional development (PD), grouping teachers with varying levels of experience can be a productive and empowering way to stimulate the exchange and co-generation of content and pedagogical knowledge. However, less experienced teachers can face socio-emotional risks when engaging in collaborative science content reasoning tasks with more experienced colleagues (Finkelstein, Jaber, & Dini, 2018), and these risks may impact the collaborative experience of both parties and the learning environment in teacher PD. This descriptive case study examines the process of productively navigating socio-emotional risks and interpersonal tensions encountered by a veteran and pre-service physics teacher during one episode of discussing physics content. We use a single term, comfort-building, to encapsulate discursive moves that result in increased feelings of comfort and safety by the participants. Comfort-building includes moves that serve to mitigate social risk, ease tension, and avoid discomfort, as well as those geared toward finding common ground and co-navigating challenges. These moves can carve out conversational space for teachers to more confidently face risks associated with being accountable to the physics content knowledge and engage in discipline-based conversations more deeply. The presented episode in this study was followed by video-stimulated individual interviews to determine how consciously the teachers connected their participation to explicit risk and comfort. This case study highlights an affective dimension for consideration in the continued study and facilitation of science teaching communities of practice, especially ones that bring together teachers with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets.

Mahmood, M., Talafian, H., Shafer, D., Lundsgaard, M., Kuo, E., & Stelzer, T. J. (2023). Navigating socio-emotional risk through comfort-building in a physics teaching community of practice: A case study. arXiv preprint arXiv:2310.16778.