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Teacher agency in a multiyear professional development collaborative

Christopher J. Wagner (Queens College, Elementary and Early Childhood Education, City University of New York, New York, USA)
Marcela Ossa Parra (Queens College, Elementary and Early Childhood Education, City University of New York, New York, USA)
C. Patrick Proctor (Teacher Education, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 14 November 2019

Issue publication date: 22 November 2019




This paper aims to report on the decisions two teachers made about how to engage with a five-year school–university collaboration that used professional development (PD) to foster changes in language instruction for teachers of multilingual learners.


A longitudinal case study was used to examine the experiences of two teachers to provide insights into classroom-level decisions and changes in instructional practices.


Changes in instructional practices occurred when teachers made active, engaged choices about their own learning and teaching in the classroom. Teacher learning did not follow a consistent trajectory of improvement and contained contradictions, and early decisions about how to engage with PD affected the pace and nature of teacher learning. Through personal decisions about how to engage with PD, teachers adopted new instructional practices to support multilingual learners. Positive changes required extended time for teachers to implement new practices successfully.

Practical implications

This collaboration points to a need for long-term PD partnerships that value teacher agency to produce instructional changes that support multilingual learners.


PD can play a key role in transforming literacy instruction for multilingual learners. Teacher agency, including the decisions teachers make about how to engage with professional learning opportunities and how to enact new instructional practices in the classroom, mediates the efficacy of PD initiatives. This longitudinal case study contributes to the understanding of effective PD by presenting two contrasting case studies of teacher agency and learning during long-term school–university collaboration.



This research was supported by a grant from the Collaborative Fellows Program to C. Patrick Proctor by the Trustees of Boston College and the Lynch School of Education.

Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Christopher J. Wagner, Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Queens College, City University of New York, Powdermaker Hall 054, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Queens, NY 11367-1597. Contact:


Wagner, C.J., Ossa Parra, M. and Proctor, C.P. (2019), "Teacher agency in a multiyear professional development collaborative", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 399-414.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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