Teachers' perceptions of the impact of post-Soviet societal changes on teacher collaboration in Ukrainian schools
The purpose of the study was to examine teachers’ perceptions of the impact of societal changes on teacher collaboration in schools within the period of independence of Ukraine (1991 – 2005). This study provided a description of teacher experiences in a context of large-scale philosophical, ideological, social, political, and economic changes of the post-Soviet era, and the teachers’ interpretation of the impact of related changes upon teacher collaboration in Ukrainian schools. Research questions were divided into two subgroups: first, questions inquiring into teachers’ perceptions of the nature of post-Soviet societal changes; and second, questions regarding the nature, external and internal impacts on teacher collaboration. Utilizing constructive postmodernism framework, this research examined teacher collaboration through micropolitical and cultural perspectives. This study adopted a naturalistic orientation, within which an interpretive constructivist approach to methodology prompted the use of qualitative methods of inquiry. The data collection techniques of document analysis, focus group interviews and individual interviews were utilized. Document analysis involved review of national and local acts, decrees, policies, and procedures that pertained to teacher collaboration issued during the period of 1991-2005. The participants in this study were elementary or secondary school teachers in the city of Chernivtsi, Ukraine who had been in the teaching profession within the education system of Ukraine during the period of time from 1991 to 2005. In total, fifty-five teachers from eight schools participated in eight focus group interviews and fifteen individual interviews. Documentary data and participants’ responses were analyzed according to the research questions and recurring themes with the help of ATLAS.ti qualitative data analysis software. The findings revealed the ongoing struggle between the forces of modernity and postmodernity in post-Soviet Ukrainian society. Gains of deideologization and freedoms of conscience, speech, and religion were counteracted by economic decline, political instability, and social insecurity. Societal transformations were seen as having direct impact on the system of education, resulting in a difficult transition period from the old Soviet to the new Ukrainian system of education. It was found that collaboration among teachers in schools was susceptible to transformations at the macro (societal), as well as micro (school) levels. Macro transformations affected the nature of teacher collaboration in a direct way through changing societal realities, while content and format were usually influenced indirectly through the impact on school structures, reforms and policies, school culture, and micropolitical interactions among professionals. Findings affirmed that in the times of uncertainty and radical changes, personal aspects of collaboration tend to gain more significance than the professional ones. Material welfare, spirituality and morale, social security, societal attitudes, social relationships, and shift in the systems of values and beliefs were found exerting significant impact on teacher collaboration. It was pointed out that discourse on collaboration required a balanced representation of individualistic and collectivistic perspectives. It was concluded that the development of collaborative cultures in Ukrainian schools needed to be a two-fold process, involving both instrumental shaping on the part of teachers and administrators and the presence of societal conditions conducive to collaborative relationships. A number of implications from the findings were derived for theory, practice, policy, further research, and methodology.
Teacher collaboration, societal change, post-Soviet, Ukraine, Ukrainian schools, school culture, micropolitics, constructive postmodernism
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)