Navigating socio-emotional risk through comfort-building in physics teacher professional development: A case study

Maggie S. Mahmood, Hamideh Talafian, Devyn Shafer, Eric Kuo, Morten Lundsgaard, Tim Stelzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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, and these risks may impact the collaborative experience of both parties and the learning environment in teacher PD. This exploratory 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 case 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 teacher PD, especially programs that bring together teachers with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
StateE-pub ahead of print - May 3 2024


  • epistemology
  • learning communities
  • pedagogical content knowledge
  • physics teacher education
  • problem solving
  • professional development


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