Date of Award

Spring 4-29-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)




Elizabeth Hufnagel

Second Committee Member

Michael Wittmann

Third Committee Member

Rebecca Buchanan


Vulnerability is omnipresent in personal and professional human experiences (Gilson, 2011; Lasky, 2005) and an unavoidable condition of work as a teacher (Bullough, 2005; Kelchtermans, 1996). It plays a role in teachers’ interaction with themselves, their students, and their professional communities, as they engage in making sense of their role in these social environments (Uitto, Kaunisto, Kelchtermans, & Estola, 2016). This study examined the written reflection journals by 12 middle school science teachers in a professional learning community (PLC) in New England. Teachers engaged with each other to co-construct knowledge and emotional understanding of their practice within this professional community. By examining teachers’ expressions in the discourse of their written reflections, vulnerability was brought to the forefront as a situated, relational way in which we open ourselves up by breaking from the expected norms of the space and outcomes of sharing. There was no existing method for analyzing vulnerability in this context therefore, the project also addressed the development of methodological processes in educational research focusing on vulnerability. Hufnagel & Kelly’s (2018) methodological considerations for examining emotional expressions informed the process along with conceptualizations of vulnerability. By examining the subject (aboutness) and discursive features of teachers’ expressions of vulnerability it was made salient what teachers’ expressed vulnerability about and the ways in which they did so. Previously, orientations to vulnerability across all disciplines have been toward minimization, rather than leveraging its necessity and importance in human connection (Gilson, 2011). While this thesis progressed research on vulnerability in education, it remains important to expand the spaces within which we have examined vulnerability to both develop and expand conceptualizations of teachers’ professional experiences and the ways in which we can support them.