Details of Thesis

TitleTeachers as Learners: Professional learning in the lives of teachers
Author Cameron, Sandra Ellen
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2011
Abstract This interpretative study explored the professional learning practices of teachers in a range of Queensland State schools. While teacher learning is regarded as cornerstone of school reform, our knowledge of the role professional learning plays in changing teacher practice is scant. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to listen to the voices of practitioners in order to better understand the situated worlds of teacher-learners and how to support them and their learning in this time of constant and inescapable change and to answer the question: What experiences foster teacher learning to enhance the quality of the experience of schooling offered to students? The following three research foci guided the study towards answering this important question. Research Question 1: How do teachers and those who support teacher-learners understand 'professional learning'? Research Question 2: How and why do teachers engage with professional learning throughout their careers? Research Question 3: How do schools and school systems support teacher learning? This study was situated in Queensland and invited participation from 47 government schools (Appendix 1) that were the workplaces of approximately 800 teaching staff. A selection of school administrators and classroom practitioners from sites within this cohort provided in-depth case studies for the research. The participants inhabited an extensive geographic area so data were gathered using a variety of written, face-to-face and electronic methods. A focus group interview was used to gather contextual information from school administrators about the ways in which teacher learning contributed to the effectiveness of their schools, and 50 teachers completed an open-ended questionnaire about their professional learning experiences. From this cohort, 22 teachers participated in semi-structured interviews in which practitioners shared with the researcher, the narratives about their experiences as teacher-learners. The philosophical framework of Constructionism underpinned this research with the understanding that knowledge is socially constructed and multiple views of reality are possible based on individuals' experiences. Learning is viewed as a process of discovering new understandings as the learner interprets their contexts and actions in their environment. Language and culture are our ways of making meaning from our experiences; hence the theoretical perspective of Symbolic Interactionism was employed in this study to understand the meanings participants made of their professional learning journeys. An Interpretive Educational Case Study approach was used to acknowledge the unique contexts of teacher-learners and to reveal the conditions under which teacher learning might be possible. Together these strategies revealed a comprehensive picture of the learning journeys of the participants and the ways in which their career-long learning contributed to the capacity of their schools to provide quality learning experiences for their students.The research proposes a new framework through which to appreciate the intricate interconnection between teachers and professional learning across their careers.
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