01 SES 06 C, Adult Professional Learning
Engaging in a year-long professional development programme for experienced and expert literacy professionals implies a willingness to develop and to change one’s practice. But change and more specifically, transformation requires risk (Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin, 1995). This appears to create a tension that affects adult learners particularly (Argyris and Schön, 1974) since it seems they come to further study as successful expert teachers with little if any experience of professional failure and understanding of the potential risks associated with transformative learning (Mezirow, 2009). Teachers commencing professional learning programmes are putting themselves in a learner situation and potentially a risk taking position. There are potential risks associated with being an adult learner; being a student, submitting work, attending lectures, contributing to discussions and completing a Masters award. Learners also risk failure in the teacher-educator role by not being able to move from their current construct of early literacy teaching and learning and into the role of a teacher-educator and the specific responsibilities and facilitation of adult learning that this requires. The risk is both professional and personal.
This paper reports on the recognition and management of risk within the context of an international intensive literacy intervention professional development programme implemented in Denmark, USA, Canada , New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the UK (Watson and Askew, 2009). The programme is designed to enable expert literacy teachers become teacher-educators. It offers observable examples of the complexity of adult professional learning through its use of observed live lessons via a one way screen and led by a facilitator. The mediated use of cognitive dissonance as a tool for learning, (Cano, 2005; Festinger, 1957), is explicit within the pedagogy and was the focus for the research.
The aim was to explore cognitive dissonance so that facilitators of complex professional learning, in whatever field of study, might have greater understanding of how they can recognise and effectively utilise cognitive dissonance in professional development.
The research questions were:
- How might cognitive dissonance be more readily recognised or identified by facilitators within complex adult professional learning?;
- How do facilitators of such learning utilise cognitive dissonance within a constructivist approach to learning (Kroll, 2004) to encourage and facilitate transformative learning (Mezirow, 2009)?
Taking a successful professional development model and transferring it to different cultures, settings can be problematic (Watson and Askew, 2009). This research focuses on a professional development programme implemented in Europe, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand which adopts a social constructivist approach and is predicated on a commitment for participants to engage in ongoing professional development whilst they remain in role as specialist teachers of a literacy intervention (Burroughs-Lange and Ince, 2012). It is an MA level professional development programme which offers layers of development (from initial training of experienced teachers as specialist early literacy teachers, through ongoing professional development, to Teacher Leaders working at Masters level to become teacher- educators).
Cognitive dissonance (Festinger,1957) is explicitly discussed within the professional development model, but it is also experienced by participants in planned and unplanned incidences leading to increased risk for learning if facilitators are unable to recognise, identify and manage cognitive dissonance as an educative resource. This professional development programme provides an observable example of the complexity of adult professional learning through its use of observed live lessons via a one way screen led by a facilitator. The professional development programme follows a similar format regardless of location or facilitator for each session: introduction and theoretical focus, two live lessons observed via a one way screen observed and critiqued led by facilitator, discussion and links to theory and readings.
References Argyris, C., Schon, D.A. (1974). Theory in Practice Increasing Professional Effectiveness. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. Burroughs-Lange, S., Ince, A., Eds. (2012). Reading Recovery and Every Child a Reader: history, policy and practice. London, IOE Press. Cano, F. (2005). "Consonance and dissonance in students learning experience." Learning and Instruction 15(3): 201-223. Darling-Hammond, L. and M. W. MacLaughlin (1995). "Policies that support professional development in an era of reform." Phi Delta Kappen 92(6): 81-93. Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, Stanford University Press. Galman, S. (2009). "Doth the lady protest too much? Pre-service teachers and the experience of dissonance as a catalyst for development." Teaching and Teacher Education 25(3): 468-481. Glaser, B. and A. Strauss (1999). The Discovery of Grounded Theory. New Brunswick, Aldine Transaction. Ince, A. (2010). An exploration of cognitive dissonance in adult professional learning, Unpublished Institute Focused Study. University of London, Institute of Education Doctor of Education Programme Kroll.L.R. (2004). "Constructing Constructivism:how student-teachers construct ideas of development, knowledge, learning and teaching." Teachers and Teaching 10(2): 199-213. Mezirow, J. (2009). An Overview of Transformative Learning. Contemporary Theories of Learning learning theorists in their own words. K. Illeris. Abingdon, Routledge: 90-105. Watson, B. and B. J. Askew, Eds. (2009). Boundless Horizons Marie Clay's search for the possible in children's literacy. Auckland, NZ, Heinemann. Yin, R. (2009). Case study research design and methods. Thousand Oaks, California, Sage.
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