10 SES 01 E JS, The Professional Learning Impact of Practitioner Inquiry
Joint Paper Session NW 01 and NW 10
With schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland required to implement a new National Curriculum, it is timely to explore how other systems have approached such a large-scale undertaking. In the United States, schools have been working with a national curriculum, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), for the past 6 years. The introduction of the CCSS has led schools, districts and systems to intensify their focus on teacher professional learning to ensure the standards are implemented with rigour and fidelity. There is evidence to suggest that some traditional professional learning practices are ineffective in the modern workplace, as they do not provide the depth of learning required to increase teacher’s knowledge or foster meaningful changes in classroom practice (Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love & Stiles, 1998). The prevalence of one off, single day workshops that often make continuing professional development “intellectually superficial, disconnected from deep issues of curriculum and learning, fragmented, and noncumulative” (Ball & Cohen, 1999, pp. 3-4) is consistently criticized in the research literature. Corcoran (1999, p.4) suggested “workshops may be valuable for promoting awareness of new practices or curricula and provide opportunities for teachers to network and share but there is little evidence of outcomes of the process”.
Fullan, Hill and Crevola (2006) state, “in school education, there is no built-in mechanism that leads to ongoing improvement in classroom instruction” (p. 42). They contend that “instructional systems need to be conceptualised as ongoing research and development projects concerned with constant refinement and improvement” (p. 43). This shift in professional learning is supported in Australia whre there is political pressure to, “introduce practitioner-led research, requiring teachers to undertake a new individual or team-based research project every two years and include progress on this as a requirement in the performance management system” (DEECD, 2012). In fact, the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers explicitly states that a Lead Teacher will, “initiate collaborative relationships to expand professional learning opportunities, [and] engage in research”. The justification is that high performing systems in the OECD, “support research undertaken by teachers to drive innovation and school system improvement” (DEECD, 2012). For example, in Shanghai teachers are, encouraged to identify a particular aspect of learning and examine the theory and evidence base, then trial different teaching practices drawing on their findings (Jensen, Hunter, Sonnemann & Burns 2012). So while there is currently a shift away from the intellectually superficial workshops outlined by Ball and Cohen (1999), we must also acknowledge the paucity of evidence when analyzing the empirical basis for teacher inquiry. As Zeichner (2003) stated when discussing the impact of teacher research, we are often provided with little or no information about the specific characteristics of the research experience and/or research context that are responsible for promoting this growth.
The goal of the research for this explorative study is to gain a deeper understanding on the specific characteristics of the research experience and/or research context that are responsible for promoting or inhibiting teacher professional learning.
Data for this mixed methods study was collected from 109 teachers in an urban school district in California. The teachers’ participated in a mathematics professional learning initiative that required participants’ to attend four full-day workshops, complimented by in classroom math coaching, throughout the 2014-2015 academic year.
The study addressed the following research questions:
- How did the design research support your learning needs to be able to implement the instructional solution?
- To what extent did teachers attribute any changes in teaching practice to their involvement in EDR?
- To what extent could they attribute changes in what their students know and are able to do to their involvement in EDR?
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2011). Common core state standards for mathematics. Fullan, M., Hill, P., Crevola, C. (2006). Breakthrough. Thousand Oaks, California, Corwin Press Jensen, B., Hunter, A., Sonnemann, J., and Burns, T. (2012) Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia, Grattan Institute. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage. Zeichner, K. M. (2003). Teacher research as professional development for P–12 educators in the USA . Educational action research, 11(2), 301-326. Loucks-Horsley, S., Hewson, P. W., Love, N., & Stiles, K. E. (1998). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
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