01 SES 13 C, Professional Learning and School Development
In a national project conducted from 2013-2017 the central Norwegian education authority wanted to improve the quality of teaching in lower secondary schools by focusing on school-based development. The Norwegian authorities define school-based development as follows:
School-based development means that the school, including school leaders and the entire staff, undergoes a workplace development process. The aim is to develop the school's collective knowledge, attitudes and skills when it comes to learning, teaching and collaboration (Directorate of Education, 2012, p. 5, my translation).
All lower secondary schools in Norway, altogether 1250 schools, were invited to take part in school-based development, and 1114 decided to participate. All of the 19 teacher education institutions in Norway also took part in supporting the schools as development partners for three semesters in each school. The authorities stated that the school leaders should lead the development processes with assistance from teacher educators, but the local education authorities were responsible for the local projects. The teachers' task in the schools was to create situations in which students felt a sense of mastery and thus increased their motivation to learn. Additionally, the aim was to develop teaching practice that is practical, comprises various activities and is relevant and challenging for the students (Directorate of Education, 2012). School-based development represents a new practice for teacher educators, school leaders and teachers in Norway. In school, the aim is to develop collective knowledge, attitudes and skills when it comes to learning, teaching and collaborating so that the students feel a sense of mastery and thus become more motivated to learn. To reach these goals, teachers were encouraged to collaborate and observe and reflect on each other’s teaching (Ministry of Education, 2011). In this article my point of departure is a school-based competence development project aimed at illuminating how such a project can be initiated and how this start-up phase can influence the teachers’ motivation to learn and to welcome enduring change. The research question that framed the study that this article builds on was: “How does the start-up phase in school-based development influence the teachers’ motivation for learning and enduring change in school?”
The research study was conducted within an activity-theory frame. Leontiev (1981) stated that “the object is the true motive” (p. 59). This means that motivation is embedded in the overall goal for the work, and that teachers and leaders should spend time on collective processes that also take individual needs into consideration when formulating the overarching goals (Postholm, 2017). Researchers can also collect mirror data (Cole & Engeström, 2007) that can be presented to teachers, meaning that both the insider and outsider perspectives can mesh when deciding the focus for development. Timperley, Wilsom Barrar and Fung (2007) found that teachers at least should understand the purpose of the work and why they should attempt to move their practice towards the object of the work. Postholm (2008) found that the start-up phase could be the foundation for further development if teachers were given time to identify with the theme for the development work. This study showed that even if the teachers were active in the process when the development question was formulated, they needed time to develop a sense of ownership to the content of the work. Lim-Ratman, Atencio and Kim-Eng Lee (2016) found that a key premise for development in school is that teachers can interpret the goals and the desired outcomes. Kyiakides, Christoforidou, Panayiotou and Creemers (2017) even suggest that teachers’ professional development in school should be differentiated to meet their individual needs.
I conducted a qualitative case study (Creswell, 2013) in three schools about two years after they had participated formally in the project. A case study, according to Creswell (2013), is a study of a “bounded system”, and I wanted to examine an activity or programme that was limited in time, three semesters, and located in a particular place, the schools. I have named the three schools A1, A2 and A3. School A1 had 156 pupils, 17 teachers and two leaders. School A2 had 390 pupils, 52 teachers and four leaders, while school A3 had 310 pupils, 60 teachers and four leaders. I collected data at each venue through observations and interviews. I observed/shadowed a teacher (the main informant) at each school for one week, conducted a semi-structured interview with the main informant, observed meetings of the main informant’s team and conducted a focus-group interview with this team. I also conducted focus-group interviews with three pupil groups at each school, and had a focus-group interview with the school leaders and a focus-group interview with two teachers from each of years 8, 9 and 10. Additionally, all the teachers wrote an anonymous letter to me answering the same questions as asked in the focus-group interviews conducted with teachers from the three levels. At first I analysed the interviews at each school separately by using the phenomenological method of analyses according to Moustakas (1995). These analyses comprised the foundation for a description of each school. Furthermore, I constructed narratives based on the observation notes, and chose to include the narratives that gave a picture of the practice in the classroom in the descriptions. The letters confirmed the information that was presented in the descriptions, and thus also contributed to securing the trustworthiness of my understanding developed through the interviews and observations and thus the quality of the study. With the description of each school as the starting point, I conducted an open-coding process as described by Strauss and Corbin (1990, 1998) to categorize the material. The categories developed during this analysis were: “The start-up phase and ownership”, “A culture for sharing and teacher collaboration”, The leaders’ role”, “Learning at every level” and “Enduring change”. To answer the research question presented in this article I will focus on the categories “The start-up phase and ownership” and “Enduring change”.
As the study was conducted two years after the project had formally ended, I also anticipated that enduring change could be found as a result of the project. The three schools differed in terms of how they became participants in the project and how the theme they were to work on was decided. At school A1 the teachers had been working on literacy and classroom management to develop their teaching practice before the project. They found it convenient and useful to continue this work. The local education authority did not intervene when the teachers and leaders agreed upon participation and themes to work on. At school A2, the local education authority decided that the school should take part in the project but it was up to the school to decide what theme to work on. At school A3, the situation was completely different when compared to school A1. The local education authority decided both that the school should take part and what theme they had to work on. School A3 was in the midst of a project when this top down decision paved the way for their work. The findings based on the study in the three schools show that the teachers’ motivation for the development work had varied throughout the work, and that it also had created different attitudes to national efforts when it comes to development in schools after the project. The study also indicates that the colleagues at school A1 had become tightly-knit, robust and motivated to continue development work, whereas the teachers at school A2 experienced both motivation and resistance. At school A3, the teachers were in a middle position compared to the other two schools. When it comes to welcoming enduring change, this attitude could be traced in all three schools, but to varying degrees.
Cole, M., & Engeström, Y. (2007). Cultural-historical Approaches to Designing for Development. In J. Valsiner & A. Rosa (red.), The Cambridge Handbook of Sociocultural Psychology (p. 484–507). New York: Cambridge University Press. Creswell, J. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among five approaches. 3. ed. Los Angeles. SAGE. Directorate of Education. (2012). Rammeverk for Skolebasert Kompetanseutvikling på Ungdomstrinnet 2012–2017 [Framework for School-based Development in Lower Secondary School]. Oslo: Directorate of Education. Kyiakides, L., Christoforidou, M., Panayiotou, A., & Creemers, B.P.M. (2017). The impact of a three-year teacher professional development course on quality of teaching: strengths and limitations of the dynamic approach. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(4), 465-486. Leontiev, A.N. (1981). The Problem of Activity in Psychology. In J.V. Wertsch (ed.), The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology (p. 37-71). Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. Lim-Ratnam, C., Atencio, M., & Kim-Eng Lee, C. (2016). Managing the paradox of control: the case of ground-up implementation of active learning in Singapore’s primary schools. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 15, 231-246. Ministry of Education. (2011). Report to the Storting no. 22 (2010–2011) Motivasjon – Mestring – Muligheter. [White Paper no. 22 (2010–2011) Motivation – Mastery – Possibilities]. Oslo: Ministry of Education. Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological Research Methods. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Postholm, M.B. (2008). The Start-Up Phase in a Research and Development Work Project: A Foundation for Development". Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(3), 575-584. Postholm, M.B. (2008). Case A. In M.B. Postholm, A, Normann, T. Dahl, E. Dehlin, G. Engvik, E.J. Irgens (red), Developing lower secondary schools. Oslo. Directorate of Education. https://www.udir.no/tall-og-forskning/finn-forskning/rapporter/ungdomstrinn-i-utvikling---en-mulighetens-gavepakke-til-skole--og-utdanningssektoren/ Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Timperley, H., Wilson, A. Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.
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