01 SES 14 A, Ecosystems of Teacher Development Part 1
Symposium to be continued in 01 SES 16 A
The significance of the social context, and the interactions within it, have been the focus of much research on teachers, emphasised strongly through the pedagogical focus on sociocultural theory and communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Teachers coexist in groups, sharing spaces and resources, performing roles and responsibilities and negotiating experiences with others. They meet together to form supportive groups and engage in critical dialogue as part of their professional practice. Different ecosystems operate within these contexts. Each member’s actions are influenced by group norms and consensual standards that define their behaviour. These ecosystems within a school feature in our studies both as the research focus and, in the Maltese study, as the research method employed, with data collected from dialogue in focus groups. We seek to understand the explicit use of group interactions and their effects through the dialogue involved between the participants, where, through focus groups, a space is created for them and the researcher to listen to others’ experiences, and discussions are fostered, negotiated and shaped with and by others within the group (Freeman, 2006). The main objective in this research study is to explore how two different social contexts (Scotland and Malta) may provide tools and opportunities for professional growth for different groups of teachers, and how eco-systems are developed in these contexts. It presents an analysis of how different eco-systems in teacher education may be experienced differently by members with different individual learning dispositions. In the Scottish context, the focus is on teacher induction and the way Newly Qualified Teachers interact and change the eco-systems of the people they come in contact with. In the Maltese context, the focus will be on the way three different groups of teachers, based in three different schools, learn and grow professionally through interacting with their peers and with their own social context. The different career phases, professional learning communities which these teachers form part of, and previous professional learning experiences will influence the way these teachers participate in this eco-system of teacher learning. This analysis will lead to an understanding of the complexity of the work of teachers and of teacher education, and the importance of the social context in affording or constraining teachers in their professional learning. As a theoretical framework, Gibson’s notion of ‘affordances’ is used to understand how learning for teachers takes place through perception of, and interaction with, an environment.
Freeman M (2006). Nurturing dialogic hermeneutics and the deliberative capacities of communities in focus groups. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(1): 81–95. Gibson, J. J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R. E. Shaw & J. Bransford (Eds.), Perceiving, acting, and knowing: Toward an ecological psychology (pp. 67-82). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Gibson, J. J. (1986). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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