01 SES 11 C, Learning in High Performance and Extended Professional Contexts
There is a widespread recognition that teachers and other professionals in the field of education learn and develop throughout their professional career. These professionals must be lifelong learners and universities across Europe thus facilitate numerous post-graduate educational programs to address the competence needs of schools, principals, teachers and schools’ support services. To design courses that satisfy this purpose, there is a need for knowledge about how participants experience and reflect on the courses they attend. On this background, this paper explores the content and priorities in reflection logs produced by course participants during a postgraduate university course arranged for Norwegian educational psychology counsellors.
Traditionally, the Norwegian educational psychological service (EPS) has focused its work on individuals, aiming to identify special needs, to write expert assessments when special education is considered necessary and to give advice to schools, teachers and parents when they ask for it. Furthermore, the national authorities request that the service give priority to prevention and system intervention in schools. To master these tasks there is a need for continuous updated professional competence. The SEVU-PPT program (2014-2018) [Strategy for training and continuing education for the EPS], which provided courses at the university level, was established for this purpose. Even if evaluation reports of the program show that the participants in general were satisfied with the courses (Hustad et. al., 2016; Nersund, 2017), there is a need for more in-depth and systematic knowledge on how EPS counsellors experience and reflect on the courses they attend (Moen, Rismark, Samuelsen & Sølvberg, 2018). For insight into this we have explored and analysed EPS counsellors’ reflection logs during a course within the SEVU-PPT program. The research question is What are the content and priorities of the reflections that are communicated in the logs produced by the educational psychological counsellors during a post-graduate course?
Employees who attend post-graduate education bring with them considerable experience from their daily work and also have some joint description of their workplace experience. For example, a study of a post-graduate course showed that the interdisciplinary group of participants had fairly joint descriptions of their daily work practice (Sølvberg & Rismark, 2016). A main argument in that particular study is that post-graduate education needs to acknowledge and emphasize the role of workplace experience when the aim is to support continuing professional development.
The connection between experience and learning and the fundamental role that experience plays in learning in adulthood has been well documented. According to Kolb (1984, p. 38), learning “is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”. A person’s repertoire of examples, images, understandings and actions forms his or her experience (Schön, 2002). Dewey (1938) maintained that experience must exhibit two major principles if learning is to take place: continuity and interaction. Continuity of experience reflects that a learner must connect what is learned from current experience to experiences in the past, and must also be able to see possible future implications. The principle of interaction underscores the importance of the situation when it comes to learning: “an experience is always what it is because of a transaction taking place between an individual and what, at the time, constitutes his or her environment (Dewey, 1938, p. 41). In this way, the principle of interaction addresses the vital role of the learning environment when it comes to pointing out the role of workplace experience in competence development. This is also the content of Schön’s (1987) concept of “reﬂection in and on action”, indicating that practitioners reﬂect both during and after actions to improve practice.
To gain insights into the content and priorities of reflections, we explored and analysed post-graduate course participants’ logs produced during a university-based course entitled “Learning environment and classroom management”, which was held three times, in 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. This was a credit course organized over a one-year period in two one-semester modules. In each semester, course participants gathered three times at the university campus, altogether seven days. The course, comprising a mixture of lectures, group related work and guidance activities, had specific mandatory requirements. The altogether 55 students enrolled in the course worked as EPS counsellors in various municipalities across Norway. Some had their main workload with pre-schools others worked with the primary and secondary school levels. Some already had a Master’s degree while others were in the process of attaining one. The majority of the course participants had long experience while others were newcomers in the field. At the end of each day throughout the course period, the participants wrote reflection logs about what they had experienced during the day. The handwritten reflection logs were later typed. The data material consists of 165 pages of typed text (Times New Roman 12 and line space 1.5). The analysis of the data material has been inspired by Grounded Theory. Following this, the concepts that have been developed during the analysis have been derived from the data material and were not chosen prior to beginning the research (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). The data material was analysed by means of the constant comparison approach, a process that involves breaking down data into manageable pieces, where each piece is compared for similarities and differences. The analysis process followed a procedure where the collaborating researchers studied the texts to ascertain, differentiate and understand the meaning of the content in each log. The analysis involved the search for similarity in content and development of analytical categories that described the focus and primary concerns in each of the written logs. This involved constant “critical and sustained discussions” (Rossman & Rallis, 2003) for mutual construction of meaning between the co-researchers in the developing categories.
The constant comparative analysis revealed that the concept “Useful” frequently appeared in the participants’ reflections and, as such, “Useful” serves as a core category. The core category is described through three categories: (1) Knowledge sharing with colleagues is useful, (2) Reflections on models and theoretical concepts are useful, (3) Reflection on the role as EPS counsellor is useful. In all the categories, the notion of useful occurs in the participants’ emphasis on and acknowledgement of the immediate and direct link between the university course content and their daily work practice. Furthermore, the findings show that the core category ‘useful’ implies both various topics of attention, as well as various levels of reflection. In their logs, the EPS counsellors reflect on past and present practice, and they also reflect on future practice claiming that the course has enabled them both to look at cases in new ways and to feel safer and more confident in their role from now on. It is important to note here that the categories and characteristics are not to be regarded as if they were discrete and separate from one another. Even if each category has an importance and value of its own, it is crucial that they are understood in connection with one another and as interwoven. It is the connectedness that gives the core category an overarching explanatory power (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). The knowledge from this study may be a relevant contribution when it comes to designing new courses that support continuing professional development for EPS counsellors, whether for post-graduate university courses or local courses at the EPS offices or whether in Norway or other European countries.
Corbin, J. & Strauss, A. (2015). Basics of Qualitative Research. Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. USA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier Books. Glaser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967/1999). The discovery of grounded theory. Strategies forqualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. Hustad, B.C., Lødding, B. Fylling, I. & Ulriksen, R. (2016). Systemorientering gjennom kompetanseutvikling. Første delrapport fra evalueringen av Strategi for etter-og videreutdanning i PP-tjenesten. [System orientation through competence development. First interim report from the evaluation of Strategy for Postgraduate and Advanced Education in the PP Service]. Rapport 24. Oslo/Bodø: NIFU Nordlandsforskning. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Moen, T., Rismark, M., Samuelsen, A. S. & Sølvberg, A. M. (2018). The Norwegian Educatinal Psychological Service: S systematic Review of Research from the period 2000 – 2015. Nordic Studies in Education, 38(2), pp. 101-117. Nersund, R. (2017). Deltakerundersøkelse gjennomført for SEVU PPT [participant survey undertaken for SEVU PPT], Sentio research. Presentation 14 August. Oslo: Scandic Holmenkollen hotel. Schön, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass. Sølvberg, A. M. & Rismark, M. (2016). Designing teaching practice in post-graduate education. Creative Education, 7(12), 1739-1748. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2016.712177
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