01 SES 13 B, Sources of Teachers’ Knowledge
Parallel Paper Session
Research questions -
o How do teachers conceptualise professional learning and themselves as learners?
o How do their conceptualisations impact on the contexts in which they learn?
The rationale underlying this inquiry rests on the understanding that teachers’ beliefs, and the meanings they ascribe to their social worlds, actually impact on their behaviour and their disposition towards learning. Hence, as professionals, their perception of professional learning will have profound implications on how their professional learning is to be organised and on the contexts within which this learning takes place.
The inquiry focuses on particular learning contexts and situations which generate specific learning experiences, and an identified group of teachers define the boundaries of the research. Learners actively construct knowledge and make sense of their worlds (Cobb, 1994; Novak, 2010), thus it is necessary to consider how teachers construct their learning experiences, rather than how teachers engage in professional development programmes.
The aim of this research inquiry is to understand how two particular groups of teachers, in two different national contexts, constructed knowledge and engaged in learning on an individual and collegial basis. The role and identity of these teachers as learners is explored in order to understand how these influence the way teachers engage in professional learning.
Both the current Maltese and Scottish educational contexts are characterised by changes which oblige teachers to radically transform the way they teach, alerting the need for teachers to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to critically analyse their own professional role within the wider context of teaching and to take stock of their learning.
This research study aims to provide possible suggestions of how teachers could identify themselves as autonomous lifelong learners who critically address reform demands and aim for higher standards of practice. In particular, it aims to introduce a learner-focused perspective which considers the specific needs of the participants and situates learning within the specific social contexts of teachers’ practice. This contrasts with the training-focused perspective currently characterising teacher professional learning in both Malta and Scotland.
The research recognises that learning is an ongoing process which can take place in all sorts of situations. Indeed, teachers learn at work in the absence of any programme or structure for learning (Hoekstra et al., 2007; Meirink et al., 2009). Teachers are lifelong learners and schools are professional learning communities. This inquiry, therefore, examines schools as important contexts within which teachers learn and aims to identify the right conditions needed to generate this learning.
Theoretical framework -
This research draws on sociocultural theories that view learning and development as taking place in cultural contexts. Activities are mediated by language and other symbol systems, and can best be understood when investigated within their historical development. Thereby, in order to understand a complex social practice such as teacher professional learning, one needs to examine situations in which knowers find themselves (Vygotsky, 1986) and cognition is both socially and culturally situated. There is interest in learners as members of communities and the ways in which they interact with the environment. Within this perspective, knowing becomes a social as well as an individual activity.
COBB, P., (1994). Constructivism and learning. In: T. HUSÉN and T.N. POSTLETHWAITHE, eds., The International Encyclopedia of Education. 2nd. ed.Oxford OX: Pergamon. pp. 1049-1052. HARGREAVES, A. and GOODSON, I., (1996). Teachers' professional lives: Aspirations and actualities. In: I.F. GOODSON and A. HARGREAVES, eds., Teachers' professional lives. London: Falmer Press. pp. 1-27. HOEKSTRA, A., BEIJAARD, D., BREKELMANS, M. and KORTHAGEN, F., (2007). Experienced teachers' informal learning from classroom teaching. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 13 (2), pp. 189-206. JURASAITE-HARBISON, E., (2009). Teachers' workplace learning within informal contexts of school cultures in the United States and Lithuania. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21 (4), pp. 299-321. MASON, J., (2002). Qualitative researching. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications. MEIRINK, J.A., MEIJER, P.C., VERLOOP, N. and BERGEN, T.C.M., (2009). How do teachers learn in the workplace? An examination of teacher learning activities. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32 (3), pp. 209-224. NOVAK, J.D., (2010). Learning, creating and using knowledge: Concept maps as facilitative tools in schools and corporations. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 6 (3), pp. 21-30.
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