Mediated transitions between CPD-activities & teaching and collaboration at local schools

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalAbstractResearchpeer-review


Introduction and theoretical framework Continuous Professional Development (CPD) can play a crucial role in qualifying teaching, in particular if acknowledging that some of the most powerful teacher learning experiences are based on facilitated inquiries from the teachers’ own classrooms (Borko, 2004; Timperley, 2011). Extant research suggests a broad consensus pertaining to the core features of effective CPD, which include content focus, active learning, coherence, duration, collaborative activities and collective participation (Desimone, 2009; van Driel, Meirink, van Veen, & Zwart, 2012). But most teachers still only meet one-shot workshops detached from their daily practice, and even in CPD-programs referring to these consensus criteria the sustainability of the effects has not yet been investigated to a considerable extent (Avalos, 2011). According to Darling-Hammond (2005) neither pure top-down nor bottom-up initiatives provide sustainable conditions, she argues the most successful implemented reform initiatives are those that provide top-down support for bottom-up development. QUEST (Qualifying in-service Education of Science Teachers) is a large-scale, long-term (2012-15) CPD-project involving 42 schools from 5 Danish municipalities. QUEST activities are designed referring to the consensus criteria, with CPD-activities embedded in the teachers’ daily work (Luft & Hewson, 2014), acknowledging principles of teachers’ situated learning in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas, 2006). The overall purpose is to develop a sustainable model for CPD, supporting professional capital and bottom up development (Darling-Hammond, 2005; Heargreaves & Fullan, 2012). Primary and lower secondary teachers participated in one or more of 4 half-year modules organized in a rhythm of full day seminars followed by individual and collaborative inquiries at local schools. The themes at seminars have for example been inquiry based methods (Rocard, 2007), and how to address students’ pre-conceptions and support their knowledge of what it means to do science (Bransford & Donavan, 2005). The QUEST-rhythm aims to support the teachers in trying out such (new) approaches at local schools, but also in developing individual and collective agency (“confidence and capacity to change a context”) emphasized by Bandura (1997) as crucial for changes to be sustainable. Taking a sociocultural view continuity and transformation in learning must be seen as an on-going relation between changing individuals and changing social context (Beach, 1999). Individual and collective agency can be expected to intertwine, and this necessitates giving priority to the social context and cultural tools when studying the development of individual teachers’ beliefs and ways of acting (Lasky, 2005; Wertsch 1991). With reference to this, and to Beach (1999), a focus is therefore various kinds of transitions, rather than just studying transfer as application of “something” acquired at the seminars to the local classrooms. The research questions are: • What are the participating teachers’ perceived outcomes from QUEST? • How is the relation between perceived effect on teaching and effect on collaboration? • How do the teachers refer to the QUEST-rhythm and initiatives at their local schools, and what insight does this give into the transitions? • How do case-teachers’ reflect on experiences from QUEST, changing own classroom teaching, and collaborating with colleagues? • What changes over time are observed in local classrooms at case-schools? Methodology The overall research design is mixed methods (Creswell & Clark, 2007). Quantitative and qualitative data were retrieved during and after each of the course-modules. One part of data was a repeated questionnaire with 5 point Likert-scale questions and open-ended categories focused on teachers’ experiences from the seminars, from trials in own classrooms, and from collaborative activities at their schools. Qualitative data also included observations at the seminar days, interviews with students, teachers and school leaders at the local schools, observation from PLC-meetings, and repeated observations in classrooms at five schools (diversity sampling: school size, town/rural etc.). Likert-scale questions were analysed by frequency, and open-ended reflections, and the qualitative data, were categorized/coded through an iterative data based process (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). To answer the first two research questions teachers’ reports about perceived outcomes after the four modules were categorized and compared. To inform the discussion of the third research question teachers’ reflections about the QUEST rhythm - when explicitly asked and in answers to other questions - were categorized and compared with observations from QUEST seminars including focus on the artefacts (video, lesson-plans, classroom material etc.) brought by the teachers to the seminars. Rich in-depth case-data were used to answer the last questions, and quantitative data and case-data were compared and contrasted to inform the overall discussion. Findings In average 64% reported a high or a very high degree of outcomes related to own teaching. Answers about collaboration have been more divided, with variations between schools, but with a positive trend from the first to the last module. In general teachers reporting positively about changing classroom practice also experienced a change in collaboration. Teachers’ outcomes from networking, and from inquiring into student learning were evident, and the QUEST-rhythm was perceived as supporting changes also at schools with less significant changes. The teachers reported that the rhythm “forced them” to try out new approaches, and share inquiries, in contrast to using team-meetings for practical stuff. The QUEST-rhythm and artefacts from teachers’ inquiries appeared to mediate transitions (Beach, 1999), and give rise to enactive mastery experiences (Bandura, 1997). A case study following a teacher and her class from 4th to 6th grade confirms the importance of individual teacher’s agency. This teacher’s beliefs that students need to explore to learn science were confirmed, she grew to be more confident and explicit about student learning, and this contributed to her experience of benefitting from QUEST. Autonomous initiatives also indicated collaborative agency. The quite distant leadership at this school can be seen as a “black swan”. In general visible leadership and participation in team meetings has been important. The results indicate that teachers’ individual and social learning can be mutually constitutive. Findings accentuate the importance of talking about transitions rather than transfer (Beach, 1999), and about professional learning driven by teachers’ intentionality, rather than professional development done to the teachers. The latest results however raise worries about pressure on the teachers, and therefore on sustainability, as a result of a wide-scale reform implemented in 2014. Former research (Day, 2002) confirms the importance of supporting teachers’ commitment and enthusiasm in such a reform context.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventEuropean Conference on Educational Research: Education and Transition. Contributions from Educational Research - Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 7 Sept 201511 Sept 2015


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research
LocationCorvinus University

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