Developing a culture of professional practice learning in an FET context
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This research explored ways of promoting a professional learning community (PLC) in the further education and training (FET) context. There was limited evidence related to teacher learning within the FET case study institution and so began a project of looking at ways to embed a practice of learning within the institution’s educational context. This research took an accepted and established theory of teaching and learning [effective feedback] (Wiliam, 2011) and used this as a platform from which to engage FET teachers as professional practice learners. The research approach for this study drew on the spirit of, and was informed by, the critical theory approach. The constructivist nature of the research, using action research methodology, allowed ways to empower FET teachers to engage in a professional practice learning community in their FET context. Over a period of two academic years, the six participating teachers in this study implemented four planned feedback strategies into their practice. Teacher discussion group sessions were organised at strategic times so teachers could engage in discourse on the strategies and their effectiveness in the classroom. The key findings from this research are that, as a result of implementing a teaching and learning intervention into practice and of giving the participating teachers a forum and an opportunity to engage in dialogue on its implementation, effectiveness and their overall practices, changes took place in teacher practices, teacher-student relationships and within the whole centre. Teachers began to think about their practice in a new way, leading to a deepening of knowledge, understanding and engagement within practices. A feature of this new way of doing was a sense of empowerment, care and an enriched learning environment for all. This thesis has documented the research study and process. What emerged was that the defining features of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) - shared values, collaborative practice, deprivatising of practice, focus on student learning and reflective dialogue were beginning to naturally and organically develop among the teacher participants, which was the beginning of a dynamic process that could leave a lasting mark on the teachers involved.
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