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Professional development, instructional intelligence and teacher emotions: A mixed methods study of a four-year systemic change initiative

Saunders, Rebecca (2016) Professional development, instructional intelligence and teacher emotions: A mixed methods study of a four-year systemic change initiative. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of a systemic change professional development program designed to refine and extend the instructional practices of tertiary teachers working in the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector. The Instructional Intelligence Professional Development Program provided the vehicle for this study, and was distinct in several ways: (a) it was designed and implemented using research based principles; (b) it was systemic in nature (involving all publicly funded colleges in Western Australia); and, (c) it occurred over an extended period of time (4 years).

In examining the effects of the program this study explores the domains of both teacher behaviour and teacher affect and aims to better understand: (a) factors related to the uptake of the Instructional Intelligence Professional Development Program by tertiary teachers; (b) the emotional (affective) experiences of teachers involved in a systemic change professional development initiative; and, (c) the usefulness of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) as a conceptual lens and methodology for the assessment of teacher professional development programs.

In order to examine group and individual experiences of the instructional change process, the research design incorporated a mixed-methods approach. This comprised four complimentary, sequential phases of data collection and analysis, with each individual phase informing the subsequent phase.

Findings revealed that the teachers involved in this study had changed their instructional practices as a result of the Instructional Intelligence Professional Development Program and were implementing new instructional methods and processes in their classrooms. Factors which facilitated the uptake of teacher change in practice include: (a) having an extended timeframe to participate in professional development; (b) the cyclical nature of the program design, which included theory, demonstration, practice and reflection; (c) the sharing of contextualised strategies and resources; and, (d) peer coaching relationships. Factors which hindered teachers’ progress include: (a) lack of support from middle management; (b) lack of time to complete program requirements in their colleges; (c) peer coaching communication breakdowns; (d) competing system demands; and, (e) teachers’ own emotional responses.

Emotions emerged as a key factor in mediating teachers’ experiences and responses to change, with teacher participants experiencing a cyclical pattern of emotions, which were influenced by time, place and interpersonal relationships. It became evident that teachers’ experiences of educational change (reform) are multifaceted and influenced by their emotional responses to what is happening around them. Change therefore has both behavioural and affective dimensions, and equal consideration needs to be given to each when designing, implementing, assessing and researching teacher professional development initiatives.

CBAM was found to be a useful conceptual framework and methodology for assessing the behavioural and affective aspects of teacher professional development programs. Data obtained through the use of the Stages of concern Questionnaire (SoCQ) and the Levels of Use (LoU) Focused Interview were valuable when used as part of a broader mixed methods research design.

These findings have important implications for teacher professional development. Educational change initiatives are complex and uniquely contextualised. As such, rather than applying a “one size fits all” to the design, implementation and assessment of teacher professional development programs the findings of this research underline the importance of understanding the intricacies of the context in which they occur. This means that research based design principles of professional development and research design frameworks used to assess programs, should be tailored to meet the specific needs of the environment and the teachers who work within it.

Further, individual teacher experiences of systemic educational change processes are multifarious. More research is needed to help better understand the composite relationship between teacher emotions and change. Equal attention, therefore, needs to be afforded to teacher behaviour and affect in the design, implementation and assessment of professional development programs.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor: McConney, Andrew
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/32336
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