Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Professional Development Programmes in Education: An Action Research Perspective

Graham Cagney, Anne (2013) Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Professional Development Programmes in Education: An Action Research Perspective. In: 3rd Annual Action Research Colloquium, 20-21 June 2013, Institute of Technology Tralee, Co Kerry, Ireland.. (Submitted)

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Abstract

“I spend most of my time now thinking about thinking, than I spend thinking about doing, or even just doing for that matter, this is a fundamental shift for me. The intrinsic pressures are definitely greater than the external. The intrinsic is the quest for knowledge and learning to be liberated by education as Paulo Friere attests to in his banking concept of education. This is to acquire more learning, to help me grow as a person and a practitioner ‘to be more fully human. How will this impact on my practice I don’t yet know but what if I can’t move forward, what if all the work I do for this programme is not good enough? The extrinsic consequences are obvious – no teaching qualification, no pay? But it’s the intrinsic that hurts, this is the first time I have shed actual tears over course work. I have encountered many learners I have worked with over the years and in many peers whom I would consider to be emotional learners. This is the first time I have experienced emotional learning to this degree. I do not like it” I am well aware of the importance of the course content, the theories, the theorists, the application of knowledge and learning acquired. I have benefited greatly from my WIT journey. I secured a post that required a level seven qualification and my practice has definitely been shaped by learning that has taken place. I have a good understanding of how to develop curricula, rationales for lessons, learning cycles and styles and approaches to learning, understanding boundaries through counseling issues – the list is endless. Yet here I am stuck, stuck, stuck. Something similar happened with Critical Education Studies module too. What is going on? I mean I know what’s going on I know how to function; I just don’t know how to fix the internal mess!!” (Sandra: TEQ 2013) Introduction Sandra has had to overcome substantial personal, emotional and learning barriers in order to move forward in her life. Her experience is not unique. It illustrates the fear and related risk- taking, courage and initiative adult learners need to garner within themselves in order to move on and face these challenges. Significant learning is at the heart of education that challenges learners to reach their full potential. Academic learning is not restricted to objective facts; instead, new knowledge interfaces with existing knowledge within the individual on a personal basis. Learners realise new opportunities, new capabilities, new interests, and dreams; it is as if a new world opens up for them. The perspective transformation experience is a specific example of this ‘significant learning’ (Mezirow, 1978, 1995; Taylor, 1998, 2000; Cranton 1997, 2006; King, 2005, 2009; Graham Cagney, 2011). Adult learners educational experiences often conflict with their worlds, and they have to resolve these challenges for themselves; in the end the learners’ understandings and perspectives change as a result. Such changes are not always obvious; they may not be revealed within the usual classroom, assessment and student evaluations (King, 2005, 2009). The question posed therefore is how can adult educators recognise this experience? Furthermore, how can they create, offer and facilitate a supportive teaching-learning environment (TLE) for such learning opportunities? Background and Context Professional development of teachers within further and adult education (FAE) is a new initiative in Ireland. From 2013 a teacher education qualification (TEQ) may be required in order to continue working in the FAE sector. It is estimated that in excess of 4,000 teachers do not currently hold a recognised teaching qualification (IVEA, 2010). This has resulted, in line with national policy, in an increased demand for suitably qualified teachers with appropriate interdisciplinary knowledge, skills, qualities and dispositions appropriate for work within the sector. (Teaching Council Act, 2011; section 38). The teacher education programmes (TEQ) are delivered, assessed and certified by Waterford Institute of Technology. They have been specifically designed to meet the needs of two distinct groups of participants: 1) BA in Adult Education has been developed to meet the needs of practitioners working within further and adult education who are now required to register with the Teaching Council of Ireland for the purposes of registration as a professional teacher within the sector. The TEQ is an integral part of the overall degree programme which attracts a60 ECTS and is awarded at Level 8 of the National Framework of qualifications. 2) PG Diploma in Teaching in Further Education has been specifically developed to meet the needs of persons working in, or intending to work in, the Further Education sectors who wish to register with the Teaching Council of Ireland for the purposes of registration as a Further Education Teacher. The programme attracts 60 ECTS and is is awarded at Level 9 of the National Framework of qualifications. Both programmes aim to provide participants with the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies required to teach in a variety of settings within further and adult education settings. They are underpinned by ongoing reflective learning aligned to the ideal of developing critically reflective practitioners with the skills of insider inquiry. This document sets out the context and rationale for the first stage of the research which also collaborates with a parallel research project with NUI Galway who are running a similar programme for the first time. Research Rationale Implicit within both programmes aims is the development of the professional teacher as envisaged by the Teaching Council of Ireland and embedded within their code of best practice. Participation in the programme encompasses certain learning expectations in respect of developemnt critical reflective practitioners who are committed to the scholarship of teaching and learning, personal and professional development of teachers, contributing to their communities of practice, engaging in issues of social justice, equality and inclusion; and with a respect for the learner. It suggests certain assumptions in respect of the professional development of teachers in further and adult educational and of their teaching practice. In order to gain an understanding of, and insights into the emergence of their professional identity as further and adult educators, the research explores how they learn. More specifically how adults learn new information and then understand and apply it for themselves. Through this research we hope to learn more about this process and how to help adult learners enjoy success in their studies and in their professional development. Research Significance Critical reflection; enhancing teaching-learning environments (TLEs) in higher education; and the relevance of creating opportunities for transformative learning to occur, formed the conceptual framework from which this research project is derived (Graham Cagney, 2011). Post-doctoral research and testing of the conceptual framework has been conducted within a doctoral TLE at the Innovation Academy, TCD; and an R&D learning environment (RDLE) at the TSSG research centre, WIT. This proposed study builds on and further develops the conceptual framework within the context of two of the first graduate and postgraduate teaching education qualification (TEQ) programmes for Further and Adult Education (FAE) in Ireland. Rather than an isolated learning incident or moment,the journey toward professional identity indicates that there is a direction some take – a general path which leads to perpsective transformation – as they engage in adult learner-grounded professional development. The journey is one of fundamental transformations of perspectives, ways of understanding, and ways of empowerment that goes beyond teaching itself and is best explained through transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 2000). The learning journey that involves perspective transformation is one of reflection, questioning, analysis, development, empowerment and promise. Kegan identifies the essence of the experience ‘it is not so much changes in what we know, but changes in how we know, that depicts transformative learning’ (2000, p50). Recognition of tensions in the dimensions of learning and the complexity of the adult learner’s life context should be acknowledged and supported (Illeris, 2006). This can be achieved by taking account of the holistic nature of the learning environment, and by putting relevant structures and supports in place for individuals and others involved in the TEQ programmes. Critical reflection is fundamental to learning and to transformative (deep) learning in particular (Cranton, 2006). Specific provision has to be made within teacher education programmes to enable participants to build up the skills of reflection, critical thinking and critical reflection (King, 2005). Perspective transformation offers a framework from which to examine the teaching education qualification (TEQ) learning experience. This framework highlights a process of critical reflection and self-examination that leads to personal development and change (King, 2009). Research Questions While questions usually frame a study, the research question in action research is an evolving process, subject to change or further evaluation while the study is being conducted. Coghlan and Brannick suggest, “as the initial questions and data demonstrate that they are inadequate for addressing the issues, you work at keeping inquiry active” (2010, p.55). Therefore, action researchers do not work with a rigid research design and as new developments come to light, the original idea may need to be constantly revised. The following research questions have formed the initial position for this research proposal: How can we learn more about the important things that happen when adults re-enter college and learn new things. For example:- o Perspective transformation – how is critical reflection and self examination linked to changes in Habits of Mind? o How does the need for trusted relationships, profound discourse and learning teams/dialogue encourage transformative learning spaces? o How do the ‘inner’ TLE links from teachers ways of thinking and practicing (WTPs) to Teaching and Assessing Course Content & Staff-Student Relationships support the transformative learning space? o Critical reflection and levels of learning – how does one connect to the other in leading to transformative learning? Can Insider Inquiry help to explain this? o What is the role of self-efficacy, motivation and volition in learning for adults in the development of professional identity? Stage One of the project focuses on perspective transformation as a learning process in which adults recognise and reframe their culturally induced dependency roles and relationships; in this instance the study explores the formation of professional identity for teachers in FAE. By taking a focus on participants’ intentions, expectations and experiences, it follows their evolving progress over the first year of their TEQ programme. Dependant on the outcomes from Stage One the project will then move to Stage Two and will explore the impact of critical reflection and insider inquiry on levels of learning and engagement with the reflective processes that occur when adults change their ‘meaning schemes’ (beliefs, attitudes and emotional reactions), which are derived from their life experiences (Taylor 1998). The results of this stage will inform and redefine the transformative learning spaces model in order to enhance future TEQ teaching-learning environments. It will also form the basis for Stage Three of the overall action research project. Research Population The research population will be drawn from the students currently (2012-2013 academic cycle) participating on the two TEQ programmes. In line with ethical guidelines and good research practice, students who self select to participate in the research have been provided with information about the research project, and have been assured of confidentiality and anonymity and have been supported in their participation (granting consent, consequences of the research, uncertainty of outcomes). Methodology, Data Collection and Analysis An action research methodology has been adopted because it is consistent with the nature of the research questions, the time frames employed within and between the phases; and its assumptions fit best the realities of the learning environment of the participants and others involved in the TEQ programme. It is also likely to reveal more important interpersonal and intra-personal dynamics in relation to the experience of transformative learning. It provides a way of combining differing methods both within and between the various phases of the research. Reflective accounts will provide connections between each of the phases of the study which will be conducted over a three year timeframe. The WIT School of Lifelong Learning and Education (SoLLLE) is the context for this case study. Methods used included reflective learning journals and statements, survey, interviews, collaborative workshops and document analysis. Literatures that inform this study include HEA, TCI and government policy and discussion papers and monographs; Entwistle (2009, 2008);King (2005, 2009); Graham (2011); Higgins (1987); Ibarra & Petriglieri (2010); Markus & Nurius (1986); Cranton, 2006; Coghlan & Graham Cagney (2013); Baxter Magolda & Porterfield (1985); Rodgers & Scott (2008); Hamman, Gosselin, Romano & Bunuan (2010). Key words: transformative learning, insider inquiry, teaching-learning environments (TLEs), professional identity, perspective transformation, critical reflection, dimensions of learning.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: transformative learning, insider inquiry, teaching-learning environments (TLEs), professional identity, perspective transformation, critical reflection, dimensions of learning.
Departments or Groups: *NONE OF THESE*
Divisions: School of Education
Depositing User: Anne Graham
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2014 18:59
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2016 10:27
URI: http://repository.wit.ie/id/eprint/2912

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