Learning as central to being and becoming : expert teachers' personal professional development and learning

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2014
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This thesis explores the development and learning experiences of secondary school teachers who have been identified by their colleagues for their teaching and learning expertise. The thesis employs a dual methodological approach – narrative inquiry and phenomenological inquiry – to present unique interpretations of the personal professional learning journeys of five teachers. Viewed through the lens of hermeneutic phenomenology these compatible dual methodologies reveal complementary hermeneutic understandings of the five teachers’ personal professional development and learning. This constructivist study employs qualitative research methods that include criterion sampling, a snowballing process for the nomination of teachers by their colleagues, and a process of three interviews with each teacher across a time period of several months. By interrogating expert teachers’ personal professional learning the thesis uncovers new understandings about the development of expertise. Narrative analysis of the teachers’ stories reveals both post-reflective understandings and the pre-reflective sense contained within their experiences. In analysing the teachers’ constructions of meaning, the thesis posits the centrality of personal professional learning within the lifeworld of expert teachers. Four of the five journeys emphasise the contextual factors that have shaped their personal professional development: a belief in risk-taking for developing expertise, a lifelong learning attitude, and a dynamic approach to change in personal professional development. Applying phenomenological analysis reveals the distinctly different lifeworld experience of the fifth teacher and allows the study to distinguish teacher insight from experience. The thesis also argues that a phenomenological constituent of ‘disruptive dissonance’ is necessary for the ontological third space within the personal professional development of expert teachers. This thesis theorises that third space thinking is necessary to negotiate the problematics essential for the development of teaching expertise. This thinking is evident through a philosophy of openness, which encourages the creation of communicative, collaborative pedagogy and the avoidance of professional isolation; a confrontation of uncertain challenges to realise these as developmental opportunities; and a developmental awareness of prevailing through becoming an expert while accepting the acknowledgement of being an expert. The thesis concludes by proposing that three professional learning principles are essential for the development of teacher expertise. These are sharing the language of teaching and learning through storytelling; living with the uncertainties of being and becoming while rejecting the dichotomy of expert versus non-expert; and promoting professional learning communities that encourage the linking of theory and practice, the resonance between individuality and collegiality, and the mutuality of being and becoming.
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