Modern language teacher professional development - A collaborative action research study to promote enquiry-based teaching and learning in the Irish post-primary classroom
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This action research study explored support systems for teachers enquiring into their modern language classrooms in Irish post-primary schools. Its findings show that each classroom context was a starting point for an investigation into different topics: mixed-ability teaching, heightening motivation for language learning, increasing students’ independency or improving students’ reading and listening skills. Not only were the topics teachers enquired into unique to each setting, each enquiry process was individual. The research reported in this thesis sets out to find a different avenue to the prevalent technical culture in teacher continuous professional development (CPD) in Ireland, where knowledge is imparted to teachers or the sharing of tips and tricks is given a high priority. Findings strongly suggest that a technical approach to teacher CPD is not fully adequate in responding to actual teacher learning needs. CPD that includes a personal, social and contextual dimension seems more promising and effective for teacher learning. Central to this study were teachers’ individual enquiries that were shared in a collaborative network of seven modern language teachers. As lead researcher, I accompanied and guided teachers during their enquiries, asking myself how best to support them. My own enquiry focused on illuminating and highlighting teachers’ successes and challenges during the year-long project. By adopting a dialogic approach, teachers and I co-created this study which led to an organic process of teacher CPD. The different dynamics at play in our network created a self-organising system that can be characterised as a hybrid system where second and third level practitioners meet. The major contribution of this thesis is its holistic insight into my action research journey, teachers’ enquiry journeys and our joint collaboration. Critical learning incidents and findings discussed demonstrate the complexity of teacher professional learning and can inform policy-makers, teacher CPD providers and stakeholders in designing and implementing CPD initiatives.
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