Teacher Professional Growth in an Authentic Learning Environment

Fall 2008

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Vol. 41, Iss. 1; Fall 2008. p. 85-111
(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

Increments in educational budgets have been devoted to professional development for teachers to help them accommodate their practices to the realities of their classrooms. Previous research has suggested that despite this significant investment, there has been little, if any, positive change. This begs the question of what else might be done to reverse this outcome and contribute to transformational change of the profession. This article reports on a study that closely followed and documented the journeys of professional growth for a group of teachers from their points of view, over a period of six months.

Research Questions

In this study, teachers were asked to tell about their journeys of professional growth in an authentic learning environment, which was the result of their participation in a particular technology oriented project. Looking at their journeys, individually and collectively, answers to the following questions were sought through an analysis of a variety of data sources:

1. Why did they embark on a path of significant professional growth? Why did they take up

    the learner's challenge?

2. What capacities or abilities did they (as learners/teachers) bring along with them on their 

3. What conditions were in place that facilitated or detracted from their journeys?

4. What did they see as the outcomes of these journeys for themselves and for their

5. What did these teachers see as their next steps?

26 teachers agreed to participate in the research. 16 (62%) participants, were female and 10 (39%) were male. There were eight secondary teachers (31%) and 14 elementary teachers (54%). Of the 26 participants, seven were not involved in project work at die time in which the specific data artifacts were being collected. Despite this limiting factor, their previous journeys and the reasons for not being involved with projects at that particular time shed light on specific aspects of the pathways leading to professional growth, which was the question at the heart of the research. The 19 participants who were active GrassRoots teachers frequently affirmed this constraint in personal discussions during work on their GrassRoots projects.

Action research was conducted in conjunction with participation in a project centered on the creation of Web sites as culminating performance tasks.
Analysis of the data collected led to the conclusion that one possibility could be to facilitate professional development in such a way that it is authentic, based in the classroom and focused on tasks meaningful to and specifically chosen by the teacher.

Updated: Nov. 24, 2008