About my research

My research was set in the context of the European Commission’s eTwinning initiative and it looked specifically at the use of eTwinning Learning Events (non-formal learning). It examined how the community influences the development of teachers’ competence in online collaboration and discourse, and it considered the contribution of social aspects and online moderation.

I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster University, and to my eTwinning soulmate, Tiina Sarisalmi, for their invaluable support. And to my examiners, Prof. Marilyn Leask from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr. Don Passey from the University of Lancaster, for their valuable advice.
Keywords: online learning communities; community of inquiry; online collaboration; content analysis; social presence; social ties; teacher training

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Understanding teachers' Continous Professional Development (CPD)

I've read a couple of papers recently that are helping me to understand better CPD for teachers and why eTwinning may be so successful.

Guskey (2002) suggests that research points to most CPD as being ineffective in bringing about the desired fundamental change in teachers' beliefs, attitudes and practice. He points out that what primarily motivates teachers to learn is a desire to improve the learning outcome of their students. Adding that they are also very pragmatic, seeking specific, concrete and practical ideas. Programmes that do not take this into account are doomed to failure. He suggests that the underlying model that is often used with teachers' CPD is flawed: based on the ideas of Lewin (1935) it presupposes that in order to change teaching practice we must firstly address teachers' beliefs and attitudes in order to obtain their commitment and enthusiasm to subsequently implement new programmes. Guskey proposes an alternative model based upon the premise that one has to firstly demonstrate the practical and concrete benefits of innovation, and the positive impact on students' learning outcomes:

'The crucial point is that it is not the professional development per se, but the experience  of  successful  implementation  that  changes  teachers’  attitudes  and beliefs. They believe it works because they have seen it work, and that experience shapes their attitudes and beliefs' (Guskey, 2002, p.383)

Guskey (p.383, 2002)
Boyle et al (2004) also suggest that whereas traditional CPD approaches, such as attending a course, a conference, etc, may spark the interest of teachers, they are largely insufficient to lead to sustainable change to what teachers teach and how they teach. They note that for a lot of teachers, 'professional development appears to  be  still  characterized  by  fragmented  ‘one-shot’  workshops  at  which  they  listen passively  to ‘experts’ and  learn  about  topics  not  essential  to  teaching' (2004, p47). They suggest that CPD that favours peer learning is far more likely to be successful:

'In  comparison  to  the  traditional ‘one-hit’ workshops, these types of activities are usually longer in duration, allow teachers the opportunity to practise and reflect upon their teaching and are embedded in ongoing teaching activities' (Boyle et al, 2004, p.48)

The findings from their longitudinal study suggest that the most common longer-term CPD activities for teachers involved the observation of colleagues (peers) and the sharing of practice, and that these activities led to one or more aspects of teaching practice being modified.

The  conclusions of Guskey and Boyle et al fit well with the approach adopted in eTwinning, where the basic premise is that teachers primarily learn from each other, through concrete activities (often joint pedagogical projects) in an environment that supports longer-term collaboration and relationship building. The conclusions also support the ideas that we are putting forward for the revised LE in the autumn, namely: more support for peer reflection and sharing, and a longer period in which teachers may try-out the ideas in their daily practice.


Boyle, B., While, D. & Boyle, T. (2004) 'A longitudinal study of teacher change: what makes professional development effective?'. Curriculum Journal, 15 (1), pp.45-68
Guskey, T. R. (2002) 'Professional Development and Teacher Change'. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 8 (3), pp.381 - 391
Lewin, K. (1935) 'A Dynamic Theory of Personality', New York, McGraw Hill

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