Exploring Principals' Perceptions, Beliefs, and Practices of Professional Development as Implemented through a Process of Collaborative Inquiry
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This thesis reports on a qualitative methodological study that explored six principals’ descriptions of their perceptions, beliefs, and practices of professional development as implemented through a process of collaborative inquiry. Collaborative inquiry is commonly referred to within the educational literature, and is one form of professional development for educators. While plentiful, the literature presents ambiguous descriptions of professional development, resulting in a range of models being implemented with limited findings representing what does and does not work. Participants were purposefully recruited and selected through a first-come first-serve approach using the elementary principal listserv of the participating school board located in Eastern Ontario. Two groups of principals were selected to participate; two who worked at Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership (OFIP) schools, identified by the Ontario Ministry of Education (OME) as having exceptional student learning needs, and four who worked at non-OFIP schools. Individual interviews and principals’ professional development documents provided the data explored in this research study. The data analysis incorporated the following strategies: (a) unique case orientation; (b) inductive analysis; (c) voice, perspective, and reflexivity; and (d) context sensitivity. The emerging themes from this analysis were: (1) building teacher motivation; (2) supporting teacher learning toward improved and consistent practices; and (3) promoting accountability amongst principals in promotion of collaborative inquiry. These themes were then connected to relevant research and OME literature and mapped onto Guskey’s (2000) evaluation of effective professional development framework. Recommendations for the future implementation of collaborative inquiry as a model of professional development included bringing a more balanced approach to equally emphasize applied teacher learning to coincide with the focus on teacher motivation. This thesis study voices the perceptions, beliefs, and experiences of principals currently using a collaborative inquiry model in the delivery of professional development. In doing so, this research may provide principals, school boards, and provincial stakeholders with authentic descriptions of what works and does not work in an effort to improve the delivery and application of professional development within schools and school boards.