A CAPSTONE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING PROJECT: AN ENSEMBLE APPROACH TO PROFESSIONAL LEARNING
This study focused on understanding the nature of a professional learning experience facilitated through the theory and practices of ensemble theatre-making. The study was guided by two questions: How do K-12 teachers characterize their current school-based professional learning? And, how do a group of teachers experience an ensemble approach to professional learning? To answer the first question, a professional learning survey was created and distributed to teachers at a variety of American international schools. The purpose of the survey was to gain insight as to how K-12 teachers characterized their current school-based professional learning. The second question was explored through a professional learning intervention. Over an 18-week period, five middle school teachers participated in professional learning experience guided by the theory and practices of ensemble theatre-making. Descriptive statistics and narrative were used to explain the findings from the survey. Narrative was used to highlight the importance of context in teacher professional learning. Findings from the survey suggested that schools and teachers have different perceptions as to what constitutes meaningful professional learning, and that teachers see a direct correlation between the documentation/accounting of professional learning and professional advancement. A phenomenological perspective was taken when analyzing the 18-week professional learning intervention. Findings from the ensemble intervention suggested that the nature of learning in ensemble derives from a personal pre-disposition/readiness to learn, and the behaviours of releasing, expressing, and supporting. Further findings suggested that the subjective nature of ensemble-learning provided participants with an authentic learning experience. Key contributions of the research include: (a) language that allows teachers and administrators to describe the nature of accountability and capacity building in either self-directed or institutionally-mandated professional learning initiatives, (b) a framework for a non-technocratic approach to professional learning that acknowledges the complex nature of teaching, and through multiple processes facilitates an understanding of that complexity, and (c) a model that articulates an emergent understanding of the actions and interactions present within the phenomenon of ensemble-learning.
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