A Case Study Examining the Experiences of Grade 7-12 Teachers in a Job-Embedded Professional Development Initiative
McDonald, Anne Marie
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Traditional models of professional development for teachers are often characterized by formats intended to transmit information for transfer to classroom practice. But it can be argued that one-size-fits-all models do not adequately meet the professional needs of teachers or respect the view of teachers as learners (Hall & Loucks, 1978; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). More recently, school districts have explored job-embedded approaches to professional development. However, little or no program evaluation has been utilized to gather evidence of their value to practitioners (Guskey, 2000). This study examined the perceived transformative value of an alternate professional development (PD) experience on teacher practice. The study aimed to: 1. Describe teachers' conceptualizations of "teacher practice". 2. Describe the ways teachers perceive their professional development experiences as having impacted their teaching practice. 3. Report teachers' perceptions of effective and ineffective professional development. 4. Identify institutional practices that influence teachers' perceptions of meaningful professional development. 5. Describe the intrinsic and extrinsic factors valued by teachers in a professional development experience. Qualitative research methodology was utilized for this case study. I invited participants from the District Literacy Committee (DLC) to participate in this research, and conducted a cross-case analysis to analyze the experiences of Practicing Teachers (PTs) and Observing Teachers (OTs). My data collection included web-based surveys, artifacts, and two focus group discussions. Results indicated a strong perception that the job-embedded lesson study model had significant impact on teaching practice. My analysis of the data analysis elicited many similarities and some key differences between the two groups. While the OT and PT were similar in their conceptions of effective and ineffective PD, they differed in their conception of teacher practice and what they valued in a PD experience. Both groups believed PD had tremendous potential to impact teaching behaviours. The findings suggest that differentiated learning opportunities are necessary to meet the needs of teachers, and that alternative models of PD such as lesson study deserve consideration. This study has significant implications for those who facilitate PD and those who develop it.