Journeys in Teacher Professional Development: Narratives of Four Drama Educators
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractOngoing teacher professional development is an essential part of the wellbeing of the schooling system and successful outcomes for students. In the past, teacher professional development has been used to describe an often 'top-down' method of training to meet systemic needs while taking little account of teacher's individual needs. This approach often conceptualises the teacher's life as a dichotomy with the personal and the private separated and unrelated. In contrast, teacher professional development in this study is conceptualised as a journey that includes encouraging and discouraging turns. The journey is explored through the experiences of two primary and two secondary drama educators using Hargreaves and Fullan's (1992) organisers: teacher development as knowledge and skill development; teacher development as self understanding and teacher development as ecological change. The study focussed specifically on teachers of drama. Of the four educators two were beginning teachers, one primary and one secondary and two were experienced teachers, one primary and one secondary. The teachers were interviewed over twelve months. Narrative vignettes were developed from the interviews. As the context for these teacher journeys was pivotal, the influences on the teaching of drama in New South Wales were investigated. This included an exploration of the major issues that have influenced the development of drama education both internationally and in Australia. The concluding reflections from this study suggest that there is strong interaction between teachers' personal and professional lives. Teachers' personal circumstances, family histories and schooling backgrounds all have an important influence on their work as teachers. Significantly, issues related to drama education's history and current context reflected these teachers' classroom realities. The teachers argue that they understand their professional development needs best and should have influence and ownership of their own professional development experiences. They found aspects of their tertiary training and teacher induction unsatisfactory. The two beginning teachers in this study struggled to survive the difficulties of their first year and both seriously considered leaving teaching. The teachers describe self understanding through distinct phases of development that are made unique by each teacher's personality and context. The teachers saw subject identity and pedagogy as important to their professional identity. They report that times of crisis often lead to positive changes in their professional development journeys. The ecology for these teachers was made up of several complex issues that are resistant to change and there were a number of impediments reported by the teachers that arise from their teaching ecologies. Two of the teachers have used a change of context to improve their satisfaction and confidence levels. Two teachers described beneficial experiences with supervisors in the school setting. If beneficial ecological change is to occur, education systems must attend to the needs of teachers and provide opportunities to teach unimpeded by systemic obstacles. The study calls for changes in professional development and for the recognition of the multilayered nature of the teachers' journey. The study calls for a reconceptualisation of teacher professional development that recognises each teacher's ecology and self understanding. The renewed impetus for arts education will only be successful if the complexity of the teachers' journey is recognised and systemic obstacles are removed.