Teacher professional growth in an authentic learning environment
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The last several decades have been marked by tremendous changes in education - technological, pedagogical, administrative, and social. These changes have led to considerable increments in the budgets devoted to professional development for teachers ~ with the express purpose of helping them accommodate their practices to the new realities oftheir classrooms. However, research has suggested that, in spite of the emphasis placed on encouraging sustained change in teaching practices, little has been accomplished. This begs the question of what ought to be done to not only reverse this outcome, but contribute to transformational change. The literature suggests some possibilities including: a) considering teachers as learners and applying what, is known about cognition and learning; b) modifying the location and nature ofprofessional development so that it is authentic, based in the classroom and focusing on tasks meaningful to the teacher; c) attending to the infrastructure underlying professional development; and d) ensuring opportunities for reflective practice. This dissertation looks at the impact of each ofthese variables through an analysis ofthe learning journeys of a group ofteachers engaged in a program called GrassRoots in one midsized school board in Ontario. Action research was conducted by the researcher in his role as consultant facilitating teacher professional growth around the use of Web sites as culminating performance tasks by students. Research focused on the pedagogical approach to the learning of the teachers involved and the infrastructure underlying their learning. Using grounded theory, a model for professional development was developed that can be used in the future to inform practices and, hopefully, lead to sustained transformational school change.