Influencing teacher engagement in informal interaction leading to professional learning : a theoretical model

  • Elise Rogers

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The relationship between collegial interaction in the workplace and professional learning is well established in the literature, particularly in relation to formalised teacher professional learning and learning in an organisational context. While acknowledging that formalised learning projects and activities are valuable, practising teachers consider the professional learning emerging through informal interaction to be one of the most important sources of learning, contributing significantly to changes in teaching practice. Very little research has been conducted into this informal aspect of a teacher’s professional learning and it is unclear how it can be supported in schools. This study explores the informal interaction that results in professional learning and seeks to understand what influences teachers to engage in this interaction. A qualitative methodology, utilising narrative elicitation methods, enables the voices of the participating teachers to be heard. The approach to grounded theory suggested by Strauss and Corbin (1990) provides a level of flexibility and is used as the methodological foundation for this study. The data was gathered during three initial workshops, with participants invited to participate in an additional two workshops during the analysis phase, ensuring an authentic reflection of the experiences collected. Seven interrelated factors are identified during the analysis: relationships; emotions; communication; cognition; leadership; teams; and school structure. Complexity theories are drawn on to make sense of the data and inform the emerging theoretical model. The model illustrates the interconnections between these factors and the complexity of engaging in informal interaction that leads to professional learning. The model sets out the dynamic interplay of the factors continually influencing each other. The findings offer new insights into the complex nature of informal interaction between colleagues in the workplace leading to professional learning. Each of the factors identified in the study has a significant influence on collegial interaction however, due to the continually changing nature of people and environments, it is difficult to determine the influence of a specific factor on any interaction. This study argues that the influences on informal interaction should not be considered as a group of independent factors; instead they should to be considered as interdependent factors in a constant state of change acknowledging that the engagement in, and outcomes from, any interaction cannot be predicted or controlled but can be influenced. While the focus of this study is informal interaction in a school context, the findings can be considered more broadly. They are able to inform future research into effective models for formal professional learning for teachers and make a contribution to the body of knowledge focussing on workplace learning in an organisational context.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMonica Kennedy (Supervisor) & Coralie Mccormack (Supervisor)

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