The Wholeheartedness of Becoming: Evidence-Based Inquiry into Practice for Inservice Teacher Educators
Recent trends in the professional learning and development of teachers are moving more towards the activation of learning rather than content delivery. Teachers are expected to take more responsibility for their learning within collaborative environments. This has implications for the practice and learning of inservice teacher educators. Evidence-based inquiry into practice (EBIP) is one approach that is being adopted, which involves evaluation of practice against values, beliefs and assumptions. This study investigated the professional learning and development experiences and perceptions of a group of 10 inservice teacher educators, who participated in the Inservice Teacher Education Practice (INSTEP) project from 2005 to 2009. INSTEP was a New Zealand Ministry of Education project designed to investigate and develop professional learning approaches for inservice teacher educators. In particular, its focus was on the implementation of collaborative EBIP to improve practice. Collective case study and grounded theory methodologies were adopted. Semistructured interviews were conducted with participants in 2008 and 2010. The interviews were analysed using inductive content analysis. Theoretical sampling was applied to identify further participants and document sources such as artefacts, reports and publications, which were also used to inform the research. The findings indicate that, while all participants improved practice and gained knowledge through EBIP, some experienced transformations in their perceptions of themselves, their practice, and their role as inservice teacher educators. Rigorous and systematic EBIP was most effective, and only sustained, when it was supported within formal, informal and social organisational contexts. Such contexts incorporated collective responsibility for learning. This included negotiation and development of shared meanings, tools, mechanisms, and frameworks, which systematised and reified the process of EBIP. This also enabled individual professional learning goals to be located within an overall infrastructure incorporating a shared vision, and alignment with strategic priorities and resourcing. The study suggests that sustainability of change and improvement of practice within system-wide educational reform is more likely to be achieved by individuals working coherently within an educational system and organisations that value and adopt an inquiry approach and nurture collaborative environments. Such environments provide safety to expose vulnerabilities, and enable opportunities for learning that minimise the impact of power relations and contestable environments, while offering challenge, support and diversity of perspectives. The theoretical framework for EBIP derived from the research, and an integrative analysis of the literature, identifies three interconnected and interdependent components linked by a common vision of purpose, and a collective commitment to learning. The components are: individual learning and transformation; communities and connectedness; and systematisation and reification. The study includes recommendations for more research into the contexts and processes of collaborative models of professional learning, and into the changing role and professional learning requirements of inservice teacher educators. It also identifies a need to investigate valid means of judging effectiveness of practice for inservice teacher educators, since evidence of enhanced student learning is linked only by a chain of influence to inservice teacher educator practice.