Events and professional learning: studying educational practitioners

Fox, A. and McCormick, R. (2009). Events and professional learning: studying educational practitioners. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(3) pp. 198–218.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/13665620910943933

Abstract

Purpose – By trailing data collection and analytical methods this study aims to address the dearth of research into the use of attending off-site events for professional learning.
Design/methodology/approach – Three events, for academics and school leaders, were studied. A range of methods was trailed during 2006-2007, with the aim of collecting real-time data. These included shadowing individual delegates, interviews of other delegates, still and moving imagery and a survey questionnaire.
Findings – Collecting evidence of professional activities in real-time requires sensitivity to minimise its impact on the activities. It is ideal if everyone at such events can be informed fully in advance of data collection. Any assistance, including participating in the research, in reflecting on the benefits of attending an event was appreciated. The most important benefit of attending events was in networking rather than the formal purpose of the event itself. It was found that such interactions are likely to affect the delegates' sense of identity. Individuals also reported that their strategies for using knowledge from events are incompletely developed.
Practical implications – The study raises issues of how best to support learning at events and the use of knowledge and understanding back in the workplace. Raising awareness of the importance of networking at an event to participants could influence how both organisers plan for, and delegates use, such events.
Originality/value – The study is exploratory both in methodological and in conceptual development and highlights key issues and possible avenues for conceptualising the learning from events. Few studies have been carried out on such events.

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