Understanding Teachers' Engagement in Inquiry-Based Professional Development

Ashour, Subhi (2017). Understanding Teachers' Engagement in Inquiry-Based Professional Development. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

This study investigates how a UK Secondary School introduced inquiry as a form of teacher professional development and focuses on the levels of engagement by the teachers in this type of development activity. The approach taken in this investigation centres on a qualitative case study focusing on a deep understanding of teachers’ beliefs, conceptions and experiences of inquiry engagement. Data was collected over an academic year by interviewing nine teachers and a senior member of the school leadership team at different stages throughout the academic year; by observing teachers in some of their classes and the staffroom; and by collecting internal documents and external public reports related to the school and the inquiry programme. The data was analysed using thematic coding which facilitated the identification and comparison of significant themes across all data sets.

Findings from the research reveal that despite the school’s attempts to engage teachers in inquiry, the latter found it challenging to do so due to various factors. The analysis reveals the emerging factors of the conceptualisation of inquiry, availability of resources and ownership of the inquiry initiative and the impact of school culture on teachers’ inquiry engagement. The question of the appropriateness of inquiry as a form of professional development and the way it is facilitated in school emerges as a key theme.

The study claims three main contributions to the field of teacher inquiry. Firstly, it proposes incorporating a micropolitical perspective of the school culture to investigate the realities of teachers’ inquiry work. The study argues through empirical illustration that such a perspective is likely to provide us with invaluable insights necessary to understand teachers’ conceptualisation of inquiry and their inquiry engagement. Secondly, this study proposes a categorisation of various types of teachers’ inquiry engagement. Such categorisation is likely to help us understand how and why teachers engage in inquiry and therefore the best ways to facilitate this type of professional development. Finally, the current study advances a framework illustrating various processes, interacting factors and main considerations in the context of inquiry as a form of professional development for teachers. The framework explains how teachers respond to an inquiry programme and the conditions that facilitate their inquiry engagement or otherwise. This contribution has practical implications for schools and practitioners interested in undertaking inquiry as a form of professional development. It is argued that the practical implications are likely to improve the planning and implementation of inquiry programmes in schools.

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