A Case Study Exploring Freelance English Language Teachers’ Engagement With And Informal Learning Through Open Educational Practices In Switzerland

Daniels, Patricia (2021). A Case Study Exploring Freelance English Language Teachers’ Engagement With And Informal Learning Through Open Educational Practices In Switzerland. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012814

Abstract

Freelance English language teachers in Switzerland teach mainly outside of mainstream education where precarious working conditions can impact on opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD). Research has shown that engagement with open educational practices (OEP) can lead to skills and knowledge development. In this enquiry, OEP include open educational resource (OER) based practices and the use of open technologies. Research to date has prioritised language teachers in higher education who have received training and support.

This qualitative case study, framed within an interpretive paradigm, addresses a research gap by exploring freelancers’ engagement with and informal learning through OEP in their teaching contexts. Informal learning and CPD are used as lenses to theoretically frame this enquiry which is underpinned by a sociocultural perspective. An online survey and semi-structured interviews were used for data generation, and explored freelancers’ engagement with OEP, their underlying motivations, and how and what they learn and develop through OEP. Fifteen survey respondents were recruited for semi-structured interviews via criterion-based purposive sampling. Data were analysed via reflexive thematic analysis.

Findings show that freelancers’ engagement with OEP is influenced by various contextual issues, both structural and agential. Reflection, learning by doing and benchmarking were identified as ways in which freelancers learn informally through OEP. The evidence suggests that engagement with OEP improved freelancers’ pedagogical and content knowledge and digital literacy skills, raised their critical awareness of aspects of OER, and led to changes in their teaching practices. Freelancers reported that these transformations impacted positively on student motivation and learning. Findings and recommendations from this enquiry have a broad applicability and can aid diverse stakeholders develop a deeper understanding of factors that shape freelancers’ learning, and what support and infrastructure they need to engage in OEP.

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