An investigation of teacher professional development through the pedagogical cells of secondary school teachers of English in Senegal

Diop, Dame (2021). An investigation of teacher professional development through the pedagogical cells of secondary school teachers of English in Senegal. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00013382

Abstract

In educational research, a large number of studies on teacher professional development (TPD) have been conducted in various parts of the world and a range of insights gained on this area of research. Most ideas about effective TPD contend that it needs to be context-sensitive, promote learning through reflection, favour collaboration within communities of teachers, aim at improving students’ learning. However, although the role of teachers in education has been widely considered as determinant to successful student learning, there is still little documented knowledge related to TPD in many parts of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is argued to be acutely needed.

Taking a sociocultural approach to teacher learning by understanding it through a situated perspective, this study investigates how TPD is conceptualised in Senegal and implemented through the pedagogical cells (PC) of secondary school teachers of English. It also explores these teachers’ lived experiences of TPD within their PCs and their schools as working environments. Using a vertical case study approach, participants were selected from the three different levels of the organisation of TPD in Senegal: four senior English Language Teaching (ELT) officials at the national level, one teacher trainer and three departmental pedagogical cell (DPC) coordinators at the regional level, and 14 teachers from two schools and their leaders at the local level. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, observations, and documents inspection. The analysis of the data is informed by a thematic approach.

The findings show that most of the conceptualisations of TPD expressed by the participants of this study are in line with current understandings of effective TPD in educational research, although they are informed by different approaches and views of learning. The findings also indicate that the studied teachers’ DPCs and PCs resemble learning communities in some ways and that the school cultures may impact on teachers’ professional learning. However, the main dissonance in understandings of TPD between the national level and the other two appears to be the scarcity of collective reflection within the activities of the studied DPCs and PCs.

This thesis argues for a shift on understanding of teacher professionalism within Senegalese educational context. In this sense, it proposes a cyclical collective reflection within teachers’ PCs based on classroom practice and the use of peer observation within these small groups of teachers. Nonetheless, this thesis also advocates for a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches to TPD in this country where learner-centred approaches to teaching are being promoted.

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