As this chapter will aim to clarify, the project was innovative – both in the Chilean context and in the wider field – in several important respects: (1) It placed teacher-research at centre stage within an in-service CPD intervention, relying on intrinsic not instrumental motivation, since participation was voluntary and not qualification-oriented. (2) It targeted public or semi-public secondary school teachers facing large classes (40+ students), very busy schedules (often around 40 hours of direct teaching contact per week) and other difficult circumstances. (3) It was a relatively large-scale and long-term project for its type (with the potential to support a maximum of 80 teachers over a period of one year). (4) The type of research teachers were encouraged to engage in was of a particular kind; in recognition, partly, of the difficulties teachers would face in finding time to do research, the notion of exploratory action research was developed and promoted at the initial seminar, whereby teachers were encouraged to engage first in extensive exploration of problematic issues via means which would not interfere with their everyday teaching, and only later were they guided optionally to consider trying to ‘solve’ problems by implementing and evaluating new plans. (5) Finally, an innovative approach was also adopted towards the development as well as the content of the programme; rather than all steps being determined in advance, a relatively self-reflective, process-oriented stance was adopted with regard to planning and development: thus, an exploratory/action research orientation informed the ongoing design of the programme as well as the projects engaged in by teachers.
Context Opting to study to become an English teacher at a university in Chile following graduation does not promise a particularly bright future as far as income and status are concerned. In addition, the conditions facing public or semi-public school teachers can be very demanding, with 38 hours per week of direct contact teaching and classes of 40 students being the norm. There are historical reasons for the relatively low status of school teaching: during the Pinochet years (1973–89), teaching was regarded as one of a number of ‘subversive’ professions, and many good teachers were removed from their posts on political grounds. The subsequent freezing of salaries, consistent under-investment in state sector education and outsourcing of public school administration to municipalities meant that by the time the transition to democracy occurred in 1990, teaching had become an unattractive option for school leavers contemplating future careers. Through no fault of their own, there are many qualified English teachers whose grasp of the language is at best rudimentary and who consider it normal to deliver the whole class in Spanish using a methodology akin to Grammar-Translation. Meanwhile, in the state sector at least, problems of demoralisation remain, with many teachers appearing reluctant to participate in professional development programmes. These are some of the challenges facing the present and future Chilean governments.
| Teacher-research as continuing professional development
Published on Aug 29, 2014
Published on Aug 29, 2014
The publication, edited by David Hayes offers global perspectives on the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of English language teach...