Why, then, was it felt that attempting to engage state school teachers in action research – in counterpoint to other forms of teacher development which have already been tried in this context – could be a way out of the situation of very difficult teaching conditions, widespread demoralisation and traditional pedagogies that we have been describing? As we have indicated, the project was originally conceived by Tom Connelly, whose 13-year experience of English teacher training work in Chile had led him to the conclusion that in-service English teacher training (henceforth, INSETT) in this context tends to be very top-down in the sense of focus and content being dictated by the educational authorities. He had also seen that INSETT programmes delivered nationally have tended to involve isolated, one-off efforts, which have proved to be unsustainable with regard to long-term benefits for the participating teachers. Teachers themselves have little or no input into the INSETT offered to them, and what they do receive is often quickly forgotten once they return to their schools. The scant in-service training teachers receive fails to take into account the realities of the difficult circumstances they face – rather than being contextually oriented, the contents of training have tended to be governed by fashionable methodologies and technologies imported from the outside. Thus, the implementation of generic, one-size-fits-all forms of INSETT has been problematic, as can be illustrated with an example of ‘unsustainable’ practice within a project which Tom was himself involved in managing. This was the so-called ‘Recoleta Project’, an ambitious ICT and ELT initiative delivered from 2008 to 2011 in a large municipal primary school in Recoleta, Santiago. One strand of the project entailed the installation and implementation of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in each of the 24 classrooms in the school. All teachers (42 in total) received basic technical instruction in use of the technology, and the four English teachers also received 15 hours of instruction in designing materials using the software associated with the brand of IWB chosen. Two months after the training was completed only one of the English teachers (a self-confessed technophile) was actually using the IWB in her lessons, but even she was not designing lesson materials using the IWB software, as, in her words, she: ‘simply did not have time nor interest to do so’. The other three English teachers claimed that the IWBs never worked properly so they had given up using them altogether. After four months many of the IWBs had been covered with student work or class notices and were no longer used at all. This case conforms with the common phenomenon (in this context) of a top-down project that fails to be based on an analysis of whether or not the project goals are relevant and realistic to the contexts of those it is aiming to help. In Tom’s experience, the top-down approach adopted was highly symptomatic of in-service English teacher training more generally in the public education system in Chile. Being essentially teacher-originated and teacher-directed (though potentially scaffolded by mentors) can be viewed as a defining feature of CPD. These factors are also key to taking English teacher in-service development to a new level of relevance in the Chilean context in terms of appropriateness to context and sustainability. With such issues of context and sustainability in mind, the promotion of voluntary teacher action research presented itself as a logical option for fulfilling needs for an innovative, bottom-up approach to CPD with in-service Chilean teachers.
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...