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Transforming professional learning through personal learning networks
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.
Personal Learning Networks, Professional Learning, Teachers, Qualitative case study
For school teachers, effective, ongoing professional learning is essential, amid constant change, increasing complexity and accountability requirements in education. Traditional models of professional development are often discrete events, disconnected from practice and of limited impact. The literature suggests teacher agency, collaboration and active participation may create enduring changes in practice, yet despite these findings, there continues to be a disparity between what is known to be effective, and what is experienced by teachers (Edge, Reynolds, & O'Toole, 2015; Webster-Wright, 2009). This paper presents research investigating how personal learning networks (PLNs) may offer teachers self-directed, accessible and participatory learning opportunities, that meet diverse professional needs.
Anecdotal evidence and professional literature describing the nature of PLNs is quite extensive (Nussbaum-Beach, 2013; Warlick, 2009a), however few empirical studies investigate the experience of teachers who engage with PLNs for professional learning. One exception is a recent study, exploring teachers’ interactions through PLNs (Trust, Krutka, & Carpenter, 2016). Trust et al. (2016) reveal the potential for the dynamic and diverse nature of PLNs to meet the wide-ranging needs of teachers seeking professional learning, and their findings provide insight for my own research. However, a significant knowledge gap remains, associated with the variety and depth of learning experiences made possible when teachers blend collective participation, a connected learning approach and the affordances of social software. My research addresses this important aspect of professional learning through PLNs.
This paper introduces my research and presents preliminary findings. The aim of my doctoral study is to use a qualitative case study approach to investigate the experiences of teachers who have developed PLNs to enhance their professional learning. The research is informed by networked learning theory, connectivism and connected learning. The findings will contribute to an evidence base which will be useful for researchers and practitioners, and I intend to use these findings to underpin the future development of a conceptual model of innovative professional learning support. I envisage that this model will provide a framework to enable teachers to move from comparative isolation, to become connected teachers. I anticipate that when completed, this research will contribute to theory and practice of professional learning, and empower teachers to venture beyond the traditional professional development models.
Full Paper - .pdf
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