Assessment of Professional Development for Teachers in the Vocational Education and Training Sector: An Examination of the Concerns Based Adoption Model

By Saunders, Rebecca | Australian Journal of Education, August 2012 | Go to article overview
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Assessment of Professional Development for Teachers in the Vocational Education and Training Sector: An Examination of the Concerns Based Adoption Model


Saunders, Rebecca, Australian Journal of Education


Introduction

Professional development has long been viewed as a capacity-building mechanism for teachers, and is widely accepted by governments and organisations as a means to leverage change (Corcoran, 1995; Corcoran, Shields & Zucker, 1998; Fullan, 2001; Guskey, 2002; Lieberman & Pointer Mace, 2008). What constitutes effective Provision is a site of contention (Garet, Porter, Desimore, Birman & Suk Yoon, 2001; Guskey, 2002) and--in the vocational education and training (VET) context discourses surrounding teacher professional development--tends to focus on profiling the competencies required to operate effectively in VET systems negotiating escalating rates of cultural, political, economic and technological change. Amongst the most notable contributors in this debate are Attwell (1997); Cort, Harkonen and Volmari (2004); Dickie and colleagues (2004); Guthrie (2010); Guthrie and Clayton (2010); Harris, Simons and Clayton (2005); Mahlamaki-Kultanen, Susimestsa and Ilsley (2006); Mitchell, Chappell, Bateman and Roy (2006); Mitchell and Ward (2010) and Volmari, Helakorpi and Frimodt (2009).

While there is some discussion in the literature about the design, implementation and assessment of VET teacher professional development (for example, Australian National Training Authority, 1997; Guthrie, 2010; Guthrie, Perkins & Nguyen, 2006; Loveder, 2005; Wheelahan & Moodie, 2010), the scholarly literature base on empirical assessment and evaluation of programs using validated and reliable measures still remains small (Mahlamaki-Kultanen et al., 2006). Despite this, there is no shortage of reports about professional development activities in VET. Some of the biggest contributors to this body of work are from long-term national professional development programs, such as Reframing the Future, which ran from 1998 to 2008, and the e-learning professional support program called the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (2000--2012). Both programs have received significant funding over the years, supported hundreds of projects and have been viewed as key enablers of supporting professional development and change in VET. But research suggests that there are improvements to be made in the assessment and evaluation of such programs. An evaluation of the Reframing the Future program in 2004 found that reporting and evaluation processes relied heavily on self-report data that 'focused on project activities, processes and reactions of participants rather than outcomes' (Caven, 2004, p. 10). Recommendations in the report call for 'an appropriate measurement system' (Caven, 2004, p. 10) that includes quantifiable indicators. Evaluations of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework have focused predominantly on the broad uptake and use of e-learning, and a report on systemic change initiatives in Australian VET published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that, while impressive, the evaluation mechanisms relied heavily on self-report data from participants, and independent criteria and measures were not used.

In this study, the Concerns Based Adoption Model is described as a conceptual lens and methodology for the assessment of professional development programs. The Concerns Based Adoption Model is not presented here as a panacea for assessing VET professional development but instead its applicability and usefulness for program assessment are described and discussed in relation to a four-year system-wide professional development program for VET teachers in Western Australia. Since its development in the early 1980s, this model has been widely Used for measuring and explaining educational change, including that resulting from professional development, and it is arguably one of the more conceptually robust and empirically grounded models for examining change (Anderson, 1997). Drawing initially from the work of Francis Fuller (1969), the Concerns Based Adoption Model was developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin in the Late 1970s and early 1980s.

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