Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Classroom Teachers as Co-Researchers: The Affordances and Challenges of Collaboration

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Classroom Teachers as Co-Researchers: The Affordances and Challenges of Collaboration

Article excerpt

Visions and realities: Recruiting teachers and schools

When we designed the methodology for researching Literacy in the 21st Century: Learning from Computer Games, we envisioned recruiting six schools to the project, each of these supplying three teachers to work with us for a three-year period. We imagined the nice balance of two inner urban, two suburban and two rural schools and that, if we had the money to pay transport and Casual Relief Teaching, the provision of free, ongoing professional learning sessions and the opportunity to take students to work at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, that schools would be knocking at the door and that we might need a selection process! It all looked quite simple on a spreadsheet.

In reality, we found it very difficult to recruit schools and teachers, and not because teachers aren't interested in continuing professional learning, or in computer games in the classroom. The Victorian Association for the Teaching of English (VATE) is a partner on the project, and they were heavily involved in the recruitment process, which was advantageous as they are highly regarded by teachers and they provided much valued assistance and feedback. The project was widely advertised through the VATE newsletter and website, both regularly accessed by a large proportion of secondary English teachers in Victoria. Members of the VATE office also spent considerable time contacting and following up with potentially interested parties. Despite this, we were not flooded with requests, and we began the project with two Catholic boys' schools (one regional), two government schools and later one private school (after contact with one of the research team at the Australian Government Summer School for English Teachers at Deakin University).

Factors we have identified as being drawbacks to participation are the length of the project (three years), the extent of the commitment (we initially were asking for three teachers from each school) and the number of days that teachers were required to be absent from school for the PD program (four days per year). Comber and Kamler (2008) faced similar recruitment difficulties with their long-term intensive project. We envisaged that teachers could work in teams at the schools and, while it was relatively easy to find individuals who were interested, it proved to be difficult to find that level of interest and commitment across school teams. In addition, it is difficult for senior teachers and those in rural areas in particular to leave their classes, even if there is funding for Casual Relief Teaching (CRT). Even with the teachers and the schools recruited, we did not have the requested number of teachers--both of the Catholic boys' schools had fewer participants--two participants from one school and the other had one teacher initially participating, and another teacher was recruited later. Asking for a large commitment like this from schools in a reasonably impersonal way was not a successful strategy and in retrospect it would have been more effective to have engaged in a personal targeted recruitment campaign to get schools on board in addition to the public advertisements or to try recruiting individual teachers rather than involving larger groups.

The teachers who were engaged with the project joined for a variety of reasons, but they all identified their belief that using computer games in the classroom can help teachers design worthwhile, relevant and interesting curriculum for their students (in line with Beavis 2001; Gee 2003) and they mostly explicitly discussed the value of further learning and engagement with theoretical concepts (as described by researchers such as Comber & Kamler, 2005, 2008; Honan 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2004). Some of the teachers found the advertisement themselves and followed it up with other staff at their school to form a team. One teacher was already working with computer games in the classroom and was interested in connecting with others who were doing the same thing and further theorising his practice. …

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