Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

A Qualitative Inquiry: Teachers' Attitudes and Willingness to Engage in Professional Development Experiences at Different Career Stages

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

A Qualitative Inquiry: Teachers' Attitudes and Willingness to Engage in Professional Development Experiences at Different Career Stages

Article excerpt

In this qualitative study, the authors interviewed 16 teachers at different career stages to determine their attitudes and willingness to engage in professional development. The findings suggested that intent, value, and topic differed by career stages; however, regardless of their career stage, teachers were adamant that anything learned from professional development needed an application component and the content had to be relevant to their teaching contexts. Teachers' attitudes were also influenced by constraints that included time, money, and accountability issues.

In keeping with the mission of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society (DKG) - to promote professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education - and as teacher educators, our goal was to conduct a qualitative inquiry that might help us understand how better to support both our preservice and inservice teachers living and working in our rural island community in Hawaii. We envisioned a professional community that would provide professional growth opportunities throughout teachers' careers. As part of this endeavor, we offered a variety of workshops in both math and literacy and established a local affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Over the past 25 years, our own prior professional development (PD) experiences brought to mind a room full of eager teachers who were excited to participate in all- day workshops and engage in professional dialogue and who were committed to improving their practices. We read professional literature, collaborated and planned with colleagues, and shared ideas from each others' classrooms. We gave up our own personal time - and often our own funds - to attend various literacy workshops. A large group of us would meet on occasional Sunday mornings at the local bookstore to hear different speakers, participate in mini-workshops, and browse or read books together, then leave inspired to go back to school on Monday. Teacher teams from different schools would willingly attend district-sponsored workshops.

To launch our local affiliate, we had an opportunity to bring a national consultant to our island. The preservice teachers were eager, and we anticipated a favorable response from inservice teachers, even though we scheduled a Saturday event to accommodate teachers who had to travel a greater distance. To our dismay, we found it difficult to convince and recruit inservice teachers to the workshop. Having worked with excited and eager teachers, and remembering our own past experiences, we wondered if we had become too disconnected or if attitudes toward PD had changed. If indeed teacher attitudes had changed, what might have led to this change? We decided to explore the question: For teachers at different career stages, what influences teachers' attitudes and willingness to engage in professional development? Our hope was to find answers that would also inform the work of our local DKG chapter, our newly established professional organization, and our teacherpreparation program.

High Quality Professional Development

Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andrée, Richardson, and Orphanos (2009) defined effective or high quality PD as providing for improvements in teachers' knowledge and instructional practice that would result in improved student learning. In a recent follow-up report on trends and challenges of PD in the United States over the past decade, these researchers noted that teachers across the nation had fewer opportunities for sustained PD (Wei, Darling-Hammond, &Adamson, 2010). However, teacher participation in PD in their specific content areas had increased over the past decade (Wei et al., 2010). Wei et al. also reported wide variation across states in participation in PD. Yet, despite such variation across the United States, the authors noted a consensus by researchers and practitioners regarding key qualities of PD that lead to significant impact on teaching practice and student learning. …

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