Companions on the journey: an exploration of the value of communities of practice for the professional learning of early career secondary teachers in Australia

PhD Thesis


Mercieca, Bernadette Mary. 2018. Companions on the journey: an exploration of the value of communities of practice for the professional learning of early career secondary teachers in Australia . PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0a026ef0cd4
Title

Companions on the journey: an exploration of the value of communities of practice for the professional learning of early career secondary teachers in Australia

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorMercieca, Bernadette Mary
SupervisorReushle, Shirley
McDonald, Jacquie
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages253
Year2018
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0a026ef0cd4
Abstract

his study investigates the value that early career secondary teachers (ECSTs) in Australia might gain in their professional learning from belonging to a Community of Practice. In particular, it considers whether their self-efficacy, professional identity and social connection might be developed from belonging to these collaborative groups. The study was, in part, motivated by the recent statistics of the Initial Teacher Education: Data Report 20171 (AITSL, 2017c) that 15% of ECSTs in Australia consider permanently leaving the teaching profession within their first five years of teaching, whilst only 65% of graduating teachers (in 2015) attained a full-time ongoing position. The researcher has endeavoured, through her research and a review of literature, to determine the reasons behind these disturbing statistics and to generate possibilities for addressing these important issues. The conceptual framework of this research is based on an understanding of Communities of Practice as a quintessential type of Social Learning Space. Other Social Learning Spaces that this research considers are networks, such as the relatively recent phenomenon of TeachMeet, a 'grassroots' form of gathering, organised by teachers for teachers and online networks such as private Facebook groups and Twitter Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). The Value Creation Framework of Wenger, Trayner and de Laat (2011) has been adapted for use in these new contexts. A constructivist paradigm was used to design the research and a mixed methodology was employed as the most appropriate method to capture the breadth and depth of the ECST experience. This included a questionnaire, focus groups and semistructured interviews, which arose from a sample of participants drawn from the questionnaire. The data were analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively.


Three key results emerged from this study, adding new knowledge to an understanding of how early career teachers can be supported through Communities of Practice. The first was that ECSTs in schools where there is high human, social and decisional capital within the staff and who work collaboratively to improve student outcomes through Communities of Practice, are in a superior position to those who do not. They have the opportunity, over time, to develop sustained self-efficacy, a strong professional identity and broad social connection. The second finding was that those who do not necessarily belong to a school
Community of Practice, can find the support they need to develop these qualities through participating in external networks such as TeachMeet and/or participating in online, private Facebook groups or Twitter PLNs. These latter groups became 'virtual staff-rooms' offering particular support and professional learning particularly to casual relief teachers, those who were isolated in rural or remote areas and those who felt uncomfortable in their own school communities. The third and most significant of the findings was that those participants who belonged to both a school Community of Practice and one or more other Social Learning Spaces operated as brokers in a Landscape of Practice and were able to accelerate their professional learning more so than those who were in just one community. The original contribution of knowledge and understanding of the experiences of early career secondary teachers has significant implications for policy makers, Initial Teacher Education institutions and for secondary schools in ensuring that all ECSTs are given every opportunity to have a supported beginning to their teaching career and ongoing professional learning through collaborative structures
within an overall culture of growth.

Keywordscommunities of practice; secondary teachers; early career; Australia; professional learning; professional identity; teacher support
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390307. Teacher education and professional development of educators
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Arts and Communication
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Related outputs

Early career teacher peer support through private groups in social media
Mercieca, Bernadette and Kelly, Nick. 2018. "Early career teacher peer support through private groups in social media." Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education. 46 (1), pp. 61-77. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2017.1312282