Variation in Australian teachers' experience of professional learning though open education

PhD Thesis

Bentley, Penelope Anne. 2021. Variation in Australian teachers' experience of professional learning though open education. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Variation in Australian teachers' experience of professional learning though open education

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorBentley, Penelope Anne
1. FirstDr Catherine Arden
2. SecondDr Kate Davis
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages274
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

The Australian Government aims to increase student engagement and achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. One strategy to achieve this is through professional learning, which aims to improve the capacity of teachers and the quality of their teaching in this area. For many teachers, however, professional learning lacks effectiveness and meaning, and is perceived as being fragmented and irrelevant to the realities of classroom practice. Therefore, knowing which approaches to professional learning teachers find meaningful will not only benefit teachers, but also those who design and deliver professional learning experiences for teachers.

Open Education is a contemporary approach to professional learning. In the context of this study, Open Education is associated not only with resources, but with the culture and practices of teachers enabled through interactive Web technologies. Research into the different meanings teachers attribute to their experiences of this approach to professional learning is limited. Therefore, this study explores and describes the experience of professional learning through Open Education (PLOE) from the perspective of teachers of STEM subject areas experiencing this phenomenon. The intention of this study is to inform the design and delivery of meaningful professional learning to other teachers seeking to learn about STEM education through the experience of Open Education.

Phenomenography, an interpretive research methodology, was used to explore the experience of PLOE from the perspective of teachers involved in STEM education. This required three types of data. Firstly, demographic information was collected via an online survey to ascertain variation in the sample of teachers who responded. Secondly, preliminary information about the teachers’ understanding of PLOE was collected via the same online survey to derive a common language through which this abstract phenomenon could be explored. Finally, empirical data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 20 Australian Primary and Secondary teachers of STEM subject areas who were engaged in PLOE. Following the removal of transcripts used for the piloting and refinement of interview questions, data analysis and subsequent findings were based on the interviews of 16 teachers.

Interview transcripts were analysed for the different ways PLOE was experienced in terms of meaning and the structural relationships between these meanings. The findings reveal that PLOE was experienced in six qualitatively different ways. Presented as categories of description, of which the titles reflect their meaning, these are: Reclaiming autonomy; Filling knowledge gaps; Being part of something much bigger; Building on the ideas of others; Learning while teaching; and Personal and professional change. These categories were found to be structurally related through five critical aspects of which teachers were aware: the learning experience; learning practices; openness; learning problems and barriers; and validation of learning. These findings constitute the outcome space of the phenomenographic study.

These findings contribute new empirical evidence about the meaning teachers involved in STEM education attribute to their professional learning experiences. It makes an important contribution to knowledge in the areas of Open Education and professional learning, where this approach to professional learning can be understood from the perspective of the learners themselves. The outcome space has a practical application, where variation of experience can be used to design and deliver meaningful professional learning for teachers learning about STEM education through Open Education.

Keywordseducation, open education, teachers, professional learning, STEM, phenomenography
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390307. Teacher education and professional development of educators
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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