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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The structure and organization of professional development : perceptions of FSL teachers Lamarre, Patricia Grace


Two developmental theories propose guidelines for professional development programs. The basic assumption shared by both these theories is that teachers' preferences will vary between individuals and that this variation reflects different stages of teachers' development. Teachers at lower levels of development (either professional or conceptual) will prefer highly structured programs that focus on "concrete" concerns, with little interaction between peers. Teachers at higher levels of development will prefer loosely structured programs, with more teacher interaction, autonomy, and discussion of theoretical problems underlying "concrete" issues. This study investigated: 1) FSL teachers' preferences for decision-making roles and for content in professional development programs; 2) FSL teacher characteristics possibly influencing teachers' preferences for professional development. Teachers' preferences were measured using an instrument developed by the researcher. The survey consisted of two parts: 1) A section on teachers' characteristics, providing a profile of the teacher's background and current professional development opportunities; 2) A questionnaire on teachers' preferences for structure and content in professional development programs. The survey was answered by 132 teachers from 12 school districts in British Columbia (12.2% of all French teachers in British Columbia). The findings showed that respondents would like to actively participate in professional development programs. Teachers' preferences for structure and content were varied. This supports one basic assumption of developmental approaches: that the learning environment and material of professional development programs should be designed to meet the varied needs of teachers. Teachers did not express a preference for lower level content and a directive structure of professional development. While professional development programs should address the varied needs of participating teachers, it should not be aimed primarily at lower levels of development, as can be assumed from the findings of developmental research. When teachers' characteristics were examined as possible factors influencing teachers' preferences for structure and content, no significant differences were observed between teacher characteristics and their preferences for content. Significant differences were observed between teacher characteristics and teachers' preferences for structure (decision-making roles). Two teacher characteristics showed significance: 1) Grade level taught by FSL teachers and their preference for structure in the presentation of professional development content. A significant number of elementary school teachers preferred to leave responsibility for presentation with a supervisor. A significant number of secondary teachers preferred a collaborative structure. 2) Significant differences were observed between teachers' current professional development opportunities and their preferences for decision-making roles in a professional development structure. A significant number of teachers that had previously had responsibility for decision-making expressed a preference for a non-directive structure. Teachers that had never had responsibility preferred to leave decision-making to a supervisor. From these results, it can be concluded that teacher characteristics might be influencing teachers' preferences and should be taken into account by organizers of professional development. The responsibility experienced by teachers in their current professional development activities would appear to be a factor influencing their preferences for future responsibility. The importance of environment in stimulating growth would appear to be a factor deserving the consideration of both practitioners intending to adopt a developmental approach and researchers in this area.

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