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Meaningful professional development : perceptions of a teacher study group Campbell, Jonina Lynne

Abstract

The value of study groups as part of teachers' professional development is beyond dispute in the literature (Birchak et al., 1998; Florio-Ruane & Raphael, 2001; Joyce, Murphy, Showers, & Murphy, 1989). The purpose of this thesis was to examine teacher values in professional development and to determine whether responses differed between teachers in a literacy study group and teachers who did not attend the study group. Furthermore, to assist the study group with its annual feedback and evaluation process, study group members were also asked to report the extent they perceived each listed characteristic of professional development to exist in the study group. The findings of the study were based on the results from 45 surveys completed by study group members (n=26) and comparison group participants (n=19), and from seven follow-up interviews with study group members. The survey, a combination of Likert-scale and open-ended questions, and the teacher interview questions were developed from themes on teacher professional development represented in the literature. Both instruments were then validated in two stages, including input from four school district administrators. From participants' responses to the 26 Likert-scale questions, six categories were developed conceptually and then tested using multiple correlations and Cronbach alpha tests. The six categories were: Learning Culture, Critical Inquiry/Application, Career Path, Relevance, Content/Methods, and Peer Learning. A Repeated Measures ANOVA found that three categories, Learning Culture, Critical Inquiry/Application, and Career Path, were rated statistically higher than categories Relevance, Content/Methods, and Peer Learning, for both study and comparison participants. Learning Culture was ranked the highest and Peer Learning the lowest but all six mean scores ranked above the mid-point score on the Likert scale, which suggests that all components professional development were important. There were some differences between study and comparison groups. Study group participants tended to rate Likert items higher, and an independent t-test showed that study group members ranked the categories Learning Culture and Career Path statistically higher than comparison group respondents did.

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