UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A case study of the implementation of a constructivist professional development program Campbell, Geoffrey James


This study begins with a perceived crisis of confidence in professional knowledge. The traditional, positivist, "theory into practice" approach to the development of a professional knowledge base has been found to be unable to satisfactorily explain expert action—especially in situations of complexity and ambiguity such as those routinely found in teaching. Much recent literature, however, has taken the approach that professional knowledge must be constucted by the practitioner In the context of the practice. In this view, theory is developed from practice by reflecting on one's action-related knowledge. Unfortunately, because they tend to be Intellectually isolated and routinely having to deal with many clients at once, teachers have few opportunities to use this approach. The problem addressed in this study is how to provide a professional development experience which fosters reflective activity and the personal construction of knowledge by teachers within the context of their classroom practice. The primary theoretical perspectives which underpin this study are those of "constructivism", in which learning is viewed as an active process of constructing concepts by connecting new information with prior knowledge, and "reflection as reconstruction of experience" in which reflective activity is seen as a way of reconstructing understandings within the context of practice. These perspectives, together with a brief review of related literature regarding reflection within the teaching profession, provide the theoretical framework of the study. The study consists of a case analysis of a professional development activity which was designed to promote the reflective activity of teachers. The activity gave two participant teachers an opportunity to observe and discuss videotaped recordings of each other's practice over a period of several months. The resultant discussions were audiotaped by the Investigator and transcribed for analysis. Informal examination of transcripts and analysis of metaphor were used to identify elements of teacher knowledge. Instances of reflective activity were identified using a "clue structure" or set of criteria. The study concludes that elements of teacher knowledge can be identified in a such a discussion of teaching practice, that instances of reflective activity were evident during the time period of the study, and that the professional development activity was perceived by the teachers as being of personal benefit.

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