Online communities of practice and their role in the professional development of teachers

Duncan-Howell, Jennifer (2007) Online communities of practice and their role in the professional development of teachers. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Teachers are required to constantly change their pedagogy throughout their career, either in response to new theoretical approaches or new technological innovations. It is a profession that is characterised by dynamism and constantly strives to advance its practices to improve outcomes in student learning. However, current professional development programs are seen to be failing to meet the needs of the teachers, students and education policy.

Research has shown (Huberman, 1995; Richardson, 1990), there has been little discernible change in teaching practice from current professional development programs, thus an alternative solution is needed. The premise underlying this study is that the use of online communities of practice may present a solution to the failure of current professional development programs in effecting change to teaching practice. Thus it is the intention of this thesis to investigate if online communities of practice can realise this potential.

The research was conducted within the paradigm of qualitative analysis. The study was conducted as a multiple explanatory case study also known as a collective case study (Yin, 2003) and this approach reflects the current shift in trends of research in education. As Richardson (1994) stated, it has shifted &quotfrom a focus on effective behaviours toward the hermeneutic purpose of understanding how teachers make sense of teaching and learning" (p. 5). The approach used in this thesis provided insights into the value of online communities as authentic contexts for supporting professional development particularly in relation to relationships, communication and collaboration between teachers around professional inquiry, problem solving and emotional aspects of teaching.

The results of the study show that online communities of practice are a valuable source of continuous professional development for teachers. They have the ability to provide support as teachers accommodate the constant changes and the need to acquire new skills and knowledge. The strength of this method of PD lies in its ability to be self-sustaining and generative. Teachers have access to authentic, relevant and flexible learning that is not constrained by time and can be accessed according to members needs.

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ID Code: 16512
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lloyd, Margaret & Burnett, Bruce
Keywords: Communities of Practice, Online Communities of Practice, ICT, teacher change, professional development, professional communication
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Jennifer Duncan-Howell
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:04
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:48

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