Impacts of Training on Career Long Professional Learning for Further Education Lecturers
Background and origin of study:
This research builds on an earlier project and case study carried out by the researcher that suggested there were potential links between lecturer training and ongoing engagement with continuing professional development in teaching and learning. Respondents from similarly sector located colleges, one in Scotland and the other in Wales, recounted their experiences of accessing continuing professional development post initial training and their motivation for engaging with lifelong learning. The case study highlighted some potential problems regarding the efficacy of training provided for lecturers in some further education colleges. The data suggested that model, delivery and content of teacher training for lecturers had influenced engagement with on-going lifelong learning and professional development. This research led to a number of questions arising for further exploration.
Specific research question addressed in this paper:
What impact does initial teacher training for lecturers in further education have on engagement with career long professional learning in pedagogic practice?
Study aims and conceptual framework
A purposive sample of twenty lecturers was selected from two separate but similarly sector located colleges of further education, one in Wales and the other in Scotland. The respondent lecturers were engaged in semi structured interviews utilizing the principles of phenomenological hermeneutics to interpret their recalled experiences of initial teacher training. The researcher aimed to develop an understanding of the perceived efficacy of training from the perspective of the respondents whilst assessing the potential impact on engagement with career long professional learning. The variations in models of training provision, course content and duration, and organisational and cultural support for learning were assessed for impact on developing individual lecturer professionalism and agency. Respondents were asked to recall experiences during training and assess the efficacy of the provided course/s in preparing them not only for teaching practice but also engaging them with career long professional learning and development.
Impact of the research:
The research has produced findings of potentially international importance and interest. The study included a comparative analysis of two important and separate devolved further education sectors operating within the European context. The findings related to the potential impacts of initial teacher training and cultural support for career long professional learning have significance for all teacher trainers and educational leaders operating in the vocational and further education sector across Europe.
The researcher was interested in the personal experiences and agency of the respondents and analysis of the free responses given to questions was seen to be critical in providing the necessary richness of data required to gain a clear insight. Gaining this insight into attitudes, feelings and experiences of respondents was a critical aspect of the study and as such, a qualitative approach using personal contact and interaction provided the greatest opportunities for free expression and the recording of both verbal and non-verbal responses..
The Interpretivist research paradigm provided the required framework and underlying principles to enable the researcher to meet the stated aims and objectives through the analysis of recounted experiences and opinions of respondents. The use of interpretive qualitative methodology allowed for researcher personal and theoretical interpretation and understanding of the phenomenon being studied. The individual agency and circumstance of respondents was influential in how they formulated an understanding of, and recounted their experiences and personal journey.
In considering the qualitative design of the project, and keeping a focus on the stated objective of seeking to understand experiences of respondent lecturers, it was felt that for the purposes of this research a semi-structured approach to interviewing would be most appropriate. This would allow respondents the freedom to respond openly to questions but with the interviewer guiding the interview with prompts and questions to ensure that information relevant to the research was elicited.
Careful design and rigour coupled with a plan of investigation utilising methods that aligned with the chosen philosophical paradigm was crucial in the selection of a research framework. In considering the qualitative design of the research project, and keeping a focus on the stated objective of seeking to understand and interpret experiences as described by respondent lecturers, the principles of phenomenological hermeneutics were adopted.
Given that the researcher worked for several years as a lecturer in FE, underwent the same training as many of the respondents and latterly worked providing training to lecturers in further education, it was considered that not acknowledging this position would provide detriment to the authenticity and academic rigour of the research.
Hermeneutic research allows for the valuable insights of the researcher to be acknowledged and recognition that a bond exists between the researcher, the respondents and the subject matter, allowed for the consideration of researcher personal insight, experience and values in interpretation of the recounted experiences and feelings of the respondents.
It was found that the experiences of lecturers within their training programmes and the cultural influence of the organisation had an impact on the individual respondent’s engagement with career long professional learning. While graduates of some programmes within organisations promoting expansive cultural learning opportunities went on to further (wider and higher) learning and training, counterparts graduating from truncated programmes working within restrictive organisations sought out noticeably fewer training and learning opportunities in learning and teaching. Graduates of the truncated programmes also held more negative perceptions of learning and teaching development and prioritised subject specific professional development. When asked to reflect on the types of training undertaken since graduating from teacher training, respondents gave a very broad set of responses but a theme soon emerged from the data. Graduates from the different training programmes in Scotland and Wales prioritised different types of CPD with the Welsh respondents identifying greater engagement with post initial training pedagogic development. Several of the respondents reported that their choices regarding further training and CPD were related to attempts to bridge perceived gaps in knowledge and seek solutions to specific problems that they had encountered. This suggests that although training has a varied impact on general engagement with CPD and attitudes towards continuous development, the model and course of lecturer teacher education undertaken has an impact on the type of CPD sought out by the respondent lecturers.
This paper explores these findings in relation to the experiences of graduate lecturers and the impact on the learning culture of organisations and consequently the experiences of subsequent generations of trainee lecturers and their students.
A critically evaluative approach to current literature and practice frames these findings and provides a contextual analysis of current practices within further education in the United Kingdom and the wider European context.
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