Understanding and Supporting Formal, Informal, and Independent Teacher Learning as a Holistic System of Professional Learning

Barton, Emily, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Dexter, Sara, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation includes three independent studies focused on understanding teachers’ professional learning as a holistic system they create from formal, informal, and independent modes of professional learning. In the first study, I consider teachers’ independent use of curricular demonstration videos aligned with the MyTeachingPartner-Math/Science preschool curricula. Teachers’ total time spent watching demonstration videos was positively associated with their fidelity of implementation. In follow-up interviews, we also identified video use drivers and deterrents, as well as video usefulness characteristics. In the second paper, I examine teachers’ participation in and leaders’ influence on professional learning within the context of CANLEAD, an intervention aimed at supporting teachers’ technology integration through team-based instructional leadership. The majority of teachers participated in multiple modes of professional learning, and teachers participated in significantly more self-directed, informal and independent, learning than leader-directed formal professional development. While teachers at CANLEAD treatment schools participated in significantly more independent learning than teachers at comparison schools, there was not a direct association between leaders’ frequency of activity and teachers’ participation in professional learning. However, in comparison schools only, leaders’ frequency of activity was actually negatively associated with teachers’ frequency of informal professional learning. In the third study, we consider how a holistic system of professional learning might support teachers’ self-efficacy for integrating technology. Through analytic induction, we assert that participation in all three modes of professional learning seems to provide for access to and reflection on three sources of self-efficacy: verbal persuasion, vicarious experiences, and mastery experiences. Altogether, these studies support that teachers do, in fact, participate in a holistic system of professional learning when they are integrating new instructional innovation, such as curricula or technology, into their practice, and leaders do have a role in supporting self-directed learning. Additionally, the combination of formal, informal, and independent modes might better support teacher needs than any one mode in isolation.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
teacher professional development, informal learning, self-directed learning, self-efficacy, technology integration
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