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I'm a teacher... get me into here!

This is the sentiment that I would like to inspire in the teachers in the local community. Continued Professional Development (CPD) in Education and physical education has been derided and some have described it as being ineffectual (at best). Why?

Because it's:

  • a one-off
  • content rather than practice orientated
  • unsupported past the actual course
  • chosen by the school rather than the teacher
  • its poorly delivered
  • expensive to go on the course
  • expensive to cover the teacher with a supply teacher in school
  • often a national governing body award
  • renowned as being good if it finishes early and has a nice lunch

The aim of the physical education practitioner researcher network is to support the CPD of its members. How?

By being:

  • free
  • providing free supply cover that is paid out of the funding grant
  • sustained over four, related and supported workshops across the academic year
  • delivered by physical education teacher educators
  • supported by practitioner researchers with experience of research physical education in school
  • a potential part of a higher degree
  • followed by a nice lunch
  • supported through a Professional Learning Network (PLN)
  • supported through a bespoke website

It is the last two that I need help with. I have used a wiki before to support my secondary school students when they were making their own games (see Hastie, Casey and Tarter, 2010) but I haven't instigated a PLN or, to use @TomFullerton's words, developed an inquiry group with a virtual extension. The conceptualisation and design of this extension (in the form of a webpage) is the position that I am currently in and to which I am turning to a wider community for help. What follows is the original proposal that secured the first year's funding.

Proposal

Introduction

The purpose of the project is to contribute to the development of new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning of physical education by facilitating the creation of a collaborative network of practitioner researchers in local schools (Bedfordshire and environs). The practitioner research network (PRN) will be a means of supporting teachers' continuing professional development in becoming reflective practitioners and in conducting systematic practitioner research. As such, the PRN is intended to provide a location for developments in physical education, in particular through models-based practice (Metzler, 2005; Kirk, 2010). The recent PhD study undertaken and completed by Casey (2010) has shown the difficulties of undertaking a sustained practitioner research project in isolation. This remoteness, which could liken to the loneliness of the long distance runner, would be lessened, rationalised or removed through the PRN.

Practitioner research can be defined as: "a deliberative process for emancipating practitioners from the often unseen constraints of assumptions, habit, precedent, coercion and ideology." Carr and Kemmis (1986, p. 192)

A useful summary of the way the term 'practitioner research' is used was given by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2007, 25) when they described it as "a conceptual and linguistic umbrella to refer to a wide array of education research modes, forms, genres, and purposes." They argue that the expression encompasses a range of educational research methods including: action research; teacher research; self study; narrative (or autobiographical) inquiry; the scholarship of teaching and learning; and the use of teaching as a context for research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2007, 25).

In grouping these six genres of research Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2007) went on to justify their choices by exploring the shared features that cut across the various versions and variants. The primary aspect of all forms of practitioner research, they said, is the notion that the practitioner himself or herself takes on the role of researcher. Secondly, practitioner research works on the premise that in order to comprehend, and therefore improve practice, the interplay of power relationships and the workplace have to be expressly understood in the context of daily work. Finally, the very same professional context is the site of any practitioner inquiry and the "problems and issues that arise from professional practice are taken up as topics of study" (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2007, 26). It is this investigation of 'problems and issues' that is missing from our understanding of teacher development through school-based research.

There is an abundance of research in education about the effectiveness of this approach yet there has been little written in physical education to indicate that such a process is as effective. Indeed, as Armour (2006) recently wrote, practitioner research in its many guises is research that begins with "I" but ends with "you" and "we" as a profession. There is currently a dearth of literature around sustained programme of practitioner research in physical education. Many studies have involved physical education practitioners (See as examples: Almond, 1986; Dyson & Rubin 2003; Dyson & Strachan 2000; McMahon & MacPhail, 2007) but have been written for a different purpose. Little research has shown how the school as an institution facilitates and constrains the development of teachers through their own actions. Yet, as Almond (1986, 4) surmised:

Teachers cannot be expected to monitor and appraise all the time, but planning, teaching and thinking about one small unit of work can have a powerful effect. The course participants expressed the view that they had learning more about their teaching, their understanding of games and their pupils. They identified a change in their thinking as a consequence of examining their practice.

Objectives of the project

The principal objective of the project is to create a PRN that strives to improve the quality of physical education in schools. The funding gained would allow us to offer continued professional development (CPD) to practitioners through the establishment of the PRN. We will do this initially by establishing a series of four half-day workshops for teachers centred on practitioner research. The need for such CPD is important given the recent indication that recent provision has been "woefully inadequate" (Borko 2004, 3) and that the traditional "sporadic one-off, one-day, off-site courses contradict everything we know about the ways in which people are most likely to learn" (Armour 2006, 204). In contrast, the PRN would allow us to engaged teachers in meaningful and sustainable collaborations that gave us the opportunity to locate CPD in the community. Furthermore it would allow us to attract teachers to engage in masters or research-based higher and become partners in our own research.

References

Almond, L. (1986). Coventry Curriculum Development, Games: Coventry teachers explore...teaching for understanding. Coventry, England: Elm Bank Teachers' Centre.

Armour, K.M. (2006). The way to a teacher's heart: narrative research in physical education. In D. Kirk, D. Macdonald, & M. O'Sullivan (Eds.) The Handbook of Physical Education. (467-485). London: Sage

Armour, K. (2006). Physical education teachers as career-long learners: A compelling research agenda. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 11(3), 203-207.

Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3-15.

Carr, W., & Kemmis, S. (1986). Becoming Critical: Education, knowledge and action research. London: Falmer.

Casey, A. (2010). Practitioner Research in Physical Education: Teacher Transformation through pedagogical and curricular change. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis: Leeds Metropolitan University.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S.L. (2007). Everything's ethics. In A. Campbell & S. Groundwater-Smith (Eds.). An ethical approach to practitioner research: Dealing with issues and dilemmas in action research, 24-41. London: Routledge.

Dyson, B., & Rubin, A. (2003). How to implement cooperative learning in your elementary physical education program. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance 74, 48-55.

Dyson, B., & Strachan, K. (2000). Cooperative learning in a high school physical education program, Watikato Journal of Education, 6, 19-37.

Kirk, D. (2010) Physical Education Futures London: Routledge.

McMahon, E., & MacPhail, A. (2007). Learning to teach sport education: The experiences of a pre-service teacher. European Physical Education Review, 13(2), 229-246.

Metzler, M.W. (2005) Instructional Models for Physical Education, Scottsdale: Holcomb Hathaway (2nd Edition).

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