We are back! You barely had a chance to miss your favourite webinar of the month, didn’t you? On September 6th we resume our #FirstWednesdayofEveryMonth webinar series, and we couldn’t do it more happily than hosting fellow GO-GN member and PhD researcher Penny Bentley.
The Australian Government aims to increase student engagement and achievement in STEM education. One approach is through professional learning which seeks to improve the capacity of teachers and the quality of their STEM teaching. However, professional learning is often perceived by teachers as ineffective and irrelevant to their needs. Therefore, knowing which approaches to professional learning teachers find meaningful will not only benefit teachers, but also the designers of professional learning experiences for teachers.
A phenomenographic approach was used to explore the experience of professional learning through open education, from the perspective of teachers as adult learners. Firstly, demographic data and information regarding teachers’ knowledge of open education was collected through an online survey. Secondly, empirical data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 20 Australian primary and secondary teachers involved in STEM education and learning through open education. Interview transcripts were analysed for the meaning teachers gave to their experiences and the relationships between these meanings. This study revealed the meaning teachers attribute to their experiences of professional learning through open education is related to: their professional learning needs and wants (agency), the role of other people in their learning (social), their learning practices (experiential), unexpected learning emerging from random connections and emotional responses (serendipity), learning with students as they teach (permeable classroom) and teachers learning about themselves (understanding self).
This study is significant because it provides new empirical evidence about the meaning teachers attribute to their professional learning experiences. Through exploration of experience, a concept central to transformative learning theory, it also makes a contribution to research into adult learning. Namely, which aspects of the experience of learning through open education have the greatest meaning for teachers, and why. The design of meaningful professional learning, for teachers learning about STEM education, can be informed by this research.
Penny Bentley is a full-time, distance education PhD candidate at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. Her research focus is Australian teachers’ experience of open education for professional learning, in the context of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. GO-GN member living in Victoria, Australia.
This seminar took place on September 6th at 12.00 pm BST, 21.00 in Victoria, Australia. A recording is available on this link.
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Featured image: Army scientists bring math into focus for teachers, CC BY 2.0