Effective teacher learning in primary school physical education : an analysis of school-based collaborative professional learning as a strategy for teacher professional development
This thesis analyses the use of Collaborative Professional Learning (CPL) as a learning strategy for teachers' Continuing Professional Development (CPD) within primary Physical Education (PE) in England. Underpinning this research are the researcher's own experiences of teaching PE in a primary school and the problems faced as a result of inadequate initial teacher training and professional development in PE. The review of literature provides an overview of CPD and PE-CPD, examines both historical and current models of provision, and considers national and international criteria for effective and ineffective CPD. CPL has been identified as a key feature of effective CPD provision, thus the fieldwork phase of this research aimed to establish whether and how CPL could be used to enhance teachers' professional learning in primary PE. The fieldwork was divided into two phases. In the first phase, observations, interviews and questionnaires were employed to identify how primary teachers in two case study schools teach and learn within PE. In the second phase, knowledge gained from the earlier fieldwork and also the literature review was used to design two `models' of PE-CPD, based around athletics, to be delivered in the two schools over the course of a school term (3 months). Both models included the provision of resources, an athletics scheme of work with accompanying lesson plans and weekly sessions where the teachers were shown the skills necessary to teach athletics (throwing, jumping, running). Sessions within each model of provision were designed to reflect the principles of constructivist learning theory and employed school-based CPL as a tool for learning. The impact of each model upon the teachers' learning was evaluated through interviews, questionnaires and, in one school, observation of subsequent athletics lessons. The data from both phases of the research were analysed using a constructivist version of grounded theory (Charmaz, 2000). Whilst the two models of CPD were rated as effective and changed the ways in which PE was taught in the two schools, the teachers struggled to learn collaboratively. Three potential reasons for this are identified: teachers did not have the necessary PE subject knowledge about athletics to share with their colleagues; Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998) within which the teachers could collaborate did not exist for primary PE in these two schools; the researcher didn't actively attempt to cultivate a Community of Practice and for CPD providers, this may be an essential step in maximising collaborative learning in PE-CPD. In addition, Wenger's (1998) social theory of learning is used as an analytical tool to further illustrate the personal, structural and practical barriers to CPL that existed in the two case study schools. Three tentative recommendations are made that would act as useful starting points for future research: in order to embed teachers' learning within the school context, teachers' `free' time should be restructured to facilitate CPL within Communities of Practice; timetables could be restructured to encourage team teaching; and lesson planning or planning schemes of work needs to be recognised as an opportunity for collaboration. Finally, in considering these findings in the context of the aims and structure of the new National PE-CPD Programme for England, it is-suggested that if the programme is to deliver its ambitious aims, it may need to be more radical than is currently the case.