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Title: English as a foreign language teachers' technology professional development through online communities of practice : a case study
Author: Bostancioglu, Ali
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 7088
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2015
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An online community of practice (OCoP) is a group of people, who are brought together by a shared interest and with the aim of deepening their understanding of an area of knowledge through regular interactions facilitated by computer mediated communication (CMC) tools. In response to critiques of current professional development (PD) approaches such as workshops and cascade training which are conducted in short periods of time allowing for only limited follow up and feedback opportunities, OCoPs can be beneficial and a viable alternative for teacher PD. This is because an OCoP potentially provides teachers with those elements of effective PD, cited in the literature, such as; collaboration, opportunities for mentoring, and sustainability over time. However, research on adopting an OCoP approach for teacher PD has been limited. Therefore, conducted within the context of English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching, the present study aimed to 1) investigate EFL teachers’ PD in learning how to integrate technology in their teaching and 2) identify what factors contribute towards creating successful OCoPs. The Webheads in Action (WiA) community has been chosen as a case for this study since WiA has previously been established to be an OCoP in which EFL teachers from different countries participate. A mixed methods research strategy was adopted which combined questionnaires and interviews. Initially, the questionnaire was administered to 69 members of the community. 24 of those members (4 core, 9 active, and 11 peripheral) participated in follow up interviews. Additionally, members’ interactions in the public group page were collated over a period of nine months in order to triangulate findings. The results suggested that member participation in the community led to perceived technology professional development (TPD) of EFL teachers and that the more a member participated and collaborated with other members, the higher their reported TPD was; a finding which underlined the importance of co-construction of knowledge in this process. Two major themes emerged in relation to factors affecting member participation in this long standing OCoP. The first one was identified as the creation of a sense of belonging to the community which was achieved through various means such as having an initiation process, providing an inclusive community environment, fostering trust through community norms, and meeting other members face-to-face. The second was dynamism inherent in the community which manifested itself as new topics that kept members interested and participating, and a flow of continuous member recruitment to the community. In conclusion, this study showed that OCoPs can be a viable alternative form of teacher PD and highlighted the importance of not only the professional but also the socio-affective dimension for designing and sustaining OCoPs.
Supervisor: Handley, Zoe Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available