Networks facilitating change: a case study of an eLearning community

2016-12-07T01:14:55Z (GMT) by Pennie White
This qualitative case study explores an elearning community project designed to address the broader issue of the lack of integration of technology into the school curriculum. The project intended to address this problem through a collaborative approach between seven secondary schools and removal of two main barriers to technology integration: lack of infrastructure and lack of support for teachers. Government funding made provision for infrastructure upgrades, laptops for student use and a learning management system for all seven schools. It also enabled the employment of a project coordinator and a team of coaches, primarily to support the professional learning of teachers. The shared approach to professional learning included pedagogy-focused workshops and follow-up support with coaches. This research contributes to the under-theorised area of emerging approaches to professional learning, including a focus on community building, peer coaching, collegial learning and collaborative projects. <br>    This qualitative case study explores an elearning community that was established as part of the Victorian Government’s Leading Schools Fund initiative. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 teachers and 14 coaches from seven secondary schools that became connected through an elearning community project. The coaches were employed to support the implementation of a laptop program and learning management system, and the development of an information communication technology (ICT) rich curriculum. Insight into the factors that contribute to supporting teachers to integrate technology has been developed by way of thematic analysis of the semi-structured interview data. Firstly, the data was analysed in an inductive, data-driven way. Secondly, professional learning literature and a framework based around communities of practice theory informed the interpretation of the data. <br>    <br>    This research explores teacher professional learning in integrating technology into the curriculum in the context of a network of secondary schools from the perspective of communities of practice theory. The theoretical framework derived from communities of practice theory guided this study in exploring teacher professional learning through concepts that are useful for thinking about learning through practice as a process of social participation. The concepts defined in the communities of practice framework provided a valuable language for the mid-level analysis conducted in this study. The framework also includes conceptualisations of the processes involved in learning in and brokering practices across communities, constellations and the landscape of practice. <br>    This study found that a community approach to professional learning by clustering schools supported technology integration into the curriculum. It also found that shared repertoires developed in response to large-scale technology initiatives that were negotiated at the local level. This study contributes to the field of research by offering an analysis of rich data exploring the multi-tiered approach to professional learning across the network of schools that provided flexible opportunities for teachers in integrating technology into the curriculum, including coaching and in-classroom support. Factors that supported the work of coaches were practices that developed both their learning and their connections with others. This study makes a significant contribution to knowledge in understanding emerging professional learning practices in integrating technology into the curriculum. This study also makes a significant contribution to theory with the constructs of a nexus group and a cluster community.