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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Putting Practice First: Teacher-led professional development in action (2017-2021)

Geen, Celia (2023) Putting Practice First: Teacher-led professional development in action (2017-2021). Doctoral thesis, The University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


There is limited published research by practitioners in Further Education into competing models of change and improvement in educational practice, including how and how well they operate. This thesis contributes to the discourse in the underdeveloped area of educational research related to Observations of Teaching and Learning (OTL) and models of educational change and improvement. Drawing mainly on the work of Carr (1995); Coffield (2009, 2010, 2014a, 2014b, 2016, 2017, 2019); Dunne (1995, 2005); Fielding et al (2005); Gregson (2020); Kemmis (1988, 1995); O’Leary (2012a, 2012b, 2014, 2017, 2020); Sennett (2009); and Wiliam (2007, 2013, 2014, 2015), this thesis examines the concept of practice, what makes a practice educational and how models of change and improvement may create or inhibit conditions to support the development of professional learning and the improvement of practice in educational contexts. Moral and ethical aspects of educational practice, which seek to develop students to be parents, citizens and consumers, as well as workers and fulfilled human beings are also discussed.

This research study is essentially a study of college managers’ and teachers’ experiences of the model of change and improvement adopted by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (OfSTED) in its inspections. It is set in the context of a General College of Further Education in England. The purpose of the thesis is to explore understandings of subjective lived experience. It is therefore primarily an act of interpretation, working on a small-scale, in detail, using qualitative methods that include, case study, observation, field notes, structured and semi-structured interviews to gather data about people’s experience of inspection and other performance improvement measures, including their ideas and evidence concerning what helps, and what hinders, the improvement of educational practice. In this thesis, I attempt to make sense of data through interpretive schemes, as in this form of social research the researcher and the participants in the research are mutual interpreters of social phenomena. As the research is concerned with interpretation, co-construction of meaning and illumination, it is based on a constructivist ontology coupled with an interpretive epistemology and an inductive methodology, which focuses upon and begins in social practices. Data are subsequently analysed to develop recommendations for change and improvement which it is hoped may inform educational policy and practice in the future.

Data from this thesis suggest that, in the college which forms the focus of this study, observation of teaching is beginning to incrementally move away from a top-down model toward a more authentic model of educational change and improvement in a form of collaboration and cooperation in which relationships of trust and empathy are developing on both sides in situations when an observer of teaching acts an equal and a critical friend. Using the observation process as a catalyst for change as part of a shared endeavour, the thesis offers glimpses into how a more democratic model of educational change and improvement, which recognises and respects the professionalism and experience of the teacher, leaving blame, shame and top-down relays of power out of the action, might operate in practice. My research finds that the more collaborative, democratic observation model of educational change and improvement currently being adopted, refined and developed by the college is beginning to bring about a stronger sense of shared responsibility and mutual accountability for educational change and improvement. These are reflective of factors of Joint Practice Development (JPD) reported by Fielding et al, (2005) who with Sennett (2009) reminds us that real changes in practice take time.

Data from the study also suggest that the use of the Accelerated Development Plan (ADP), essentially a personal development plan, has been a useful stimulus and helpful focusing device for the self-improvement of teachers. It is important to note that this new model of educational change and improvement reported in this thesis is itself in the early stages of implementation and will undoubtedly require incremental change and improvement as we gain more experience in its use. What is significant however, is that there is a growing sense of ownership of and commitment to, the new model of change and improvement from teachers themselves.

A key recommendation emerging from the thesis is that academic managers and education leaders require and deserve dedicated training and support in deepening their understanding of educational practice, including how practice actually changes and improves in real-world situations. A further recommendation is that extending the use of JPD across the college may be useful in building a stronger and more cohesive sense of community in which teachers and education leaders can mutually engage in the shared endeavour of improving educational practice together, in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation based upon the foundations that have been laid thus far in the conduct of this thesis.

A final recommendation lends support to the work of Dunne (1995) where he reminds us that the expertise of teachers as context-sensitive, insider-researchers could and should be harnessed to greater effect in the pursuit of educational change and improvement, instead of the commissioning of external consultants who, as outsiders, are often unfamiliar the context and ethos of the college and are not therefore well-positioned, either as agents of change, role models or catalysts for sustained self-improvement in education.

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PDF (Doctoral Thesis)
Celia Geen PhD October 2023 1.pdf - Accepted Version
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Uncontrolled Keywords: Further Education; OfSTED, Concepts of Practice; Observation and Grading of Teaching; Professional Standards; Models of Change and Improvement: Joint Practice Development (JPD)
Depositing User: Delphine Doucet


Item ID: 16782

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2023 09:28
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2023 09:30


Author: Celia Geen

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Education > Further Education

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