Thesis

Investigating Teachers' Experiences of Professional Development within a Major Education Reform in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

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Abstract

This thesis reports an interpretivist, mixed-methods investigation of teachers’ experiences of professional development within a major education reform in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Drawing on data from 393 Arab and Western teachers, the study considered the factors (design, non-design-related, and cultural) that contributed to the impact of professional development in this context. The study extended existing literature by highlighting the importance of culture and context in influencing teacher professional development. Keywords: Teacher professional development; professional development evaluation; education reform; culture; cultural differences; policy and practice; Abu Dhabi; United Arab Emirates; mixed-methods research; interpretivist research. The full-text of this thesis is available at https://espace.curtin.edu.au/handle/20.500.11937/57566

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... Thus, we do not detail all of the findings, nor do we provide full details of the methods used, the demographic breakdown of the sample or the ethical procedures followed. These and other details are available in the full account of the study (McChesney 2017). ...
... The study we report here (McChesney 2017) involved an interpretivist mixed methods investigation of public school teachers' experiences of professional development 1 within a major education reform in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Teachers' lived experiences in relation to their involvement in professional development were the primary phenomenon of interest. ...
... (1) To examine teachers' perceptions of the design and impact of professional development in Abu Dhabi public schools; (2) To investigate relationships between the design and impact of professional development; (3) To investigate non-design-related factors that affected teachers' perceptions of the impact of professional development; and (4) To compare Arab and Western teachers' perceptions of professional development (McChesney 2017). 2 These research objectives were intended to acknowledge that teachers were likely to have different experiences and perceptions of professional development-that is, that different teachers would make different meaning of the professional development offered to them. ...
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Because adolescent life satisfaction is associated with important affective, behavioural and health-related outcomes during both adolescence and later life, strategies for promoting adolescent life satisfaction have potential social value. In the study reported in this article, associations are reported between perceptions of the school climate and reports of bullying, resilience and life satisfaction for 6120 Australian adolescents. The study extended past research, which has given little attention to either the relationships between these variables or the relative roles of various school climate sub-constructs. Aspects of the school climate explained 41% of the variance in adolescents’ resilience, 16% of the variance in bully victimisation, and 54% of the variance in life satisfaction. Further, resilience was positively associated with life satisfaction. These results affirm the importance of the psychosocial school climate as a mechanism for improving adolescent (and life-course) outcomes, strengthening calls for schools to give greater attention to improving their psychosocial climates.
... This section has necessarily provided only a brief overview of the ways in which data analyses were conducted for the study. Readers seeking more detail in these areas are referred to the original study by McChesney (2017). ...
... The design features of the professional development activities appeared to be related to the impacts of professional development, a finding that is in line with the indications of existing literature (Garet et al. 2001;Desimone 2009). Thus, teachers in our study felt (in general) that professional development led to greater impacts when the professional development reflected: a subject-specific content focus, active learning approaches, coherence with other policies and expectations in the local context, extended and substantial duration, and collective participation by groups of teachers (Desimone 2009;McChesney 2017). However, the teachers indicated that other, non-design-related factors also affected the extent to which professional development resulted in impacts for teachers, students and schools. ...
... These activities may have been planned, spontaneous, formal, or informal' (McChesney 2017, 32). 2. A further objective related to the development and validation of the questionnaire used in the main survey. As this was a methodological objective that served as a 'stepping stone' (by providing a survey tool suitable for use to conduct the intended research), it is not discussed further in this article; we refer interested readers to McChesney (2017) and McChesney and Aldridge (2018). 3. Based on the similarities and differences in the professional development provision for different groups of teachers in the research context, the target population was defined as teachers of English, mathematics or science subjects (including middle school science and high school biology, chemistry, geology, physics) at Grades 6-12 in public schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. ...
Article
A recurring debate in mixed methods research involves the relationship between research methods and research paradigms. Whereas some scholars appear to assume that qualitative and quantitative research methods each necessarily belong with particular research paradigms, others have called for greater flexibility and have taken a variety of stances toward the integration of paradigms and methods in mixed-method studies. In this article, we review these arguments and stances, positioning ourselves in favour of flexible (but intentional) integration of any research method with any research paradigm. We then draw on a recent study of teachers’ experiences of professional development to provide an illustration of how a single paradigm can be used to inform the entirety of a mixed methods study, including study design, data collection, analysis and reporting. This illustration is particularly noteworthy since past mixed-method studies that have been grounded in a single paradigm have typically used the post-positivist paradigm, whereas our study involved an interpretive stance and a social constructivist epistemology. This article may, therefore, provide a useful resource for those considering the design of mixed methods studies as well as a practical demonstration to support theoretical claims in support of moving away from binary methods–paradigm associations and assumptions. KEYWORDS: Mixed methods research; interpretivist paradigm; cross-cultural research; social constructivist research; paradigm; teacher voice; professional development
... However, the qualitative data predominantly highlighted other, non-designrelated factors as influencing the impact of professional development. Through interrogating this dissonance between qualitative and quantitative findings, I was able to propose a new conceptual model for the trajectory from teacher professional development to impact (McChesney, 2017;McChesney & Aldridge, 2019b). ...
... Typically, mixed methods studies that reflect this approach have involved a positivist or post-positivist paradigm (Alise & Teddlie, 2010), but other paradigm choices are possible. Exemplars of this approach include my doctoral research, which used an interpretivist paradigm (McChesney, 2017;McChesney & Aldridge, 2019a); Jarrett's (2014Jarrett's ( , 2017 Master's research, located within a transformative paradigm; and Si'ilata's (2014) doctoral research, which combined a critical theory paradigm with Pasifika research methods. ...
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Mixed methods research is increasingly popular both within and beyond education because of the advantages offered by combining qualitative and quantitative methods. Some mixed methods research, however, does not fully harness the potential or depth that mixed methods has to offer. In this article, I consider some of this potential in terms of how mixed methods research can contribute to addressing "wicked problems," theory generation, and culturally responsive research. I then discuss two important considerations for quality mixed methods research: appropriate paradigmatic foundations and the genuine integration of qualitative and quantitative components. The article is intended to provide both provocations and resources for those learning about, teaching about, considering, using, or contributing to mixed methods research in education.
... The research reported in this article formed part of a larger study that examined teachers' experiences of professional development in the Abu Dhabi public education reform context (McChesney 2017). The larger study included an investigation of the relationships between the design of professional development activities and their subsequent impacts. ...
... The teacher interviews (N = 35) explored teachers' experiences of professional development in Abu Dhabi public schools, including their perceptions of professional development's impacts and the factors contributing to those impacts. The (Western) first author conducted all interviews; she was considered a suitable person to conduct the cross-cultural interviews given her extended experience in the Abu Dhabi context (for further details of cross-cultural research considerations associated with the study, see McChesney 2017). Interviews were conducted in English, which was considered to be appropriate given that all teachers in the target population were required to achieve an IELTS score of at least 5.5. ...
Article
Although school and education system leaders can mandate teachers’ participation in professional development activities, various school-related, teacher-related and student-related factors influence the degree to which professional development opportunities ultimately result in the desired teaching and learning impacts. This study examined teachers’ perceptions of the factors that influenced the impacts of a range of professional development activities in which they had participated. Constructivist grounded theory analysis of qualitative data provided by 131 teachers (reflecting 15 nationalities) led to the development of a new conceptual model for the trajectory from teacher professional development activities to student impacts. The model involved five stages: intended professional development, received professional development, accepted professional development, applied professional development and student impacts. Various barriers influenced whether professional development was able to progress to each successive stage; the current data provided particular insight into the structural barriers that determined whether intended professional development was actually received by teachers and the acceptance barriers that determined whether received professional development was actually accepted by teachers. The new model extends existing frameworks by highlighting the importance of contextual influences on teacher professional development and providing further specificity regarding some of the gatekeeping factors that influence the outcomes of teacher professional development.
... The remaining 12 items in the survey came from the Impact of Teacher Professional Development (ITPD) questionnaire (McChesney & Aldridge, 2018) and investigated the impact of professional development activities using four scales: teacher reaction (affective reactions), teacher learning, outcomes (comprising changes in both teacher practice and student outcomes), and organisational response (school-level actions or changes). The ITPD questionnaire was developed for the present study and validated with another sample (n ¼ 393 Arab and Western teachers) in the same context (McChesney, 2017;McChesney & Aldridge, 2018). Scales and items were informed by Desimone (2009) and Guskey's (2000) frameworks for evaluating the impacts of teacher professional development. ...
Article
With its aggressive education reform, multinational teaching workforce, and increasing implementation of Western-based approaches, Abu Dhabi provides a rich site for learning more about international policy-borrowing in educational improvement initiatives. This article uses survey and interview data from n=35 Abu Dhabi public school teachers who participated in a combined total of 297 professional development activities over an academic year. The study examined the design and impact of the professional development activities and the relationships between design and impact in the Abu Dhabi context. The study offers implications for international professional development practice and insights into international policy-borrowing in education.
... Such self-report data can include examples or descriptions of specific teacher learning, changes in classroom practices, or changes in student outcomes, addressing Earley and Porritt's (2010) concern about asserted versus substantiated evidence. Given the importance of teacher agency and buy-in for effective professional development and change (Kennedy 2005, McChesney 2017, evaluation tools and practices that respect teachers' professionalism and invite them to give an account (rather than insisting that they be held to account; see OECD 2016, Lingard et al. 2017) seem most likely to be effective. ...
Article
The central role of teacher professional development in educational improvement is well-documented, and the investments of time and money into teacher professional development across the globe are immense. Given, however, that the quality of professional development has been shown to vary considerably, meaningful evaluation of professional development activities is critical and has been widely advocated by both researchers and education system leaders. Whereas past reviews have examined the nature and quality of researcher-led evaluations of professional development, the present review focuses on the nature and quality of practitioner-led evaluations. Using current theoretical recommendations for effective evaluation as benchmarks, the review examines the degree to which these recommendations are reflected in routine school-based evaluation of professional development, finding that a significant gap persists between theory and practice. The review also identifies practical and psychological factors that restrict further improvement in practitioner-led evaluation and proposes ways in which researchers, practitioners and policymakers could each contribute to future improvement in practitioner-led evaluation of professional development. Given that much teacher professional development occurs within school settings and/or is managed by school staff, improving the quality of routine practitioner-led evaluation of that professional development is a potentially powerful driver for positive change.
... This study contributes to the field through the development and validation of a practical tool that can be used to evaluate the impact of teacher professional development from the perspective of the teacher. The newly developed instrument was implemented and validated as part of a larger research project involving teacher professional development in the United Arab Emirates (McChesney 2017). Although the new instrument measures teacher perceptions (and, as such, provides a more subjective measure of the impact of professional development), it may, nonetheless, offer schools a manageable evaluation tool that represents an improvement on typical evaluation practice. ...
Article
Schools and education systems are being challenged to improve the evaluation of teacher professional development, yet there is a lack of practical tools for doing so. This article describes the development and validation of a new instrument to assess teachers’ perceptions of the impact of professional development. This instrument, designed to be time- and cost-effective, was theoretically grounded and, as evidenced by the results reported in this article, psychometrically sound. The instrument was completed twice (examining different types of professional development) by 393 teachers. The results for both data-sets demonstrated a strong factor structure with good internal consistency for all scales. Further data analysis indicated that the scales could effectively distinguish between the experiences of different groups of teachers. The finalised instrument, named the Impact of Teacher Professional Development Questionnaire, is presented in full, and the practical advantages and limitations of the instrument are discussed. Keywords: Teacher professional development, evaluation, impact, questionnaire, teacher perceptions
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