Making IT Happen: The building blocks of Effective PD in ICT
The increasing rate of technology being introduced into schools means that teachers need to be fully prepared to utilise these technologies in a way that will set an example not only to their students but their colleagues as well. As stated earlier in this paper, technology in schools without continual professional ICT development is wasteful of the resource. This does also place a lot more emphasis on those who provide professional development courses for teachers to ensure that what they are doing will be effective in training teachers in ICT pedagogies. According to Phelps and Graham (2013), “effective ICT professional development can only be understood and achieved through a respectful recognition of the differences that exists within and between school cultures” (p. 24). What constitutes as effective professional ICT development has been in the past “highly contested” (Prestridge S. , 2010), however, other studies have found commonalities of what teachers perceive to be active in the professional ICT development (Lloyd, Cochrane, & Beames, 2005; Schrum, Strudler, & Thompson, 2011; Ham, et al., 2002). For example, the research found by Schrum, Strudler, & Thompson (2011) reported that policies of successful ICT integration in various countries such as New Zealand all addressed the individual needs of the teacher, created a culture of support for ICT integration, peer-to-peer interaction and risk-taking. These findings were consistent with the research conducted by Daly, Pachler, and Pelletier (2010) in a study on continuing professional ICT development for teachers. Collaboration and reflection were also key factors that led to successful CPD in other studies.
Developing effective professional ICT development for teachers
Quality professional ICT development for teachers is vital if teachers are to pass on the benefits of what they have learnt to students. In order for there to be a successful professional ICT development, various factors need to be present. These factors include the following: the duration; collective participation of groups of teachers from schools, etc.; active learning opportunities; content focus and; coherence. Such factors were found in a study of effective U.S federally funded programmes (Schrum, Strudler, & Thompson, 2011, p. 5).
- The duration of the activity (both time per session and number of sessions).
- The collective participation of groups of teachers from the same school, department, or grade was found to be more effective than individual participation.
- Active learning opportunities were associated with effective professional development. The content focus was deemed more effective than generic teaching strategies not tied to particular content areas.
- Coherence is the degree to which the activity is tied to school goals, policies, standards, etc. The greater the coherence for teachers, the more effective the professional development.
In addition, elements were identified in a study (Lloyd, Cochrane, & Beames, 2005) that examined the characteristics of active professional ICT development. Conducted by the Queensland Society of IT in Education, the elements were categorised into four areas: Context, Time, Community and Personal Growth. All aspects were acknowledged by Education Queensland (Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and the Arts, 2015)
Context (practice of teaching and learning)
Active professional ICT development must have a context that is relevant, meaningful, and practical and has direct applicability to practice. It must also address the needs of individual teachers as a priority (Daly, Pachler, & Pelletier, 2010; Lloyd, Cochrane, & Beames, 2005; Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and the Arts, 2015). The context must also take into account teachers’ prior knowledge.
It is noticeable that the findings of this study were similar to that elsewhere (Schrum, Strudler, & Thompson, 2011). Time and the duration of time is a considerable factor in active professional ICT development. Two key elements emerged that were the length of the professional ICT development and the sustainability of the event. The event also needs to be a time that is adequate for participation, reflection and implementation. It should allow teachers to take responsibility for their learning (Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and the Arts, 2015). Time for reflection is of particular importance as it provides teachers with the opportunity to relate what they have learnt back onto their teaching practices (Daly, Pachler, & Pelletier, 2010).
Research has shown (Daly, Pachler, & Pelletier, 2010), that continual professional ICT development that is designed to be collaborative is useful. Collaboration allows teachers to share with each other, provide support to their colleagues and expands professional and personal networks (Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and the Arts, 2015).
Personal growth should form a central part of any professional development and is noticeably mentioned as an important factor in the success of professional ICT development. “Professional development is a personal path toward greater professional integrity and human growth” (Hargreaves, 2003, p. 62). So it is no wonder that participants in the study conducted by Lloyd et al. (2005) saw personal growth be important. In addition, for it to be effective professional ICT development needs to be challenging so that it adds to personal knowledge, increases personal skills and enhances one’s status in the learning community (Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and the Arts, 2015).