Teachers’ learning in classroom interaction
Background: Teachers’ professional development is important for students’ academic and social learning. Although knowledge about teachers’ learning environments and learning processes is available, we need to know more about teacher learning at work, in particular classroom interaction. In-service teachers’ professional development is a complex product of factors related to the individual capabilities of every teacher and supportive contexts, such as professional learning opportunities. This thesis attempts to shed light on teachers’ learning environments, learning processes and outcomes regarding classroom interactions.
Aims: The general aim of this study is to increase the body of knowledge and improve the understanding of lower-secondary schoolteachers’ learning at work in classroom interaction by investigating their views and experiences concerning the topic.
Firstly, this study explores teachers’ perceptions of their learning environments regarding classroom interaction, with foci on emotional support, classroom organisation and instructional support. The facilitators that are able to either improve or prevent the teachers’ development are discussed.
Next, learning processes are investigated. The aim is to explore the learning activities that teachers undertake, individually and collectively, to improve their skills related to classroom interaction. Moreover, the teachers’ aspirations for learning are studied, in order to better understand the reasons behind the learning processes.
Finally, this study concludes with an analysis of teachers’ perceptions of their learning outcomes regarding classroom interaction, with an aim to explore the results of teachers’ learning progress. Additionally, an investigation of teachers’ considerations regarding the outcome of their learning and why they want to improve upon their knowledge of emotional support, classroom organisation and instructional support.
Methods: This thesis has a multimethod design and utilises descriptive and explorative qualitative approach. All three of the papers are based on data from self-reported logs; Article 2 also draws on focus group interviews. Direct content analysis (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005) is used to examine the content of the data, together with Miles, Huberman and Saldaña’s (2014) approach. 76 teachers from 14 schools participated in this study.
Results: The results of this examination of the teacher learning environment indicate that informal learning opportunities prevail. Therefore, there is a need to create multiple opportunities for teacher learning by addressing a variety of sources. Moreover, instructional support is the domain that shows the highest potential for improvement among teachers, which indicates that more knowledge about classroom interaction is needed in order to achieve high-quality interactions among teacher and students. Supportive leadership is the key element for organising professional learning among teachers; and creating a powerful learning environment that focuses on content, duration, coherence, active learning and collective participation, is the first step toward ensuring that sustained learning is possible.
The results of this thesis regarding teacher learning processes indicate a limited number of activities that teachers use in order to learn. Furthermore, the individual approach is more common than the collective one. ‘Reflections around own practice’ and ‘sharing experience with others’ are the two most-described categories to which teachers referred. Teachers’ self-development and students’ learning enhancement are the main reasons teachers identified that motivated them to learn about classroom interaction. Overall, teachers need more knowledge on how to implement acquired information about classroom interaction in practice.
The findings indicate that 9 out of 76 teachers implemented their acquired knowledge in the classroom. However, 22 teachers who participated in professional development programmes did not feel that this participation brought about any results. Interestingly, irrespective of positive or negative outcomes of the learning process, all of the teachers wanted to acquire knowledge in different aspects of classroom interaction.
Conclusion: This thesis investigates teacher learning at work regarding classroom interaction and shows how a teacher’s learning environment, learning process and learning outcomes are connected. Based on the extensive literature on the subject of teachers’ professional development, effective learning for teachers means that activities should extend over time and have well-defined goals for learning. Moreover, effective learning requires that beliefs about how people learn are research-based, and that academic curriculum emphasises depth of understanding. A successful means of coordinating lifelong professional development in teachers is to implement well-organised collective learning, wherein teachers can reflect, obtain help through feedback and learn how to adapt new skills and knowledge to new environments.