SELF-ORGANISED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT - THE TEACHMEET PHENOMENON
This paper presents a pre-evaluative narrative describing the evolution of a recently developed form of self-organised teacher Continuing Professional Development (CPD), known as TeachMeet. A TeachMeet is an event held after-hours between between teachers to share practice and ideas, making short presentations and hosting conversations in a convivial and playful atmosphere. The paper reports work in progress on the consolidation of various sources of information into a dataset in preparation for further analysis and evaluation. Defined as “a model of CPD which involves those attending as participants in delivering the training as well as receiving it”, TeachMeet came into existence in 2006 in Scotland. The first event was organised by three educators who were publishing online and who wanted to continue discussion face-to-face. The subtitle given to the event by the founders was “teachers sharing ideas with teachers”. This paper explores how TeachMeet combines the philosophy and practices of three unconference forms - Open Space Technology, PechaKucha, BarCamp - and is empowered by the open connectivity afforded by communication channels of contemporary social media. This use of tools and practices of online collaboration enabled the self-organised TeachMeet professional development movement to develop globally and grow organically, unincorporated, without formal constitution or management structure, in a way that seems at present to be sustainable. Although there is a wealth of informal personal reflection on TeachMeet to be found online, a search in the academic literature reveals very little direct examination of the phenomenon, although other similar unconference activity has been reported. This paper draws on data available online and teacher comments recorded via social media as a means of analysing the frequency of TeachMeets in a given period and teacher reactions towards their participation in such meets. An analysis of such data suggests that distinct elements of Community of Practice (CoP) - shared domain, connected community, reflection on developing practice - are visible in online exchanges. Recently, government agencies are beginning to experiment with the format for their formal professional development provision. Taken together, and combined with recently published results in evaluative reports of a similar unconference meeting format, Edcamp, these observations would suggest the phenomenon deserves further research to describe its essential elements and evaluate its effectiveness and impact. Informal comments and reports by attendees, presenters and organisers constantly refer to TeachMeet as “the best CPD yet” or more recently as “our CoP”. This paper outlines how TeachMeet might best be situated within the world of professional learning, by mapping characteristics to Kennedy’s models of CPD; and how TeachMeet participants may be identified within the Wenger-Trayner Levels of Participation model. The paper outlines how classic CPD and CoP evaluation frameworks, such as those of Kirkpatrick, Guskey, Desimone, Wenger, might be used in order to frame continuing research among the TeachMeet community members, taking a mixed methods pragmatic approach. Results of this research will help to fill a gap in knowledge concerning a phenomenon that Bennett, in the only formal academic paper directly related to this subject to date, has termed “guerrilla CPD”.