About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 951-961
Publication year: 2015
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE GROWTH OF UNIVERSITY TEACHER COMMUNITIES IN THE CONTEXT OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE

A. Serbati1, E. Felisatti1, J. Dirkx2

1University of Padova (ITALY)
2Michigan State University (UNITED STATES)
This paper presents results from two pilot training groups in a professional development program for university teachers (PRODID project: Felisatti & Serbati, 2014) with the aim of improving their pedagogical knowledge and thinking. The courses represented the first structured attempt in Padova as well as in Italy to promote staff development and therefore to enhance academic innovation and educational change.

The two training activities lasted 40 hours each and involved a group of 12 volunteer senior faculty (associate and full professors) and another group of 18 volunteer junior faculty (assistant professors) belonging to different departments of the University. A group of Italian and American higher education experts facilitated the programs.

Constructivist theories and learner-centered teaching (Weimer, 2002) constituted both the theoretical and methodological framework of this study. Theories on reflective practice (Schon, 1983),self-directed learning (Knowles, 1975), faculty learning communities (Cox, 2004), and peer observation/evaluation/coaching (Calvin, 2007, Huston & Weaver, 2008) have inspired and guided this work.

The paper discusses the feedback provided by professors in these programs, based on two key questions:
1) What kind of reflection on teaching practice have they developed in order to continue the process of improvement and sharing with other colleagues?
2) Does the peer exchange and evaluation within the interdisciplinary community created play a role in teachers’ new learning?

The program curriculum included three modules. For junior faculty, these modules were: program and design of learning outcomes; teaching and learning methods; and assessment and evaluation. For senior faculty, the modules included: reflection and critical analysis of teaching practices and improvement of teaching techniques; role of motivation and peer mentoring; and from individual to organizational development and institutional change.

Participants completed a questionnaire including 6 open-ended questions and participated in a final focus group. The qualitative data produced by teachers and the focus group were collected and analyzed using content analysis. Junior participants also completed the Approaches to Teaching Inventory (ATI) (Trigwell & Prosser, 2004), before and immediately after training.

Findings show in both cases an increased awareness on key aspects of good teaching. The majority of participating teachers had already piloted some approaches or techniques in their real classes. Participants demonstrated enhanced awareness of the critical importance of interaction with students and use of formative/summative assessment in student learning.

Participants gave strong emphasis to peer learning and evaluation: the challenges and the sharing within the community constitute for them the most important and innovative element, especially in a university context that privileges individual teaching rather than collective practices.

Results show an ongoing change of paradigm; although the teachers reported a lack of previous pedagogical knowledge, the reflective approach proposed by the training encourages junior faculty to constantly review their current practices and senior faculty to move toward development of departmental teachers’ communities and peer coaching activities among colleagues. Institutional support is required by all of them to foster improvement of teaching and change in organizational culture.
@InProceedings{SERBATI2015PRO,
author = {Serbati, A. and Felisatti, E. and Dirkx, J.},
title = {PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE GROWTH OF UNIVERSITY TEACHER COMMUNITIES IN THE CONTEXT OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE},
series = {8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2015 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-2657-6},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {18-20 November, 2015},
year = {2015},
pages = {951-961}}
TY - CONF
AU - A. Serbati AU - E. Felisatti AU - J. Dirkx
TI - PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE GROWTH OF UNIVERSITY TEACHER COMMUNITIES IN THE CONTEXT OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE
SN - 978-84-608-2657-6/2340-1095
PY - 2015
Y1 - 18-20 November, 2015
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2015 Proceedings
SP - 951
EP - 961
ER -
A. Serbati, E. Felisatti, J. Dirkx (2015) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE GROWTH OF UNIVERSITY TEACHER COMMUNITIES IN THE CONTEXT OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE, ICERI2015 Proceedings, pp. 951-961.
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