Bodil Svendsen

Drammen, University of South-East Norway  – Norway

Thesis: Subject oriented professional development

Research supervisor: Professor May Britt Postholm

Tony Burner and Bodil Svendsen have joint report

We are two PhD candidates who have made use of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) in our theses. Burner has recently submitted his PhD on formative assessment of writing in English and Svendsen is in her final phase of completing her PhD on inquiries into teaching practice. We use CHAT as the theoretical and methodological approach in our theses, which has led us to a new research project where we jointly focus on subject oriented professional development of teachers. We have long experience with working as and with teachers. Both our experiences and PhD studies have faced us with a new struggle concerning the decontextualized teacher professional development (TPD) programs. By this we mean that there is a neglect of TPD as subject oriented. Much literature is devoted to TPD, but often they are not subject oriented.

The literature defines teachers’ professional development as the professional growth a teacher achieves as a result of gaining increased experience and examining his or her teaching systematically. Teachers’ professional development includes both formal and informal experiences. The professional development of teachers is a lifelong process which begins with the initial preparation that teachers receive during education and it continues until retirement.

Teachers are in a continuous pressure to perform. Just like practitioners in other professions, teachers need to deepen their knowledge and improve their skills over the course of their careers. Today, more than ever, teachers are expected to demonstrate effectiveness in the classroom. Our claim is that no TPD occurs in a vacuum, but always in a subject specific context. To us it seems meaningless to refer to TPD and teachers’ knowledge without referring to concrete situations where a school subject is in focus. TPD is both contextual and historical, and we find CHAT to be a reasonable perspective to study and develop the literature on TPD. In this new and joint research project, we will use some data from our PhD projects to exemplify subject oriented TPD, and in addition construct narratives that explain the contextual and historical nature of TPD related to school subjects.

Why do we want to deal with this in the framework of the Summer University? In Norway, where we are located, there are very few scholars working within CHAT, and thus there does not exist a research environment where we can discuss and develop our understanding of CHAT. This has also been the reason why we have visited Professor Yrjö Engeström and his colleagues several times at the Center for Research on Activity, Development and Learning (CRADLE) at the University of Helsinki the past three years. The Summer University will allow us to elaborate our understanding of CHAT and its complexities within its original Russian context, together with international experts and other newly qualified scholars interested in CHAT in education. The subject areas covered by the Summer University that we find relevant for our research project are ‘scientific research in education and theoretical research of learning and development’.

 Presentation “Subject-oriented TPD”

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