Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Deslea Konza

Second Advisor

Professor Mark Hackling

Third Advisor

Associate Professor Graeme Lock

Abstract

Reading is internationally recognised as a mediating factor in the life outcomes of individuals and the continuing failure of Australian children to attain the same level of literacy as children in other Western countries is an ongoing concern. Within the continuum of reading development, there are some children who experience more difficulty than their peers in acquiring reading skills and these children are at even greater risk of poor life outcomes if they do not receive appropriate instruction. Research demonstrates that professional learning is an effective way of enhancing teachers’ knowledge and practice and, therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a professional learning program designed to improve teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and practices in reading instruction.

The research utilised a mixed--‐method approach to data collection including case study methodology, as this enabled the Researcher to answer the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of a social phenomenon by providing elaborated information on the context of the professional learning program that was being explored. Case study teachers were selected from a broader group of participants in a multi--‐school professional learning project. Six teachers in three schools, two per school, volunteered to take part in the research. Data were drawn from the overall professional learning program to provide contextual information for the case studies, and the researcher conducted classroom observation and interviews with the case study teachers over 18 months to determine whether changes to pedagogical content knowledge resulted from their involvement in the Project.

This research highlighted some of the multiple factors that influence how teachers engage with and enact information from professional learning. These influences include teachers’ beliefs about reading teaching and learning, including philosophical beliefs about how reading should be taught and pragmatic beliefs about the best way to teach children experiencing difficulties with reading. In the context of this study, the historicity of beliefs about reading teaching and learning were of particular relevance to the way teachers engaged with the professional learning. Of particular note were the individual factors that influenced how one individual’s response to professional learning differed from another. These included the perceived relevance of the information on the basis of the teacher’s prior experience, self-efficacy, learning orientation and existing PCK. Contextual factors such as the resources in the school and the learning environments were also relevant to how teachers engaged with professional learning.

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