Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Nerida F. Ellerton


In the past twenty years there has been increased interest in the ways in which teachers construct their professional lives. It is no longer assumed that preservice education alone will enable teachers to meet the challenges of their teaching lives. Ongoing professional development is seen as an essential component of contemporary teachers' lives but remains a challenge for professional development planners and providers. The nature and extent of teachers' participation in professional development was a significant dimension of the investigation of professional development contained in this thesis. The research questions which formed the basis for the data collection in this thesis related to a specific group of teachers, early childhood teachers, and to a particular curriculum area, mathematics. The research goals were to obtain descriptive data related to teachers' professional development experiences and to explore the relationships between the realities of practice and the rhetoric of the literature on professional development, early childhood education and mathematics education. The data were obtained in the Northern Territory and came principally from questionnaire responses and interviews. The results of this study highlight the complexities of teaching in the 1990s and indicate that early childhood teachers are faced with a number of professional dilemmas, the resolution of which indicates the need for a range of professional development interventions. The recommendations contained in the latter part of the thesis make reference to the need for the provision of a wider range of professional development options and for a greater emphasis to be placed on collegial support. The results of this study suggest that change can occur if teachers are encouraged and supported in their endeavours to improve their practice.