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Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in Croatian educational context. Branko Bognar. My professional way. I started my professional career in the fall of 1987 as teacher in a small school 50 km far from Zagreb .

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Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in Croatian educational context

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Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in croatian educational contex

Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in Croatian educational context

Branko Bognar


My professional way

My professional way

  • I started my professional career in the fall of 1987 as teacher in a small school 50 km far from Zagreb.


School where children would go with happines and not fear

School where children would go with happines and not fear.

  • The school building in which I was working was old and worn but that did not discourage me in creating a school with my 15 students, where children would go with happiness and not fear. In my teaching I used active methods of teaching and students had the opportunity of deciding about everything important that was going on in the school. On one occasion they decided to change the set up of the classroom which I organized to be suitable for accomplishing active teaching. They arranged desks and chares in three rows and transferred my modern classroom into a classroom for classical teaching. I accepted their ‘innovation’ with reserve, but I did not want to ruin democracy - values which I highly regarded. Luckily for me, after week student realized how their classroom set up was interfering with active teaching which they preferred, and after classroom meeting they have changed the classroom in to set up which is more sutable for teaching where children are not only listener.


A need for learning

A need for learning

  • Despise my wish to improve quality of my teaching and beginning successes after two years I came across lack of new ideas. I have also realized how my formal education was only enough for surviving but not for inventing new possibilities. Therefore I started with learning in more or less formal way.


My n ew role as pedagogue

My new role as pedagogue*

  • After my pedagogy study, which I completed while I was working, I was hired as school pedagogue in primary school “Vladimir Nazor” in Slavonski Brod. In my new role as a pedagogue I have tried to assist teachers in introducing changes which aim was to break from the boundaries of traditional teaching.

    *Pedagogue is a person in school who deal with different educational problems (organisation of teaching, teachers’ development, leading projects etc).


A professional information is not enough to start educational changes

A professional information is not enough to start educational changes

  • I believed that the most important factor in accomplishing this task was continued professional development. In spite of the quality of different forms of professional development and teachers wishes for learning and changes, teaching practice did not changed significantly – teaching still retained the form in which teachers were oriented to meet official program with little effort to develop different children’s capabilities and especially their creativity. I realized how professional information, on which is professional development of teachers mostly reduced, is not sufficient for the true educational changes.


The teacher as mediator or technicians

The teacher as mediator or technicians

In our country, the teachers are most frequently perceived as mediators or technicians whose task is to prepare and implement the tuition based on devised out-of-school expert instructions. Their role is more artisan-like, being less professional and creative.


Action researches enables improvement of practice

Action researches enables improvement of practice

Action research enables the teachers, along with other education-process participants (students, parents, expert confreres), to initiate the changes aiming at the improvement of educational practice as well as personal emancipation. Emancipation implies liberation of invisible limitations caused by prejudices, compulsion, and ideology.


Living action res e arches

Living action researches

  • Whitehead argues for living approach to educational theory which is “growing in the living relationship between teachers, pupils and professional researchers and embodied within their forms of life.” (Whitehead, 1989a, p. 3) It is the value laden practical activity to difference of the traditional science approaches which intent to be of neutral value. Neglect of our values could impel us to undertake the action to change that situation. In the same time values serve as the criteria for assessing results of ours activities. (Whitehead, 1989b, p. 3)


My values

My values

I wanted to fully realized the following values in my practice:

  • Education based on freedom

  • Future oriented education

  • Emancipational education

  • Communicational acting


My living contradiction

My living contradiction

  • My role of pedagogue – professional adviser has not often been in accordance with my values: freedom, future oriented, emancipated and communicational education.

  • At that time I lost my time dealt with timetables, statistics, servicing the computers, writing letters and reports. In this manner my values were neglected in my practice. Obviously, it was my living contradiction.


Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in croatian educational contex

  • Certainly, not all my values were neglected. I’ve done many jobs which were in accordance with my values. For example I’ve organised workshops, helped teachers to improve their teaching, helped teachers and students in using the computers etc.


How could i improve my practice as pedagogue professional adviser

How could I improve my practice as pedagogue (professional adviser)?

  • With aim to fully live my values I invited 18 teachers from several elementary schools to join and start with action research project with main question:

  • “How can I help teachers and myself to undertake, in our circumstances, the new role of the reflective practitioner and the action researcher who is capable to improve one's own practice?”


The project

The project

  • Project started in spring of 2000 years and officially finished in spring of 2002 years. Unofficially we have never finished the project.

  • We divided project in two parts. In the first part we realized ten workshops which aim was teacher’s learning and practicing new skills. We dealt with themes just as Confrontation with the risk of change, Reflective teacher, Multiple intelligence, Vision of future school and so on.


Example of one workshop in the first part of the project

  • Structure of the workshop “Dealing with the risk of changes”

    • Associating of teachers at the beginning of workshop.

    • Teachers introduced themselves.

    • I introduceed the topic of workshop.

    • I prepared worksheets in advance.

    • Teachers talked about their experience with changes in their practice.

    • Participants tried to determine positive and negative sides of changes (group working).

    • They made presentation.

    • Spokespersons reported common conclusions.

    • Teachers discussed about their positive and negative experience with changes.

    • At the end we made arrangement over a date for the next meeting.

Example of one workshop in the first part of the project


My living contradicition

My living contradicition

  • My roleduring that period was predominant. This fact was in contradiction with my values (emancipation) but that was in the tune with the teachers’ awaiting.


Results of the first part of the project

Results of the first part of the project

  • During that period teachers visited each other lessons and discussed about that. They hesitated to speak honestly about problems which they observed. First part of the project was easier and more appropriate way of professional development for more teachers, but they were less responsible for preparation and realization of workshops. They just participated in beforehand prepared activities.


Teacher s action researches

Teacher’s action researches

In the second part of the project we started with teacher’s action research projects. The role of the action researcher was impossible for most members of the community, but in spite that some of them realized first hand action researches where they freely made plans and improved their practice.


Action researches mentoring

Action researches mentoring

  • Mentoring was shown as better way to introduce teacher to an action research process then meeting of learning community.

  • Mentoring satisfied teachers’ needs for encouraging and supporting (Stoll & Fink, 2000, p. 209).

  • I realised that for qualitative mentoring number of novice action researcher should not be more than five, because all of them need enough attention which is difficult to sustain with a lot of mentees.


The feedback in mentoring

The feedback in mentoring

The feedback is very important for teachers who participate in mentoring, but not any and whenever. It is important that the mentor answers in a short time. In the action research things occur very fast so if teachers wait too long to the answer maybe it has not the importance for them because new problems appear or they are cooled down for the previous problem or for the research in all. Answers should be incentive. It means that teachers should be encouraged, understood and advised. The action research is emotionally very exciting process and it is important that answers would not be official and distant because teachers could realise that the mentor is not interested in their researches. Critics should be balanced and explained.Advices which mentor offers should not be too extensive and too much expertly, because it could inhibit initiative of novice action researchers.


Mentoring is risky job

Mentoring is risky job

Mentoring is always a risky job because in some moments critics and advices which we say could make our interlocutor angry, upset or hurt. It is especially possible if the teacher because of other tasks put the action research in the second plan or if he/she does not know something how to do. Then it is better to delay the mentoring process and find out what the teacher is worried about, and than agree with him/her what to do.


Mentoring over an e mail

Mentoring over an e-mail

  • E-mail manifested as the successful way of mentoring.

  • Writing is the process which much more impels teachers on thinking than speaking. Except that, written word stay as permanent document which may be used in a different phase of the research?

  • Written answers were much more important for teachers then spoken, because their thoughts and activities obtain the value.


Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in croatian educational contex

Jasna: E-mailing with the mentor during the action research was significant for me and was a very stimulating for me. Since I had defined the problem and the theme of my action research I was aware how much that way of communication helped in clearing of my thoughts and attitudes. Though I spoke a lot of the research with the facilitator and others participants in the project, as with those who follow us in that – my pedagogue and family, especially important to me was the correspondence through Internet. When I started the research, I kept record in my action research diary every day, and I sent these writings to the mentor. He answered me very exhaustively almost every day.

It was very significant and encouraging for me that he followed me in my idea, he helped me to better understand what I thought and what I wrote without attempt to impose some of his solutions or ideas. He ‘listened’ to me actively. Something else delighted me and gave the importance to my records. Branko analysed each of my sentences and commented them. He conducted towards my records as it was literary or philosophical creation. All of that stimulated me to write regularly my diary and wait the answer, which was not often just an answer to my letter, than it was the answer to my inner, unexpressed questions. (e-mail, send: Jasna Zubčić, sent: Tue 07th May 2002, 23:07)


The precondition of successful mentoring

The precondition of successful mentoring

  • Participants of the action research need to talk about their work. They usually speak with co-workers or professional adviser but also with the members of family.

  • Mentoring could be successful only if both side (mentor and mentee) learn from each others. In that way the mentoring could not be reduced on the transmission of knowledge or skills as it is usually defined in the business field. It is rather the process where both sides are involved in the process of research with the aim to improve their practice (Flatcher, 2000; Holden, 2002, p. 20; Mullen, 1999, p. 13).


Project results

Project results

  • Our project gained the following results:

    • permanent teachers’ professional improvement,

    • critical thinking about existing school,

    • creating and realization shared pedagogical vision,

    • improvement of teaching practice,

    • popularization of the action research.


New project and researches

New project and researches

  • The Network of learning communities,

  • Children as action researchers,

  • E-collaboration system in teachers’ action researchers. (http://mzu.sbnet.hr )


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • The action researches in teachers’ professional development are not occasional professional information, but it is rather the way of life which offers happiness of the creation to teachers but also demand of them to take the responsibility for the results which they gain. Only emancipated, competent, creative and (self)critical teachers may realize school of higher quality.


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