The Influence of On-site Professional Development on Teacher Practice


Forrester, Catherine Margaret. (2018). The Influence of On-site Professional Development on Teacher Practice [Thesis].
AuthorsForrester, Catherine Margaret
Qualification nameDoctor of Education (EdD)

The purpose of this research was to explore how on-site professional development (PD) addresses the goal of improved teacher practice. It was conducted within the context of a national educational reform in Australia. This reform, implemented from 2009 to 2012/13, was a National Partnership Agreement (NPA) with the Commonwealth Government that included the Smarter Schools National Partnerships (SSNP).

This research was a multi-site case study of five Catholic primary schools that implemented on-site PD for four years as part of a system response to a reform agenda. Learning on-site was a change in practice for teachers that involved the establishment of professional learning communities (PLCs) and the appointment in each school of an additional school leader entitled a ‘Teacher Educator’ (TE).

The interpretative paradigm of research, through the lens of symbolic interactionism and the epistemology of constructionism, was adopted to guide and inform the study. A multi-site case study methodology was chosen as the five schools constituted a single case on multiple sites that shared the phenomenon of interest, i.e., on-site PD (Huberman & Miles, 2002). The data gathering methods were semi-structured interviews, group interviews and a pre-interview self-reflection tool. Findings emerged through qualitative data analysis that utilised the Constant Comparative Method (Merriam, 1998).

The major research question was: How does on-site professional development influence teacher practice?

Findings from this research indicate that on-site PD influenced teacher practice in certain ways. First, underpinning the approach to changing teacher practice was collaboration. School leaders shared the instructional leadership role and worked collaboratively with teachers, primarily in classrooms, to demonstrate how teaching practice could change. The influence of system leaders on teacher practice was a secondary process mediated by school leaders. Due to a perceived lack of strategic direction, teacher consultation, or involvement in schools throughout the reform, system leaders were not seen as having a positive influence on teacher practice. Second, the structure of the in-situ leadership role of the TE was a key influence on changed teacher practice because it had a singular emphasis on teaching and learning. However, these new roles also led to tension, defensiveness and feelings of vulnerability from teachers; therefore, building trusting relationships and credibility were critical to their influence. Third, because the evolution of PLCs was an organic process, they emerged differently and did not adhere to any set structure. They morphed over time and the guiding principle that drove their creation was the articulated needs of teachers and what the data revealed to be those of the students. The use of data, the deprivatisation of teaching practice and professional dialogue were associated and instrumental in building teacher capacity, and formed the core focus of the PLCs. These three characteristics influenced teacher practice as their data skills were built along with pedagogical content knowledge. Fourth, the construct of on-site PD influenced teacher practice because the learning for teachers was coherent, active, context specific, relevant, timely, accessible and immediate.

Keywordson-site professional development; teacher practice; professional learning communities; leading for learning; collaboration; reform
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Educational Leadership
Final version
Publication dates01 Jan 2018
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