Dealing with cultural change forces in whole-school professional development

Year: 2001

Author: Settelmaier, Elisabeth, Taylor, Peter, Wallace, John, McGann, Janelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

During the past three years, we conducted the Teaching Learning Project (TLP) at Smith College in metropolitan Perth. Over 30 teaching/administrative staff completed one-year action research projects aimed at fostering a 'culture of learning' within this independent K-12 College. Two external consultants (Peter and John) worked with the college's professional development officer (Janelle), within an epistemological framework of action research. An evaluation was conducted (by Elisabeth) into the extent to which the TLP had become embedded within the culture of Smith College, with a special focus on the nature of Janelle's role as an in-house 'change agent'. Selected teachers and administrative staff were interviewed, with a special focus on how the college developed and changed over the past three years, and how much these processes were influenced by the TLP. Evidence was drawn also from Janelle's journal and records of project team meetings. Indices of the project's success include the continuing participation of significant numbers of teachers, a "ripple" effect on other staff members, ongoing support from administration, and the mainstreaming of Janelle as professional development coordinator. Evidence from the various action research projects indicates that the project is having an important impact at the classroom level. Significantly, countervailing anti-change forces also have been identified.