On the prerequisites of site based eduational development: Some experiences from Finland

Year: 2012

Author: Forsman, Liselott, Karlberg-Grandlund, Gunilla, Porn, Michaela, Salo, Petri

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Chair: Jane Wilkinson


The purpose of this paper is to shed light on professional development (PD) of educational sites from the viewpoint of the researcher-facilitator. We do so by comparing various cases of PD, realized in an action research manner in schools and municipal organizations. The educational sites vary from individual classrooms (with a specific subject focus), school leadership development in a municipality, and the promotion of well-being within small schools. Initiatives for PD vary from those which are taken from outside (i.e., national/local authorities) to those which are taken from inside (i.e., principals, teacher teams, teachers). The cases take place in a new evaluation-based policy culture in Finland, in which authorities (a) aim at engaging researchers in educational sites to promote PD, and (b) in which traditional forms of in-service training are replaced by collaboration and action research.


Five cases of PD, conducted as collaborative action, are analysed and compared in terms of the cultural-discursive (sayings), material-economic (doings) and social-political (relatings) arrangements shaping the prerequisites for, and the realization of, PD in a research-oriented manner. The data consists of video-recordings, observations, interviews, discussions and documents produced for individual professional and collegial development.


Despite our ambition of conducting action research collaboratively, we note the significance of researchers' efforts (doings) in raising the consciousness of and negotiating on the forms, arenas and resources for enabling PD beyond the existing orders (cultures) within the educational sites. This includes negotiation about allocation of time for the extra ordinary activities the projects imply (even if extra resources are provided). Another aspect relates to convincing practitioners of the value of new forms of activities (e.g. shadowing) as decisive means for PD. The support from management (encouragement and engagement) is vital. Still this has to be explicated by the researchers. This also applies to allocating time for PD discussions during regular staff meetings. When it comes to sayings, we note the need to raise teachers' consciousness of the impact of prevailing negative discourses (e.g., on student behaviour, parents) on PD.


Collaborative action research as a means of PD challenges the notion of the autonomous teacher as professional which characterises schools as educational sites. Researchers with the aim of introducing new collaborative forms of PD must act as both facilitators, but also as negotiators and raisers of consciousness.