Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


The literature addressing the professional development of teachers is abundant, presenting many different components of what constitutes successful professional development. An investigation of the literature suggests that the overwhelming tendency has been to provide professional development opportunities for teachers external to their classroom and school setting, and frequently neglecting to consider the individual teachers professional needs. The purpose of this inquiry was to investigate how the various components of successful professional development could be used to support the professional development of teachers as they focused on their teaching of writing within their own classrooms. Specifically, it sought to explore: Action Research as a Professional Development Model for the teaching of writing in Early Stage One/Stage One classrooms. The way writing has been taught within the inquiry school over the past ten years was investigated, as was the previous professional development experiences of each of the six participant teachers. The principles of the action research process (Kemmins and McTaggart, 1988:11) were used to frame the professional development opportunities provided for each participant teacher in their classroom. The nature of the relationship between each teachers professional development experiences and their professional growth were explored. Throughout this process the teachers engaged with the researcher through semi-structured interviews and reflective journal entries. The researcher compiled field notes from classroom visits to support such data. In response to Pattons (1982, 1990) call for methodological appropriateness several research methodologies have been drawn upon in the design of this inquiry. Ethnographic principles (Merriam, 1998; Bogdan and Biklen, 1992; Van Manen, 1990) were used when investigating the current practices of the school with regard to the teaching of writing. A case study research design (Sturman, 1999; Burns, 1998; Stake, 1995; Guba and Lincoln, 1981) was employed for each of the six participant teacher case studies, which allowed for contextually embedded analysis employing multiple methods. One such method was Narrative Inquiry which involved transforming the collected data into field texts which then allowed the individual teacher narratives to be told (Connelly and Clandinin, 1998, 1990). The constant data analysis not only informed the research focus but also continued to guide the ongoing professional development experiences. The grounded theory that emerged from the inquiry identified key components of a successful in-school professional development experience. These components are mutually inclusive. The importance of the school professional culture was found to be critical, along with the components of time, relationships, the location for professional development, external influences and the need for an in-school facilitator. The grounded theory also highlighted the importance of focusing firstly on practice before pedagogy. In the beginning the teachers needed outside support as they focused on their practice: the what of teaching writing. Once participants felt more in control of their immediate situation they then presented the need to focus on pedagogy: the how of teaching writing. The teachers all responded to having someone work with them in their classrooms on their individual professional needs through purposeful interactions. The relationships between those involved in the experience moved from mentoring to coaching. Whilst each of the participant teachers worked with the researcher at an individual mentoring level within their classroom, eventually a community of learners emerged amongst the teachers within their grade groupings as they expanded their employment of personal tools and network for professional coaching, dialogue and support.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.