Investigation into what makes effective professional development with an intervention approach such as CASE

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Education


The focus of the RBT (Research Based Thesis) was teachers’ professional development (PD) within a school undertaking the innovative CASE (Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education) project. The study involved a case-based approach that drew upon a range of mixed methods to explain the process of how teachers learn as they develop an ownership of the CASE methodology. The literature review placed this research in the developing field of professional adult learning, where it has been recognised that more research is required to consider equally both professional learning processes and the pedagogy of how students learn. In line with the founders of CASE, the RBT examined teachers’ development through an active, conscious process. The two main research questions focused on teachers’ PD and are as follows: Question 1 How does a teacher change in terms of his/her classroom skills, attitudes/beliefs and knowledge/understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of CASE as he/she develops an ownership of the methodology and how can the nature of the change process be characterised? Question 2 How important to the process of change are the mediating factors of experimentation, collaboration, lesson observation with feedback and modelling? In addition, student outcomes were also included in the study mainly to give a clear indication of the effectiveness of the CASE project, which relates to the third subsidiary question: Question 3 Did the students show significant cognitive gains, with the primary focus being the whole cohort’s results? A case study methodology was used, drawing uponmixed-methods based upon a pragmatic paradigm. The study was carried out in my own institution during the academic year 2007-2008 where I was the upper school Deputy Headteacher, and involved three participant teachers.
Qualitative teacher data was collected through three lesson observations and semi-structured interviews - one per term. Quantitative data was also collected at three different stages to measure students’ cognitive development using the established Science Reasoning Tests (SRTs). The research tools were developed using an analytical framework which contained a description of each construct and/or process contained in the two main research questions. The development of teachers’ classroom practice was solely studied using a systematic lesson observation schedule, whilst all the other constructs were researched either directly or indirectly through the semi-structured interviews. The BERA (British Educational Research Association) guidelines were used to consider ethical issues especially those relating to carrying out research in my own institution with a small number of participants as well as my multiple roles. In terms of PD inputs, the participant teachers attended six half termly in-service sessions and observed a demonstration lesson conducted by me at the beginning of the year. The approach to analysis used a combination of inductive and deductive methods. The interview transcripts were initially coded using the analytical framework with respect to the different constructs, but the themes were inductively identified. The main deductive approach to analysis was the use of established PD models to give a level to teachers’ classroom practice based on a novice-expert five stage model and their sense of ownership using a non- linear stage model. In relation to question 3, students’ cognitive levels were compared with norms to determine whether cognitive gains had been made beyond expectation. A common issue in CPD (Continuing Professional Development) research is that the tools used for development can often overlap with methods of data collection.
Careful consideration was given to this in the methodology/method section so that the methods for collecting evidence and the PD inputs were made explicit. In terms of the main findings, in relation to question 1, there were similarities in teachers’ respective descriptions of how their knowledge of the CASE methodology developed. They referred to gaining confidence in their skills, which was supported by lesson observation.In terms of question 2, the interpretations of the responses of the two teachers with the least experience indicated differences in how they learned as well as the mediating factors that best supported their learning. This supports existing literature that individual differences play an important part in teachers’ PD. No significant cognitive gains were made by the students as determined by the analysis of their pre- and post-test SRT scores; the analysis of students’ cognitive gains in terms of standardised norms was, however, questionable and therefore the appropriateness of SRTs to measure cognitive development needs to be considered in any future research. In relation to teachers’ PD, the main recommendation for the future was the development of a contextualised PD model of CASE to allow for teachers to understand their development and to support CASE tutors in considering how teachers learn and develop an ownership of the CASE methodology. This would support teachers and tutors in being more deliberate in their respective practice.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPeter Kutnick (Supervisor), Christine Harrison (Supervisor) & Philip Adey (Supervisor)

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