Key Takeaway: Acknowledgment of the power of social media and one’s self-image in driving a teacher’s self-directed and informal professional development, in addition to teacher’s ability to improve their teaching and learning practices, positively influences informal training across an organization. —Frankie Garbutt

In recent years, digitalization in schools has become a more urgent matter; this was heightened by the global pandemic in 2020 and the need to provide learning opportunities virtually. Fransson and Norman (2021, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, University of Gävle, Sweden) undertook research on one teacher’s perspective of professional learning in light of his self-understanding. Here, the authors asked the following questions:

  • How does the teacher’s self-understanding influence his professional development activities? 
  • Do the professional development activities influence his self-understanding and, if so, how? 
  • Which professional learning strategies are used?

“The findings show how his task perception changed over time from an emphasis on teaching to a greater emphasis on improvement, supporting colleagues in their learning and contributing to the professionalization of the teaching community. This influenced his adoption of a self-directed learning strategy.”

Professional development is essential for teacher development and constant improvement in teacher practice and student support; this is even more important when it comes to technology. “Teachers’ efforts to integrate digital technologies in education can be supported by formal professional development and informal professional learning,“ the authors argue. They highlight that a collaborative approach is most effective whereby ”informal and self-initiated and self-directed learning has been highlighted as very important.” Moreover, research has shown “that social media – such as Facebook, Twitter or other communities – informs digitally skilled teachers’ design activities and becomes the starting point for approaching new technologies and exploring pedagogical potentials and eventual added value.” This is linked to a teacher’s values and beliefs about education and accurate promotion of teaching and learning opportunities. 

The method employed in this study was a narrative-biological approach whereby the teacher would share reflections and conversations with the research team. Yet, both authors share an awareness of the vulnerability of such an approach in terms of trust and frankness. “Thus, a research partnership is based on different perspectives but strives to remain on equal terms.”

In the discussion of the data, it was found that the teacher’s “self image created a loop of new initiatives of informal learning that led to further improved self image. That images of ‘ideal teaching’ or ‘ideal teachers’ motivate teachers to learn is also shown in other research.” As a result of his learning in the study, the teacher gained accreditation and respect from students and other staff. The participant experienced ”job motivation” and the process “encouraged him to develop further and also confirms that his direction of informal learning is fruitful and rewarding. It has been suggested that increased self-esteem and motivation, operationalized as self-efficacy, could result in higher commitment and the elaboration of new learning strategies.” Consequently, teachers do not only improve their own practice but over time take responsibility to informally train other members of staff in using technology to further teaching and learning in an institution. 

Article Summarized:

 Fransson, G., & Norman, F. (2021). Exploring how a digitally skilled teacher’s self-understanding influences his professional learning strategies. A research cooperation between a teacher and a researcher. Teacher Development, 1-17.

Summary by: Frankie Garbutt — Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.