The Teacher Training Resource Bank (TTRB) is a project, funded by the English Teacher Development Agency for Schools (TDA). The main aims of the project are to articulate and represent the professional knowledge bases that underpin teacher education and to increase the range and quality of resources available for the professional development of novice teachers, through the development of an on-line knowledge management system. The TTRB seeks to link theory, debate and practice through raising the profile of teacher training research and knowledge creation. It makes use of research and evidence from across the world and includes some reviewers from different countries.
Statistical records of TTRB usage since its inception in 2006 demonstrate widespread use of the resource within English initial teacher education (ITE) and schools. An independent evaluation of the TTRB (Chambers, 2009) indicated a positive impact on trainee teachers in terms of making a large range of research and up-to-date resource material easily available. Trainee teachers were further enabled to make connections between theory and research, and the quality of their academic work was seen to be improved through more comprehensive use of sources.
The research reported in this paper seeks to extend these findings in order to investigate more fully the ways in which the knowledge bases presented by TTRB are mobilised in school based professional development activity Although the TTRB may be conceptualised as a form of ‘knowledge transfer’, this metaphor ignores the complexities of institutional cultural context and the situated nature of practice transfer (Fielding et al 2005). Cordingley et al (2005) have argued that continuing professional development (CPD) is more effective where is it collaborative, linked to teachers’ own professional priorities (and appropriately supported by external specialists). The linkages between articles within the TTRB resource can support the professional learner in taking increased responsibility for their own professional development by deciding and accounting for the pathways of exploration followed. This can also increase ownership of professional development. The TTRB may be seen as a democratisation of professional knowledge development through a ‘heterarchical’ (Oatley, 1984) process.
The paper draws on case studies of professional development activity within schools to examine ways in which utilisation of a knowledge portal (in this case the TTRB) enhances professional development, drawing on the ‘knowledge spiral’ from Nonaka & Konno (1998) as a framework. The knowledge spiral depicts key processes involved in the professional development of teachers where there is a dynamic interplay between implicit and explicit knowledge that changes by dialogue and action (Rogoff, 1991 Wenger, 1998, Daniels et al, 2009). The purpose of the research is to investigate the contribution made by the knowledge portal to this process.
Case study schools have volunteered to be part of the research investigation, and have identified focus areas for CPD as relevant to their individual contexts. These were schools already involved in a variety of professional development activities or programmes. Participants recorded their use of the TTRB site as part of their existing record of professional development, and identified ways in which the knowledge portal impacted on their thinking and practice. This was augmented by a semi-structured recording instrument. These records were analysed on a thematic basis, and this data triangulated through semi–structured interviews with selected participants and other stakeholders.
The TTRB may be viewed as one example of a number of knowledge portals for evidence in education that can be seen to have potential across Europe. The findings include a consideration of how portals should be developed and deployed across Europe, taking into account differences in national concerns and frameworks. A heterarchical model of democratic professional development is articulated.
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