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Tensions and dilemmas in teacher professional development
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Tan, A. L., Chang, C. H., & Teng, P. S. (2015). Tensions and dilemmas in teacher professional development. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 174, 1583–1591.
This paper presents the reasons why teachers engage in professional development as well as the tensions and dilemmas that arise from professional development. The voices of 14 teachers are heard through individual semi-structured interviews. The transcripts of the interviews were analysed using thematic coding to uncover the themes related to the tensions that teachers feel when they are faced with decisions pertaining to professional development matters. Three dilemmas surfaced from our analysis and in this paper, we present them in a dualistic manner to highlight the tensions that resulted from these dilemmas faced by the teachers. The first dilemma concerns the issue of needs that are served through engagement in professional development activities. Here we discuss whether professional development should serve the needs of individual teachers or whether it should serve organizational needs. We highlight the forms of professional development activities that teachers should engage in and how they often find themselves torn between the urge to attend professional development activities that they personally enjoy and those that their peers and school would like them to attend. The second dilemma is related to teachers’ sense of responsibility to their pupils when they are engaged in professional development activities. The question that teachers commonly ask themselves before they decide on professional development activities is whether their students' learning will be affected in their absence. The last dilemma is related to the first and it deals with whether professional development activities should be made compulsory or whether it should be voluntary for teachers. Understanding the tensions and dilemmas of professional development as experienced by teachers allows the policy makers and professional developers to make better decisions so that the fidelity of professional development policies and programs can be enhanced.
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