Grassroots professional growth: inquiring into the effectiveness of a locally constructed professional development model for rural teachers

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Skyhar, Candy
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Rural school divisions in Canada, if they can be spoken of as a collection, consist of extremely diverse groups of people, living in varied geographical settings, with unique community strengths and challenges. The provision of professional development (PD) for rural teachers is one area in which rural school divisions face particular challenges due to the contexts in which they operate. Issues relating to funding, geography, staffing, and local contextual differences impact the ability of rural divisions to provide effective PD for their teachers. The research described in this thesis sought to address the problem of how rural school divisions and teachers might go about creating models of PD that lead to the provision of effective and meaningful PD for teachers, and that mitigate the challenges faced in providing effective PD locally. Through a qualitative, single case study design, the research study inquired into the effectiveness of one locally constructed teacher PD model (the Numeracy Cohort) implemented in a small rural school division in Manitoba in order to address the research problem. The study focused on three questions: (1) To what extent (if at all) is the specific locally constructed PD model utilized in the rural school division able to mitigate the challenges faced by the rural division and its rural teachers in accessing meaningful PD?, (2) To what extent (if at all) is the model effective in terms of supporting teachers’ professional growth in the area of mathematics instruction and student numeracy?, and (3) How do social constructivist principles contribute to teacher professional growth through the locally constructed rural PD model? Findings suggested that the Numeracy Cohort model was able to mitigate several challenges faced by the rural division and its teachers in accessing and providing meaningful teacher PD. Moreover, several effective characteristics of the teacher PD model were identified, including social constructivist principles that contributed to teacher professional growth. While findings are not generalizable, they may be transferable to comparable contexts, thereby providing important considerations for those interested in designing and evaluating teacher PD models for rural teachers.
Professional growth, Social constructivist, Professional development, Professional learning, Teacher, PD, Challenges, Effective, Rural, Model, Grassroots, Mathematics, Numeracy