Globalisation, including rapid changes in technology, is an example of forces that are shaping the lives of teachers in higher education. Deliberately communicating with the global academic community in order to reflect on and construct knowledge of one’s own professional practice is a means of building teacher knowledge. This paper reports the email conversation of the authors over the previous eighteen months as we explored the practical concerns of teaching, generating and answering questions drawing on our individual and shared knowledge, perspectives and practice.
The central purpose of this paper is to report a case study of non-formal professional learning, and provide an explanatory overview of building knowledge about effective teaching and learning through text- and web-based conversation.
We identified three elements that enabled the conditions for non-formal professional learning. (1) Using email to create a space for making meaning. Email is an example of asynchronous communication that potentially support an active process of thinking and learning by enabling interactivity and, through the expression and discussion of individual ideas, the potential for the construction of knowledge. (2) Using tacit knowledge of teaching and learning to encourage collegiality and participation. Tacit knowledge is implicit knowledge about cultural values, rules and norms of day-to-day life that influence action. In the case of teachers, tacit knowledge includes pedagogical knowledge, particularly procedural knowledge of how to teach and respond to diverse and problematic situations that arise during the teaching process. (3) A deliberate and purposeful reflective processes. Practical reflection allows the gaining of knowledge and understanding about one’s own teaching practice, to take a position about practice and to increase self-knowledge about teaching. Writing, the primary means of our conversation, is an active reflective process. When two people are conversing using writing, reading and writing involve deconstruction and construction of ideas and meaning.
We found that the writing process was fundamental to the professional learning experience. Writing a series of threaded or conceptually linked emails involved a process whereby each participant attempted to make sense of and interact with the idea being discussed. While writing can be thought of as a personal act, it was clear to us that our emails over time represented a structured, purposeful and reflective process of professional knowledge construction.
|Keywords:||Professional Learning, Writing as Learning, Tacit Knowledge, Asynchronous Communication|
Senior Lecturer, School of Education, La Trobe University, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Professor, Faculty of Education, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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