Teachers’ and center leaders’ sensemaking of inquiry-based professional learning in early childhood education and care programs : a multiple case study




Englehardt, Joanna Sue

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Professional development (PD) in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is at a critical juncture within the current accountability and standards movement. Various stakeholders position PD as a necessity to ready children within a neoliberal framing of the education process and posit universal training/PD as a solution. Conversely, many scholars continue to call for more critical approaches such as inquiry-based professional learning (IBPL) to better support the linguistically and culturally diverse early childhood landscape and address larger social-justice inequities. Yet, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for sustaining such IBPL practices. This research, therefore explores how center leaders and teachers of three ECEC programs made sense of enacting and engaging in varying forms of IBPL. Specifically guided by two research questions: 1) How do school leaders and teachers make sense of PL and their experiences within them and their school community? 2) How do school leaders and teachers make sense of IBPL and their experiences within them and their school community? Chapter 1 introduces my research questions and framing of this study. Chapter 2 reviews four stands of the literature pertinent to this study. First, it explores how PD has been defined and understood by identifying current best practices as well as exploring critical understandings within ECEC. Next, the chapter synthesizes relevant literature in the areas of teacher development research and highlights how teachers learn. Then, the chapter explores IBPL specifically by first defining then illuminating the differences between PL and IBPL as well as the varying ways IBPL has been enacted in ECEC programs. Chapter 2 then closes with a review of the theoretical framework that informs this study, sensemaking. Chapter 3 details the methodology that guided this instrumental multiple case study including data collection and analysis. Chapters 4 and 5 present the findings from this research. Chapter 4 looks at how teachers and center leaders made sense of PL and Chapter 5 looks at how they made sense of IBPL specifically. Chapter 6 addresses the significance of these findings and concludes with a discussion of implications and suggestions for future research


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