Becoming a tertiary teacher in New Zealand : learning in communities of practice : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis reports a research project studying how people become tertiary teachers in New Zealand. While studies of many aspects of tertiary teaching, teacher professional development and workplace learning have been published, no comparative study of tertiary teacher development across different types of institutions had been carried out. Few previous studies had linked the concept of learning in a community of practice with teachers' workplace learning. A qualitative, interpretive research framework was adopted, using three case studies. Data were gathered from institutional documents, educational developers and experienced teaching staff of three representative institutions, a polytechnic, a wananga and a university, from mid-2000 to mid-2001. Data gathering strategies included semi-structured interviews with teachers and educational developers, examination of documents, a teacher questionnaire and some class observations. Interview transcripts and other data were analysed to identify common themes, and findings were reported as three individual cases before integration. It was found that most tertiary teachers' learning about teaching and how to teach was in-service, mainly informal and experiential, and the knowledge gained was mainly tacit and process-oriented. Although that was complemented by varying amounts of formal learning, gained through courses or professional development activities, few tertiary teachers have sought or gained teaching qualifications. While institutions have central policies and procedures to support in-service teacher development, their implementation is often uneven, with little integration or balancing of the parts. Differences of practice were observed both between institutions, and between departments within institutions, indicating the importance of context for tertiary teachers' development. It was concluded that non-formal workplace learning is likely to continue to be the mainstay of tertiary teacher development, and that it needs to be refocussed and approached from a fresh angle. The perspective of learning in a community of teaching practice provides a conceptual framework for integrating different levels and forms of support for tertiary teachers. Recommendations for strengthening tertiary teacher development are addressed at three levels: institutions (as social learning systems); communities of practice within those institutions (such as departments, discipline groups, programme teams, or campus whanau); and individual teachers (whose teaching identities develop within those communities).