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The Perceptions of Beginning Secondary Teachers about their Professional Learning Experiences in the Solomon Islands Context

This thesis was designed to investigate the professional learning experiences of beginning secondary teachers (BSTs) in the Solomon Islands context. The study sought to interpret and document the lived experiences of a cohort of BSTs who graduated from the Diploma in Secondary Teaching programme at the School of Education, Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SOE-SICHE) in 2007. The focus of the study was on the sense of preparedness of the BSTs at the end of their initial teacher education, and their induction and professional learning experiences during the first two years of their teaching careers. The aim of the study was to find out how prepared the secondary teacher graduates from SOE-SICHE felt at the end of their teacher education programmes, the kind of professional support they needed as beginning teachers, and whether Solomon Islands secondary schools have adequate professional support systems in place to promote early career learning and development for beginning teachers. It is anticipated that the findings of this study will add to the body of knowledge in the field of teacher learning and professional development experiences of beginning teachers from a Pacific Island, Melanesian, socio-cultural context. Existing studies on teacher learning and development have been conducted mainly in economically developed western countries, which are significantly different from a developing Pacific Island nation such as the Solomon Islands. This study is the first of its kind to be conducted in the Solomon Islands. There is growing recognition in the literature that teacher learning and professional development should be linked to learning experiences that match teachers’ socio-cultural contexts (Flores, 2004). Proponents of such a view contend that learners assimilate new information better when their learning experiences are based on the integration of what they already know and the new phenomena and ideas with which they come in contact (Bruner, 1996; Vygotsky, 1978b; Wertsch, 1997). Hence, there is a need for education systems to provide effective learning opportunities and professional support for teachers that are relevant to the teaching and learning contexts in which they are going to find themselves during their teaching careers (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). It is also important to note that initial teacher education (ITE) programmes cannot fully prepare beginning teachers for their teaching roles. Rather, teachers should be viewed as learners who need ongoing professional support throughout their teaching careers (Loughran, 2007; Murdoch, 1979). Two phases of teacher professional learning that are considered to have significant impact on teachers’ practice and retention in the profession are induction and continuing teacher professional development (Feiman-Nemser, 2001a). Therefore, it is vitally important that pedagogies used during these phases are not only well supported and resourced by school systems but also appropriate to teachers’ socio-cultural contexts (Anthony, Bell, Haigh, & Kane, 2007a). There is ample research evidence to suggest that ITE does have an impact on the quality of teaching in the classroom and students’ learning achievements (Cochran-Smith, 2003). This research took an interpretive qualitative case study research approach, drawing on social constructivism and socio-cultural theoretical perspectives to make meaning of the professional learning experiences of beginning secondary teachers in the Solomon Islands context. The experiences of the 11 BSTs who participated in this study informed the collective case of BSTs’ experiences in Solomon Islands secondary schools. The study explored the experiences of the BSTs in the five secondary schools where they were posted, in light of the personal and contextual factors that might have influenced their perceptions about their initial teacher education, induction, and professional learning experiences. The primary sources of data were a questionnaire and three in-depth semi-structured interviews, each of which lasted 50 to 60 minutes. The data analysis process was based on the interpretive qualitative research methodology adopted in the study. Content analysis techniques were used to identify emerging themes, and interpretive phenomenological analysis techniques were then used to interpret and make meaning of the relationships within and between the key themes that emerged. This study highlighted the BSTs’ perceptions of their sense of preparedness and professional learning experiences from initial teacher education through to their second year of teaching. The findings of the study suggest that the BSTs felt inadequately prepared in some aspects of their teaching roles, and needed guidance and support from their school communities. The lack of formal induction and planned professional development opportunities for beginning teachers in the five secondary schools that were involved in this study meant that they were deprived of the kind of advice and guidance needed by new teacher graduates at the beginning of their teaching careers. The findings also suggested that beginning teachers had little opportunity to observe, reflect, and learn from their teaching practices because they were assigned the same teaching load as their experienced colleagues from day one. The BSTs also taught under difficult conditions, given the general lack of teaching resources, crowded classrooms, and lack of specialised classroom facilities and equipment for subjects such as science, home economics, industrial arts, and agriculture. Information and clear guidelines on school processes and procedures were also lacking, including advice about new teacher registration processes and procedures. Such teaching conditions were a major source of anxiety for the BSTs during the first two years of their teaching careers. The study raises questions about how well secondary teachers are prepared and supported as beginning teachers during their early years of teaching in the Solomon Islands context. It also raises questions about the quality of leadership, school cultures, expectations of individual beginning teachers, the nature of teachers’ work, government and societal expectations, and government support for quality teaching and learning in Solomon Islands secondary schools. It is anticipated that the findings of this study will help improve initial teacher education and teacher professional development practices in the Solomon Islands. This thesis argues that there is a need to develop secondary schools as professional learning communities, or ‘villages of learning’ that promotes and encourages reflective dialogue, ongoing professional conversations, and collaboration between education authorities, school principals and teachers, to enhance teachers teaching practices, and promote students’ learning outcomes.
Type of thesis
Rodie, P. (2011). The Perceptions of Beginning Secondary Teachers about their Professional Learning Experiences in the Solomon Islands Context (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5976
University of Waikato
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