Teachers’ “Transformational Learning"? A case study of teachers’ views of knowledge as they participate in a collaborative think tank
In recent years, future focused thinkers have described an unprecedented rate of change in the Western World. At the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there have been documented revolutionary shifts in the way people work and live. Subsequently, a new age was defined and we are now thought to live in the “knowledge age”. It has been suggested that the wide differences in the way people live their lives has, for some people, been destabilising and also that the accelerated rate of change has been too fast, thus creating a feeling of shock, unrest and resistance to change. Future-focused educationalists have argued that changes in education have not kept pace with the changes happening in society. This is thought, by some people, to relate to the way teachers think about their roles and to the expectations communities have of schools. That is, since teachers and parents have usually experienced schooling themselves and often hold deeply ingrained beliefs about what schools should look and feel like as well as what teachers should spend their days doing, teachers have held on to methods which relate more to the industrial age than to the knowledge age. In recent years, there has been a call from future-focused educationalists for schools to provide future-focused professional learning opportunities for their teachers which could enable them to shift their thinking and to rethink their roles for the knowledge age. Here I present an investigation of one intervention which could enable such a shift. This project is a narrow case study viewed through the lens of complexity thinking. The study considers the impact of interactions for a group of teachers as they participate in a collaborative think tank. The think tank group was set up before the research project was proposed, and it took place independently of the research. The think tank was developed by members of the study school to enable a group of teachers to work collaboratively over time. The study school worked closely with an external educational professional to ensure think tank topics were future focused, in accordance with the school’s motto: “Future Ready”. Part of the work of the external educational professional involved ensuring that think tank topics were based on current research. Participants of the think tank were interviewed by the researcher to ascertain the nature and extent of interactions they had as a result of the think tank topics and how far these interactions impacted on their views of knowledge and education. The major findings of the study are: • Many conversations and interactions occurred as a direct result of the think tank • The interactions resulting from think tank topics differed from interactions which participants usually had • For at least the duration of the project, participants of the think tank shifted their views of knowledge • The shift in the participants’ views were often a direct result of their interactions emerging from the think tank topics
The project concludes with a series of recommendations regarding new forms of teacher professional learning and development (PLD) for the knowledge age.