English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal Volume 33.2
Volume 33 No 2 7 English Australia Journal that guided the study and also reflect our understandings of our own professional development as it evolved through the exploratory practice and narrative inquiry phases of the project. At a final project meeting, we reviewed these narratives and, through discussion, identified the shared areas of development that are summarised under the heading of ‘shared experiences’. Narratives of exploratory practice Lesley Like all language teachers, I am constantly looking for ways to improve my students’ language skills and to that end, I attend conferences and as many professional development courses as possible. However, I had always seen professional development as something theoretical, which occurred outside the classroom and was delivered by experts in the field to the teachers, who were passive recipients. It never occurred to me that what I was doing in the classroom could also be regarded as a form of professional development. It was only when Book Club Café evolved into an exploratory practice study that I came to the realisation that professional development is continuous, and that it can happen among colleagues in a horizontal manner as well as in a vertical or top-down direction. I had already been working at the ELC for seven years when we started the project and I had been teaching for several decades. However, I had never undertaken ‘research’ as such and I had certainly never seen a connection between research conducted by the teacher in the classroom and professional development. ‘Accidental’ professional development The first step in the research process was taken when my colleague, Jose, and I decided to combine our classes for Book Club Café sessions to try to motivate our students to engage in more reading in their free time. This informal collaboration led to conversations in the staff room, which were overheard by other teachers, although we weren’t aware of it at the time. The project went well and the students began to read more, but after a few weeks, a major turning point came when I overheard a conversation in my shared office. Two teachers were discussing the Book Club Café, and I realised that one was training the other in how to run a Book Club Café, session during class, using the model we had implemented. I realised that other teachers had been listening to our informal discussions in the staffroom and they had decided to try out the project with their own students. Undoubtedly the strong sense of teamwork and collegiality in the ELC had contributed to this sharing of ideas and there followed a number of discussions about the benefits and challenges of implementing extensive reading. The positive reaction towards the project from our colleagues gave me the confidence to continue the project and to explore ways to extend it.
English Australia Journal Volume 33.1