Perceiving Technology-Based Professional Development Practices for Teachers: Accounts From English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teachers in China

Perceiving Technology-Based Professional Development Practices for Teachers: Accounts From English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teachers in China

Xiaoquan Pan (Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China) and Zhengdong Gan (University of Macau, Macao, China)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2020040103

Abstract

This study explored how 26 Chinese EFL teachers perceived community-based, technology-supported professional development practices. The methods of data collection in this study blend quantitative and qualitative techniques: 1) questionnaire survey of teachers' satisfaction about community-based technology-supported professional development practices; 2) online teacher discussion postings; 3) teacher self-reflection journals; and 4) semi-structured interviews. Data analysis revealed a generally positive attitude and empowering feelings in these Chinese EFL teachers who viewed technology-facilitated practices as affording constructive functions for their professional development. Results also revealed a range of factors that apparently mediated/limited EFL teachers' participation in the professional development activities. This study thus contributes to the understanding of the reality in relation to actual utilization of technological resources in second-language teacher development in the context of a developing country such as China.
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1. Introduction

Against the backdrop of curriculum paradigm transformation, teacher education research has focused on the development of teachers themselves (Day, 1999). Educators and researchers have recognized that the core of teachers’ professional development is achieved through teachers themselves, largely determined by professional agency and identity (Vähäsantanen, 2015; Wenger, 1998; Moate & Ruohotie-Lyhty, 2014). Essentially, teachers’ professional development is intertwined with changes in teachers’ behavior (Opfer, Pedder, & Lavicza, 2011). Therefore, teachers’ professional development inevitably requires the establishment of the paradigm of “teachers are researchers” and “reflective practitioners” (Schön, 1987; Killen, 2009; Smith, Geng, & Black, 2017). Meanwhile, with the development of information technology, teachers’ professional development has expanded its breadth and scope as a result of the use of technology in fostering developmental practices.

There has been a growing recognition of the advantages and benefits of technology-facilitated teachers’ professional development practices which include: 1) reducing teacher isolation and establishing professional identity (Clarke, 2009; Hramiak, 2010; Trent & Shroff, 2013), 2) nurturing mutual support and promote peer collaboration (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010; Paulus & Sherff, 2008), 3) increasing teachers’ reflective practice and self-efficacy (Stiler & Philleo, 2003; Vavasseur & MacGreor, 2008), and 4) triggering teachers’ participation and knowledge (Tang & Lam, 2014). This seems particularly true in China where technology use as a teaching and learning tool has been widely acclaimed as a catalyst for educational transformation by policy makers and teachers (Yang, 2012). In recent years, however, while there has been an increasingly large body of research into technology-supported teacher professional development, published research on the actual utilization of technological resources in teacher development in the context of a developing country such as China has been sparse. In this paper, we explored how 26 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers in China perceived their technology-based professional development practices, examining their perceptions, beliefs, practices, and the concerns and challenges that they experienced. The central research questions that this paper aims to answer are:

  • 1.

    How do English as a Foreign Language (EFL) university teachers in China perceive technology-based professional development practices?

  • 2.

    How do these teachers perceive online learning communities for professional development?

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