The main purpose of
this case study was investigating the perceived value of Twitter in the context
of the professional development of twelve semi-experienced teachers in secondary
education. Considering the exploratory nature of this study, the wide range of
personal variables involved, and the absence of a clear theoretical framework,
a grounded theory methodology was chosen. Data were gathered in three phases: word
clouds by the participants, semi-structured interviews and a group focus
session. During the process of coding, additional literature was investigated
and supported the forming of theory.
The main category grounded in the data is the notion of inspiration. ‘Inspiration as knowing’ umbrellas a process of CPD through a Network of Practice (Twitter). From the analysis of the literature on inspiration and from the comparison with the data, I conclude that inspiration can be considered a psychological construct representing a form of knowing. This is in contrast to more traditional approaches of teachers’ professional development where the teacher is in need of specific knowledge and skills in order to fill a ‘deficit’ to solve specific practice-related problems. Although the area of teachers’ professional development has received much academic investigation, this objectivist view towards CPD still firmly is in place. I do not argue that such a rational approach to CPD is not valuable. In particular circumstances this clearly has value. But I conclude from this case study that there is another approach towards CPD, namely one based on inspiration, openness and transcendence. Teachers learn from abundance of knowledge without clear defined problems, instead of assuming they are always in need of particular knowledge that needs to fill a gap in their professional practice. Although there are some limitations in my case study - mainly the implication of the convenience sampling and the possible misinterpretations of the notion of inspiration - I have reasonable confidence that my analysis indicates the findings as described in the findings section. At this point it also is not clear whether teachers developed an open professional mindset through the use of Twitter itself, or whether they already possessed this disposition of open mindedness and professional growth. Second limitation in my case study concerns the actual effect from Twitter inspiration onto the teachers' practice. Further investigation in these areas is needed.
The analysis of the experience of inspiration in relation to CPD resulted in improvement in the following areas: a positive impact on work mastery; increased openness to professional experiences; and more engagement with professionals beyond the own school borders (transcendence). As a result, this inspirational process of CPD through Twitter (Network of Practice) induces high levels of energy and positive affect such as professional satisfaction.
“I’ve learnt more from Twitter than all of my professional development sessions together.”
“Twitter makes me feel comfortingly calm, I feel at ease.”
“I get feelings of satisfaction and appreciation by being on Twitter.”
“Twitter feeds my broader view on education; I love those broader perspectives.”
The deconstruction of the process ‘inspiration as knowing’ in this study has shown that the volatile and abundant nature of Twitter strongly correlates to the non-deficit approach of CPD. The participants in this study gave little evidence of solving immediate practice-related problems, but rather were inspired positively by picking up knowledge about practice from a wide range of fields, educational or beyond.
The CPD through Twitter is inextricably linked to the use of mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. All participants acknowledged using mobile devices to engage with their Twitter network.
“The unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious” Haraclitus (500BC - as cited in Kop, 2012, p. 5)