“Grounded theory, a research methodology primarily associated with qualitative research, comprises several unique methodological elements such as constant comparative analysis and theoretical sampling … One of the most problematic issues relates to how and when existing literature should be used.” (Dunne, 2009, p. 1)

In this section I explain the position of literature in my research and elaborate on a number of relevant concepts from literature in the context of this research:

  • a reflection on Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of teachers (Guskey & Huberman, 1995; Richardson, 2003; Day & Sachs, 2005; Ranieri et al., 2012; Leask & Youni, 2013; Albion et al., 2015);
  • Networks of Practice (NoPs, Brown & Duguid, 2001); and
  • Twitter: what are teachers’ perceptions of Twitter (Davis, 2012).

Not all of my readings ended up in this dissertation, one has to make choices. But “you can never read too much on theory” (Richard Pountney, Skype 6/10/2015). And although I read the interesting work of Gert Biesta, Pierre Bourdieu, Parker Palmer, Peter Senge, Geert Kelchtermans and Fred Korthagen - to name a few - they are not included in this dissertation. My mindset has been stretched by their work, that’s for sure. When I end this dissertation it is because I am on the shoulders of all of these authors mentioned.

The chicken or the egg

It is not my intention to dig deep into the concerns on how students and researchers should approach the existing literature relevant to their topic. I refer to the paper of Ciarán Dunne (2011) for further reading. As Dunne describes, the “use of existing literature represents a polemical and divisive issue that continues to spark debate.” (p.3) However, the main issue is not if literature should be investigated, it clearly should, but rather when and how it should be conducted. Previous to my research and during the research proposal phase, it was difficult to pinpoint one or more existing theories that underpin the use of Twitter as medium for CPD.

Studies found on the specific use of social media and CPD of teachers.

  • The work of Davis (2012) on the relevance of #edchat sessions on Twitter.
  • The study of Carpenter and Krutka (2015) on engagement of teachers through microblogging. This study on professional development of teachers through Twitter was particularly interesting. It is one of the few papers directly on CPD and Twitter. Several themes emerged from their data and I elaborate on them on this page
  • A review of Alias et al. (2013) that provides research trends and content analysis of studies in the field of Twitter. They conclude that the use of Twitter is still new in the arena of teaching.
  • And the work of Ranieri (2012) that studies why teachers engage on Facebook. This study confirms that further studies should be conducted to explore how technology-enhanced learning can impact the CPD of teachers.

Variables influence such as teacher beliefs, school context and school culture influence teachers' behaviour on social media. This variety of variables influenced the position of the literature in a way that it was hard to associate one particular theoretical framework. Handling existing literature intermediately and considering it as a form of data allowed categories to emerge naturally, thus avoiding contamination of the teachers’ stories. As Charmaz puts it (2014, p. 165) “delaying the literature review can help to avoid importing preconceived ideas and imposing them on your work. Delaying the review encourages you to articulate your ideas.”

In practice, this meant that as my data was being gathered and ideas began to emerge, I began to consider how existing theories could be used to progress the analysis. For example, during the first individual interviews it struck me how curious and eager to learn the participants were. It was not until the interview with Mariska that I had thought of the concept of ‘growth mindset’. At that moment I made a video log and started reading the work of Carol Dweck. In the end, this notion of 'growth mindset' was linked to the core category 'inspiration'. In an attempt to limit my emerging theory, I chose not to mention the concept of 'growth mindset' since that was not entirely grounded in the data.

Another example of the interplay between literature and data was when I discovered the link between the non-linear character of Twitter and the more traditional view on professional development through immediate problemsolving expectations (deficit model, Jackson, 1990; Day & Sachs, 2005). Reading further on these matters after capturing a memo in this videolog proved to be an effective research strategy.

Downside of this strategy for me was that I sometimes got lost in reading and had difficulty in selecting relevant literature that can act as a form of data. Luckily my tutor Richard or fellow students arrived at the scene when necessary.

This way of handling literature resulted in a “contextualisation of the study, rather than a traditional literature review.” (Dunne, 2011, p. 121) 

> The literature section is divided into three relevant subsections.

>> A reflection on Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

>> The vehicle for CPD:  Networks of Practice (NoP)

>> An illustration of the nature of Twitter and links with current research on Twitter.