Broadbent, C., Boyle, M. & Brady, J. (2011). A SiMERRing story: new approaches to professional learning for teachers in rural and regional areas of Australia. E. O'Doherty. The Fifth Education in a Changing Environment Conference Book 2009: Critical Voices, Critical Times 161-178. USA: The Informing Science Institute.
The research project outlined in this paper aligns with the priorities of the National Centre for Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR). A key aim of the Centre is to support the achievement of students and to promote teacher growth by working collaboratively with communities, educational authorities, professional associations and industry groups in the conduct of research and other professional activities. The Centre especially seeks to address problems faced by teachers in rural and regional areas who otherwise might be professionally isolated. The research project was conducted by members of the local SiMERR Hub located at the Australian Catholic University in Canberra. This SiMERR project brought together a university, teachers, learning technology officers and selected schools in rural, regional and urban settings to establish a dynamic professional learning community that facilitated the development of quality pedagogy and teachers improved sense of self efficacy, in the use of interactive whiteboards in their classrooms. All participating teachers had interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in their classrooms and had demonstrated some competency and enthusiasm for the use of ICT to enhance their teaching and their students’ learning. The paper provides an overview of the research design adopted for the project, its underlying rationale and the methodologies used during the research development. A predominantly qualitative approach is utilised for the analysis of data gathered through questionnaires, semi-focused interviews with students and teachers, and lesson observations, including videotaped lessons of teachers’ use of interactive whiteboards. The relationship between the project and the development of self-efficacy beliefs is also discussed.
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