This thesis is a qualitative study into my practice as a teacher educator and the use of action research as a professional learning model for teachers in Samoa. It tells the story of my research journey as I progress through the action research steps, over and around obstacles, meeting challenges and finally realising at completion that it is not the end, but the beginning of another journey.
The study research question was: Can the action research model be used for teacher professional learning in Samoa? The study used action research for both the content of the study and the design of the study. Therefore while I was asking the teachers to move through the action research steps, the structure of the study also followed the processes of action research through concentrating on my practice as facilitator.
To better reflect the research journey as well as the important position culture played in all parts of the journey I use the Samoan practice of talanoa (informal conversation, critical discussion) together with the narrative tradition of action research to format this thesis. The structure of this thesis is therefore different to the conventional report used for other theses, however it suffices as a better arrangement to explore the multi layers, elements and complex nature of the study. The chapters found in a conventional thesis, such as literature review, methodology, data analysis results, and discussion, are not found in their usual place but are located in different places in this thesis.
The most noticeable difference from the traditional structure is the use of the action research cycle format. The five cycles of the study are told in a narrative, talanoa style. This narrative includes discussion and descriptions of the research design, the study methods and the other considerations as they unfolded during the journey. For example, questions are asked but not answered, therefore the question is altered according to the observations and reflections carried out at the time. In this way the reader experiences the journey as I did and witnesses how I came to my conclusions and decisions as to which pathway to travel down next as the journey continued. In addition it is important to illustrate that the voice in this story is mine therefore the thesis document is written in the first person rather than from the removed position of third person 'the researcher'.
The study is primarily a journey of research and learning, however, several wider theoretical and practical areas emerge from the data and are examined in relation to teacher learning in ii Samoa. The themes examined are: a) Relationships and expectations; such as between the teacher, education system and myself as facilitator; b) Knowledge; including the different conceptions of what counts as knowledge and how that translates to learning, especially teacher professional learning; c) Power; such as the power relationships between teachers, the education system and myself as facilitator. Fundamental to these themes is the context of formal schooling in Samoa and its position in the culture and way of life. The tensions between the education policies, teacher perceptions and practice, and teacher learning, are also explored.
My study attempted to bring a different approach to teacher professional learning in Samoa and met with challenges and dilemmas. Although I was focusing on teacher learning I also went through my own learning, and through critical reflection I have put forward a vision and prospects for improved teacher learning in Samoa.