“Choice and voice”: elementary teachers’ perceptions of the influence of Edcamps on their professional practice
Phan, Dinh Xuan Thi
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Created by a group of educators in 2009, Edcamps are “free, voluntary, participant-driven” unconferences for educators to informally learn from one another (Carpenter & Linton, 2016, p. 97). Since the first Edcamp in 2010, over 700 Edcamps have been held across the United States and in 25 total countries (Edcamp Foundation, 2016). In spite of the viral, organic growth of Edcamps and the extensive research literature on the need for high-quality teacher professional development (PD), almost no empirical research exists on this model of teacher PD. As a result, education stakeholders have little understanding of the possible value and influence of Edcamps on teachers’ professional practice. The purpose of this qualitative, multiple case study was to explore U.S. public elementary teachers’ perceptions of their Edcamp experiences and how, if at all, their Edcamp experiences influenced their professional practice, specifically in the areas of student instruction, peer collaboration, and teacher leadership. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with each of the twelve study participants. During the second of these interviews, participants shared and discussed artifacts demonstrating the influence of Edcamps on their professional practice. A total of 68 unique artifacts were collected and examined from among all participants. A thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) of the interview data revealed that all twelve teachers perceived that their Edcamp experiences were legitimate, high-quality PD. All teachers also perceived that their Edcamp experiences had influenced their professional practice in at least one of the following areas: student instruction, peer collaboration, and teacher leadership. Teachers spoke of applying the discrete knowledge and skills that they had learned during Edcamp sessions as well as applying the format and beliefs of the Edcamp model of PD itself to their professional practice. Based on teachers’ interview responses, three major factors contributed to whether Edcamps influenced teachers’ professional practice: teachers’ motivations, colleague support, and administrator support. Additionally, all participants stated that teachers should have greater choice and voice in their PD. The findings of this study may inform future studies about Edcamps and, more generally, teacher-driven PD. Recommendations for practice and future research are discussed.