A case study of a teacher study group in Taiwan
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The purpose of this qualitative research examined the extent to which and the way in which Taiwanese educators in one selected high school in Taiwan viewed their English language study group as a form of staff development and professional learning community that contributes to their professional growth or learning. Based on purposive sampling, this case study employed the following data collection techniques: (1) informal observations and interviews, (2) focus group interview, (3) semi-structured individual interviews, and (4) documents and records. The site selected for this study was the National Chia-Yi Girls' Senior High School in Chia-Yi City in Taiwan. An important feature of this particular study group, the English Teachers Club, is that it had been in existence for 16 years. Although the focus of this club was offering opportunities for members to practice and improve their English, it functioned as a teacher study group. Participants in this teacher study group argued that the group provides a better form of professional development than traditional professional development activities because it was a teacher-directed activity in an informal format, and provided on-going opportunities to meet their needs. Specifically, the reported benefits of this professional development activity included: learning English as a foreign language, gaining ideas for improving classroom English instruction, sharing teaching experiences, stimulating positive dispositions to learning, fostering intellectual development, and socialization and friendship. These benefits, I argue, helped participants to develop content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge. The members believed that this collaborative group promoted both collective and individual growth in a supportive learning environment and thereby functioned as a learning community. The concerns and challenges of a study group identified by participants in this study were: (a) the role of group facilitators, (b) the low participation of English teachers in the school and (c) the lack of sustained administrative support. The experiences of the teacher study group at Chia-Yi Girls' Senior High School revealed some of the successes and problems that the teachers experienced as their involvement in a study group evolved.