A case of informal teacher learning in a secondary school.
The purpose of this study was to explore how teacher learning happened informally at the workplace. Another aim was to describe the ways in which informal learning contributes to teacher development. The study also endeavoured to establish if the school supported or hindered informal learning. The method of case study was used to understand how both novice and experienced teachers learn informally in a secondary school. The study examined five teachers’ informal learning experiences in the school by drawing on accounts of the individual teachers’ perceptions and reflections documented in journals, photographs and interviews. The journal entries were used to write narratives which outlined how teachers learnt informally in the workplace. Teachers were asked to take photographs of the places in which they learnt informally. The interviews awarded teachers the opportunity to talk about the photographs they chose to capture. The study found that teachers engage in various forms of informal learning opportunities at school. These opportunities were both planned and unplanned. The research indicated that informal learning is situated. Some of the learning opportunities included being part of a learning community, learning by interacting with colleagues in informal chats and attending meetings. In these instances it was found that teachers learnt with and from others, which is socially. This illustrates collaborative learning in the school. Teachers also engaged in individual learning. It was discovered that the school must provide opportunities for teachers to engage in informal learning. The study considered the various opportunities that existed in the school for teachers to develop and found that such opportunities contributed towards extending teacher knowledge and development. The study found that teachers in the study were willing to take the initiative to seek the learning they thought they required. The study recommends that informal learning be recognised as an authentic form of teacher learning and development in schools. Further, schools must become sites of learning for teachers by creating, encouraging and sustaining learning opportunities.