An exploration of the factors enabling educators to respond effectively to the work environment : case studies of three participants within the context of a professional development programme for Southern African environmental educators.
This research project investigates the influence of, and interplay between, contextual and biographical factors on an educator's ability to respond to the work context. In particular, this study explores what factors a small number of educators believe were important, before, during and after their participation on one or other specific professional development programme in enabling them to develop (design and/or adapt) and implement a course curriculum in their work environments. Within the context of this research, the professional development programmes of interest are designed with/for environmental educators from the Southern African region. Although past educational research has often focused on the importance that programme participants give to the interactions between themselves and tutors , the materials used, the assignments tackled, etc. this research project did not set out to draw the research subjects' attention to programme-related factors. Rather, it was designed to broaden the focus to include factors before and after a programme as well. Within this enquiry, three research subjects were engaged in numerous, open-ended conversations throughout the course of the year during which the study unfolded. The above participants were also involved in semi-structured interviews where, again, relatively open-ended questions were asked. A small number of documents, such as the materials of the above professional development programmes, were also analysed. This research has provided a number of insights into the wide range of factors that might enable educators to respond effectively to their work environments. Specifically, it has indicated the importance of four broad families of factors perceived by the subjects of this research to have enabled them to develop and implement a meaningful course curriculum. The personal variables are highlighted in particular. Importantly, this study raises questions and challenges both for those involved in similar research as well as for those involved in the design and implementation of professional development programmes, particularly for educators.