Initiating small class teaching in Hong Kong: video reflective narratives and the professional developmental learning model

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  • This article was downloaded by: [UQ Library]On: 01 November 2014, At: 16:14Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Teacher Development: An internationaljournal of teachers' professionaldevelopmentPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rtde20

    Initiating small class teaching in HongKong: video reflective narrativesand the professional developmentallearning modelMarina W.Y. Wong a & Jacky W.C. Pow aa Department of Education Studies, Faculty of Social Studies ,Hong Kong Baptist University , Hong Kong SARPublished online: 16 Oct 2012.

    To cite this article: Marina W.Y. Wong & Jacky W.C. Pow (2012) Initiating small class teaching inHong Kong: video reflective narratives and the professional developmental learning model, TeacherDevelopment: An international journal of teachers' professional development, 16:4, 507-522, DOI:10.1080/13664530.2012.730713

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Initiating small class teaching in Hong Kong: video reflectivenarratives and the professional developmental learning model

    Marina W.Y. Wong* and Jacky W.C. Pow

    Department of Education Studies, Faculty of Social Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University,Hong Kong SAR

    (Received 11 May 2011; final version received 27 February 2012)

    This study explores the use of video reflective narratives. It reports on dataderived from 28 in-service primary school teachers undertaking professionaldevelopment to support small class (n = 25) teaching in Hong Kong. Thefindings serve to highlight that such professional development is fraught withconfounds, for professional development works at the level of the individual,and is complex and interactive. Analysis of data derived from video reflectivenarratives suggests that such phenomenon may be explained by reference to aprofessional developmental learning model. Findings suggest that such interac-tions are predictable and accordingly, the effects of specific professional devel-opment programs can be monitored.

    Keywords: small class teaching; video reflective narratives; professionaldevelopmental learning model; Hong Kong

    Introduction

    The effect of learning in small class sizes has stimulated much debate and research(Pedder 2006). Reflecting the general trend of falling birth rates and subsequentfalling school enrollments, research has focused mainly on the effects of reducedclass size, producing results that clearly indicate that, where classes are smaller than25, childrens academic attainment improves in kindergarten and early primaryyears (Blatchford et al. 2003; Finn, Pannozzo, and Achilles 2003). However, classsize reduction is found to be an expensive way to make a modest improvement instudent achievement (Folger and Breda 1989, 30).

    Research which has focused on teachers practices in classrooms with reducedclass size has found that their effectiveness is dependent on teachers adaptation ofinstructional strategies to the small class context (Stecher, McCaffrey, and Bugliari2003; Blatchford et al. 2003). The significance of individual teachers adaptation maybe gleaned from the following reported results. A uniform inflexibility is reported: noobvious differences were found between teachers instructional strategies, groupingpractices and content coverage in small or large classes (Shapson et al. 1980; OCon-nell and Smith 2000; Stecher and Bohrnstedt 2000), except where the class size fallsto 10 or fewer students (Wyss, Tai, and Bugliari 2007). Confounding this inflexibilityis an adaptation spectrum. The adaptation spectrum ranges from teachers in small

    *Corresponding author. Email: marina@hkbu.edu.hk

    Teacher DevelopmentVol. 16, No. 4, November 2012, 507522

    ISSN 1366-4530 print/ISSN 1747-5120 online 2012 Teacher Developmenthttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13664530.2012.730713http://www.tandfonline.com

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  • classes who keep their instructional strategies unchanged (Finn and Achilles 1999);teachers who spend less time on classroom management and more time on instruction(Finn and Achilles 1999; Achilles, Finn, and Pate-Bain 2002), or less time on groupinstruction and more time on individual instruction (Betts and Shkolnik 1999); toteachers who take more time to establish better interpersonal relationships with theirstudents (Finn, Pannozzo, and Achilles 2003).

    Attempts to address teachers inflexibility and the less helpful end of their adap-tation spectrum have focused attention on the role of teacher training and profes-sional development (Pannozzo and Finn 2002; Blatchford et al. 2003), specificallywhere class size reduction and instructional reform are seen to involve professionalchange (Graue et al. 2007). Supporting such interventions has also focused attentionon the need not only for further research on the teaching and learning processes inclassrooms (Pedder 2006) but also on teachers professional development needswhen handling small classes (Graue et al. 2007).

    Although some researchers argue that there is no significant relationshipbetween teachers professional development and students achievement (Folger andBreda 1989; Stecher et al. 2001; Finn 2002), others argue that professional develop-ment programs lacking specific instructional strategies for small class teaching havelittle noticeable impact on small class learning and teaching (Pannozzo and Finn2002). Furthermore, Pannozzo and Finn (2002) identified three domains of smallclass teaching strategies: improving instruction and achievement, establishing aproductive classroom environment, and effective assessment techniques (11012).

    For those charged with teachers professional development in small class teach-ing and for teachers required to initiate small class teaching, further research intothe above area has practical significance.

    Contextual background

    In Hong Kong, the implementation of small class teaching (SCT) was announced inthe 200708 Hong Kong policy address (Tsang 2007). According to this policy,SCT is to be implemented in public sector education (i.e. government and aided)primary schools by phases, starting with Primary 1 in the 200910 school year andextending progressively to Primary 6 by the 201415 school year. Schools imple-menting SCT are allocated 25 students per class under the Primary One Admission(POA) system while other schools will be allocated 30 students per class.

    This change in part reflects the effects of falling birth rates and resultant fall inschool enrolments. For example, Hong Kong birth rates fell from 12 per 1000 in1989 (Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [HKSAR]1999) to 8 per 1000 in 2005 and rose to 11 per 1000 in 2010 (Government of theHKSAR 2011). In Hong Kong education, the pupilteacher ratio in primary schoolswas 22.7 in 1998 (Government of the HKSAR 1999), falling to 15.7 in 2009(Education Bureau 2010a). In the Hong Kong context, small class teaching reflectsnot only fewer pupils but also an attempt to reduce the negative impact on teacheremployment. This pragmatic interpretation contextualizes small class teaching notas attaining an educational ideal, but as yet another hurdle for current teachers tojump simply to stay employed.

    For both experienced and new teachers, the introduction of small class teachingpresents a novel challenge being beyond their own personal experience. For experi-enced teachers, small class teaching is especially challenging given their prior

    508 M.W.Y. Wong and J.W.C. Pow

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  • grounding in teaching large classes. For example, since the 1950s Hong Kong hasexperienced a rapid population growth such that primary school buildings housedmorning schools and afternoon schools with class sizes in excess of 50 students.This early experience marks the Hong Kong education system as highly competi-tive, where progress is determined by individual effort: a perception in harmonywith Confucian thinking (Lau et al. 1991; Szalay et al. 1994) and which developsself-reliance in learning and accommodates pressure and competition (Morris 1996).

    Prior to the implementation of SCT, about half of the primary schools in HongKong adopted the Activity Approach in Primary One to Primary Three, whichemphasizes play and employs group work in the learning process. Although cooper-ative learning in group work could enhance students social skills (Johnson andJohnson 1999), the idea of having group work that facilitates cooperative learningis not welcomed by parents and teachers who worry about students academicachievement in preparing students for the very competitive Secondary SchoolsPlaces Allocation (Chan and Galton 1999). The scale of implementing SCT is alsodaunting. Out of 463 public sector primary schools participating in the 201112cycle of the POA, 334 schools had confirmed they would implement SCT witheffect from the Primary 1 cohort in the 201112 school year (Education Bureau2010b). Changing this mind-set to embrace small class teaching strategies isproblematic.

    To support the SCT initiative, Galton and Pell (2009) was commissioned by theEducation Bureau of Hong Kong to survey Hong Kong primary teachers opinionson the perceived benefits of SCT. His findings intriguingly contrast with Pannozzoand Finns (2002) three domains (Table 1).

    As indicated in Table 1, Galtons (2009) Hong Kong teachers identify moststrongly with Pannozzo and Finns (2002) third domain, effective assessment tech-niques. Galtons findings elaborated Pannozzo and Finns first two domains anddescribed the possible instructional strategies that could work well in teaching in asmaller class more specifically. Galton identified teachers professional needsbeyond the constraints of Pannozzo and Finns three domains. These professionalneeds include support such as replicating existing successful practice of other col-leagues, visits from school support teams, attending workshops by experts andobserving other teachers classrooms (2009, ix). Galton (2010) further advocatedsix key principles to increase the effectiveness of teaching in a small class context

    Table 1. Comparison of the findings of Galton (2009) and Pannozzo and Finn (2002).

    Galton (2009)

    U setting practical tasksU doing pair workU giving oral feedbackU involving pupils in assessing their workU using peer tutoring

    Pannozzo and Finn (2002)

    U improving instruction and achievementU establishing a productive classroom environmentU effective assessment techniques

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  • in Hong Kong. These six key principles are: (1) clear statement of learning objec-tives; (2) extended questioning during whole class discussion; (3) more active pupilparticipation; (4) increased cooperation between pupils by working in pairs andgroups; (5) less use of corrective feedback in favor of more informing feedback;and (6) more use of the assessment for learning approach. Intriguingly, the expertadvice on SCT initiative is commissioned by the Education Bureau of Hong Kongand replicates Hong Kongs perspective of education change as being top-down.

    Given this context of a highly competitive education system facing a reductionin the required number of teachers, it is perhaps understandable why Hong Kongteachers may view the introduction of small class teaching as yet another hurdlesafely overcome by conforming to top-down directives. In contrast, effectivechange and the successful realization of the promise of small class teaching bothdepend on a bottom-up approach involving individual teacher initiatives. Thisconundrum poses the question: How to introduce small class teaching to practicingteachers in a way that engages individual teachers initiatives?

    Purpose of the study

    To address this question, this study examines the use of video reflection within profes-sional development programs supporting Hong Kong primary teachers engagementwith small class teaching. It is hoped that this study will provide insights for policy-makers, school administrators, school teachers and teacher educators on the use ofvideo reflection as a means to engage teachers in their own professional development.

    Analytical framework

    The analytical framework of this study draws on two models: first, the professionaldevelopmental learning model (Maclean and White 2007); second, the intercon-nected model of teacher professional growth (Clarke and Hollingsworth 2002).

    Professional developmental learning model

    Maclean and White (2007) reported the use of videos as a means of stimulatingstudent teachers reflection on their own teaching. Further, they showed that thesereflections enhance student teachers confidence, enthusiasm and professionallearning through sharing narrative representations illustrated by edited videos withpeers and tutors and thereby engaging in the process of constructing their ownindividualized identities as teaching professionals. Pre-dating and underpinningMaclean and Whites work is the established view that reflective practice is animportant component of teachers professional development (Schon 1987; Shulman1987). According to Shulman (1987), teachers learn from their experiences of teach-ing and learning thr...

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