Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Professor Ann Zubrick


Current research confirms that high quality teaching makes the difference in students’ learning outcomes. In addition, contemporary views of teacher education highlight the benefits of teachers being involved as active learners in their own professional development and whole school planning. This research examines processes by which teachers construct change in their thinking and classroom practice to better meet the needs of students at educational risk in early childhood classrooms. Ten early childhood teachers, in one rural primary school were supported in their professional growth by the participant researcher. The most important outcome of this teacher-researcher action learning project was the development of “co-constructed” learning processes in classrooms. Teachers valued co-constructed practice more than the development and use of an Oral and Written Language Database (OWLD) for each student at risk. Teachers negotiated their individual beliefs about child language development, literacy learning and early childhood pedagogy with the participant researcher in order to plan, implement and reflect on effective classroom practice from Kindergarten to school Year Two. Participant observer and participant researcher roles sustained the collection of teacher interview data, oral and written language samples, classroom language plans, critical language teaching - learning incidents, and student learning outcomes during one school year. Comprehensive teacher data are reported through structured narrative to confirm that co-constructed classroom language development practice made participants’ thoughts explicit and enhanced their practice. Co-constructed classroom practice engaged participants in learning about teaching in their classrooms and schools, effecting sustained change for all participants. This study verifies factors shaping change in teachers’ thought and pedagogy. It emphasizes interactive and reciprocal learning as catalysts for self-reflection and developing knowledge and expertise. Positive implications for the co-construction of school-based language support services, teacher education and for managing whole-school change are discussed.

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