Defrosting Professional Development: Reconceptualising Teaching using Social Learning Theories.

(or "Kick Ass Professional Development")

Thomas Cochrane
Academic Advisor, Centre for Learning And Teaching (CfLAT) AUT University,
Vickel Narayan
Academic Advisor, Te Puna Ako, Unitec New Zealand,


QR Code

external image DefrostingProfessionalDevelopmentWikiqr.png
Download QR Code reader for any cameraphone:
  • Download Kaywa Reader__http://reader.kaywa.com__
  • iPhone users: download the free app "QR App" from the iTunes Store
  • Android users: download the "Barcode Scanner" or "I-nigma" apps from the Android Market

Experiential learning movie clip

Reinventing Professional Development

In a similar way to Cage’s Kick-Ass character, the researchers’ developed the Social Learning Technologies (SLT) course as an experiential learning environment for the participants, while informed by a graduate-level critique and reflection upon emergent learning theory. The goal was to provide participants with a model and experience of both a community of practice (COP) and enabling mobile web 2.0 tools that they could then continue to develop within their own teaching and learning contexts after the completion of the course. This was underpinned by a rigorous investigation of social learning theories and frameworks throughout the course, and scaffolding the experiential learning via the establishment of the course as a supportive community of practice.

Dummies2Delight 2006

The development of an intentional community of practice model for lecturer professional development began in 2006 and was developed to support the implementation of over 30 mlearning initiatives at Unitec.

Cochrane, T., & Kligyte, G. (2007, 11-14 June). Dummies2Delight: Using Communities of Practice to develop educational technology literacy in tertiary academics. Paper presented at the JISC online conference: Innovating eLearning, JISC online conference.

Redesigning the GDHE SLT Paper

The Graduate Diploma of Higher Education (GDHE) is one of the institution’s primary methods of lecturer professional development. However the learning technologies paper of the GDHE had become dated and antiquated. The authors were tasked with redeveloping this paper and bringing it into alignment with the institution’s new elearning strategy.

The new Social Learning Technologies (SLT) course was therefore modeled around a community of practice:

Modeling a Community Of Practice

external image SLToutline.png
Outline of the SLT course

The SLT course was designed as an intentional COP. Wenger’s (2005) definition of communities of practice “allows for, but does not assume, intentionality” (p. 1). While communities of practice often form organically and spontaneously, they can also be created intentionally and cultivated for specific purposes. Intentional communities of practice share the same characteristics as organic communities of practice, but have at their core a plan.

Theoretical Foundations

Social Learning Theory and Frameworks

The SLT course was founded on Social Constructivist Learning Theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and focused upon students investigating related pedagogical theory and frameworks and the appropriation of web 2.0 tools to implement these theories and frameworks within their pedagogical practice.
These included both established and emerging theories and frameworks such as:
  • communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991),
  • the conversational framework (Laurillard, 2001),
  • learner-generated content and learner-generated contexts (Luckin, et al., 2008; Luckin, et al., 2010),
  • authentic learning (A. Herrington & Herrington, 2007; J. Herrington & Oliver, 2000),
  • connectivism (Siemens, 2004),
  • and activity theory (Engestrom, 1987).

Links were provided to educational research organizations that publish regular reports and RSS feeds to new resources, thus keeping the course ‘readings’ up to date rather than reliant upon rapidly aging set texts. These included:

Transformational Journeys

The authors redesigned the course around a social constructivist pedagogy that leveraged several emergent learning frameworks. Creating the foundation and circumstances for pedagogical transformation was the goal. This transformation is aptly described by the Learner-generated contexts group and the concept of bridging the Pedagogy-Andragogy-Heutagogy (PAH) continuum. Luckin et al. (2010) argue that Heutagogy (student-directed learning) need not be the domain of post-graduate research students only, and propose the concept of learner-generated contexts as a framework to help achieve this. Garnett (2010) describes the process of this transformation of lecturer’s reconception of pedagogy in three steps following the PAH continuum: moving from Pedagogy (teacher-directed) to Andragogy (student-centred, student-generated content), and towards Heutagogy (student-directed or negotiated learning).

1) The ability to understand how to use their subject for teaching, that is an effective pedagogy
2) To understand how to manage the learning environment they are working in and treat each learner as an individual, that is the andragogy of learning relationships
3) Then having learnt how to manage the learning process related to their subject they then turned their control over to their learners, enabling the heutagogy of creativity to kick in (Garnett, 2010)

  • Achieving this reconception takes significant time, involving sustained engagement.
  • The SLT Community Of Practice forms the foundation for this sustained engagement.
  • For several of the course students the course facilitated an ontological shift from tradesman to teacher.
  • Examples of the impact of the SLT course on participating students are discussed in the following sections:

Boat Building1

This participant created collaborative YouTube VODCasts as examples of the critical reflection upon the theoretical pedagogical frameworks that occurred during the course:

The experience of the SLT course impacted this lecturer’s own teaching practice by enabling him to form a theoretical foundation for his approach to teaching based upon social constructivism that he has explicitly implemented with his students in 2011:

Boat Building2

This participant experienced a ‘eureka’ moment during the SLT course: a dawning of how the combination of reading social constructivist theory, his SLT experience, and his previous teaching experience aligned to create a deeper understanding of teaching and learning. This dramatically changed his approach to teaching and learning:


This participant synthesized his experience as a student on the SLT course and his own teaching practice to create innovative ideas for use with his own students. His goal in participating in the SLT course was to explore how to more closely link the theory and practical components of his carpentry course - bridging the disparate contexts of theory and practice. This developed into the design and building of an 'eshed' or 'smartshed'.


Two examples of 2011 SLT student reflections of what they learnt on the SLT course:

Sustained Engagement Leading to Ontological Shifts

The SLT course demonstrates the transformative impact of a community of practice model of lecturer professional development. The 2010 course graduates have now become technology stewards within their own departments, effectively drawing in their peers from the periphery of the SLT community of practice and forming spin-off COPs within their own departments. Scaffolding the integration of mobile and social technologies within the SLT COP involved a range of approaches, including modeling by technology stewards, peer mentoring, and the utilization of flexible technologies beyond the face-to-face contact. As Nicholas Cage stated “Now you know how it feels, you won’t be scared” (Vaughn, 2010).


Brown, J. S. (2006). New Learning Environments for the 21st Century: Exploring the Edge. Change, September/October, 18-24.
Chi, M., & Hausmann, R. (2003). Do Radical Discoveries Require Ontological Shifts? In L. Shavinina & R. Sternberg (Eds.), International Handbook on Innovation (Vol. 3, pp. 430 - 444). New York: Elsevier Science Ltd.
Cochrane, T. (2007, 16-19 October). Moving Mobile Mainstream: Using Communities of Practice to Develop Educational Technology Literacy in Tertiary Academics. Paper presented at the MLearn 2007 - Making the Connections 6th International Conference on Mobile Learning, Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Melbourne.
Cochrane, T. (2010). Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Mobile web 2.0 informing a new institutional elearning strategy. Special Issue 'The Transformational Impact of Learning technology' of ALT-J, Research in Learning Technology, 18(3), 221–231.
Cochrane, T., & Kligyte, G. (2007, 11-14 June). Dummies2Delight: Using Communities of Practice to develop educational technology literacy in tertiary academics. Paper presented at the JISC online conference: Innovating eLearning, JISC online conference.
Engestrom, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.
Garnett, F. (2010, 18th November). Heutagogy and The Craft of Teaching. The Heutagogic Archives Retrieved 19th November, 2010, from

Head, G., & Dakers, J. (2005). Verillon's Trio and Wenger's Community: Learning in Technology Education. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 15, 33-46.
Herrington, A., & Herrington, J. (2007). Authentic mobile learning in higher education. Paper presented at the AARE 2007 International Educational Research Conference, Fremantle, Australia.
Herrington, A., Herrington, J., Kervin, L., & Ferry, B. (2006). The design of an online community of practice for beginning teachers. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from

Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2000). An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 23-48.
Langelier, L. (2005). Working, Learning and Collaborating in a Network: Guide to the implementation and leadership of intentional communities of practice. Quebec City: CEFIRO (Recherche et Études de cas collection).
Laurillard, D. (2001). Rethinking University Teaching: a framework for the effective use of educational technology (Second ed.). London: Routledge.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Luckin, R., Clark, W., Garnett, F., Whitworth, A., Akass, J., Cook, J., et al. (2008). Learner Generated Contexts: a framework to support the effective use of technology to support learning. Retrieved 5 November, 2008, from

Luckin, R., Clark, W., Garnett, F., Whitworth, A., Akass, J., Cook, J., et al. (2010). Learner-Generated Contexts: A Framework to Support the Effective Use of Technology for Learning. In M. Lee & C. McLoughlin (Eds.), Web 2.0-Based E-Learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching (pp. 70-84). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. (2008). Mapping the digital terrain: New media and social software as catalysts for pedagogical change. Paper presented at the ASCILITE Melbourne 2008.
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. eLearnspace, (12 December). Retrieved from

Vaughn, M. (Writer). (2010). Kick-Ass [Film]. In A. Bohling (Producer). London, England: Universal.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. (2005). Communities of Practice: a brief introduction. (17 July). Retrieved from

Wenger, E., White, N., & Smith, J. (2009). Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Portland, Oregon: CPsquare.
Wenger, E., White, N., Smith, J., & Rowe, K. (2005). Technology for Communities. In L. Langelier (Ed.), Working, Learning and Collaborating in a Network: Guide to the implementation and leadership of intentional communities of practice (pp. 71-94). Quebec City: CEFIRO.