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Teacher professional development (TPD) has maintained as a century old issue in the education world, yet it had remained evolving due to its significant role in any implementation of educational policy. Many countries had since gearing up towards a better approach to teacher professional development initiatives, shifting to … Survey-type research is often conducted by researchers of the EPRD department in the MMOE with some degree of over generalising the teaching profession across all subjects in the curriculum. Yet elaboration of the practical and epistemological implications of 'insider research' from a particular subject curriculum has been somewhat limited. This dissertation contributes to the development of such discussion through drawing together a range of previous writings and by upon the author's own experience as and engineering subject teacher. Subsequently, it is argued that researching engineering subject teachers from such a position may offer significant potential advantage. Contrary to the existing literature placing teachers' learning on how to teach, this research aimed at examining how Malaysian engineering subject teachers learning how to learn and percept their own learning, particularly on whether TPD initiatives by the MMOE has been effectively affects teachers' learning. The analysis of this research is supplemented by interviews with teacher trainers. Findings show that …

Table of Contents

Back in July 2001, my first posting after graduation from one of the prestigious local university, I set my foot into a (then) newly open school with only 7 students in my Engineering Drawing subject class. Armed with a bachelor degree in Education majoring in Civil Engineering, and with only twelve weeks of trainee teacher experience, my first three years probation period begun.

Those three years are quite a nightmare: new school, new environment, no resources (other than text-book), no peers (no other engineering subject teacher except you) and no courses or training. Being new in the field, and lots of questions in mind, the only way is to find other nearby schools that offer the similar subject; self introduce and ask for help. Help in the form of sound advice mostly from their experience of teaching and also favour from their collection of past examination questions and marking schemes. Other times, to the extreme, made telephone calls to ask for a particular question that usually relates to content based knowledge. It is really a matter of own effort to learn the content and the pedagogy to teach the subject at that course of time. There were no formal trainings or courses in my service record in these three years time frame, it might only be the three weeks compulsory course, attended only by third year probation teachers as a requirement to be granted a permanent in-service teacher status.

At the end of my forth year in 2004, a state level meeting of all engineering subject teachers had been called. The intention was to notify us of the government's intention of change: the medium of teaching all engineering subjects (from Malay Language to English Language) and a restructure of its curriculum.

The consecutive year has seen all engineering subject teachers went through courses in stages. Through these courses, we are trained to use technology in teaching, in order to 'guide' us to teach in English. It was compulsory for each one of us to 'teach' in front of other colleagues with projector screens or power point presentation and converse only in English. Our peers will then provide feedback.

Following year (2006) saw materials such as the new curriculum specification, the new syllabus specification handbook for teachers, new textbooks and some courseware material been given. More courses been conducted in that year as it was the first batch of students been piloted. Courses include: professional development course, assessment for subjects briefing course, language and ICT courses. Since then, Teacher profession development (TPD) for the engineering subject teachers has been a norm to attend annually.

The restructure of the engineering curriculum for the upper secondary level had impact the tradition approach to TPD. The Malaysian Ministry of Education (MMOE), have in various circulars striving to equip and build up teachers with the necessary competencies through TPD initiatives. It is hoped that through these measures, classroom teaching and learning will be improved.

Objective of the study

The main aim for this study is to explore teacher professional development practices for upper secondary level engineering education.

Research question

What are the current issues in relation to teacher professional development practice for upper secondary engineering education?

The main research question can only be answered by generating sub-questions which addressing issues separately, addressing to both teachers and teacher educators separately.


A. For teachers

1. Does professional development usefully impact on student learning?

Why does it contribute to positive or negative impact?

2. What are the challenges to professional development in engineering education?

B. For teachers' educators

1. What are the elements used in the delivery of engineering-oriented professional development and how are these elements selected?

2. To what extent is fundamental content knowledge provided in professional development (e.g. pedagogical content knowledge, engineering concepts, mathematics or science principles)?

Importance of the study

Meeting the professional development needs of teachers will help them to better serve their students (Feiman-Nemser, 2008; Villegas-Reimers, 2003; Weber, 2007). Professional development courses were designed to improve teacher's abilities to integrate their curriculum. It supposed to help teachers to work collaboratively with peers of the same field, to learn integrate strategies and use them in the classroom and workshop learning.

It is my intention to engage in this study as a way of knowing the issues underlying teachers' learning. It is my hope that through this study, a wider picture on the effectiveness of TPD in the engineering education is drawn as conceptual framework teachers and policy makers. In addition, I take up the challenge of aiming my research to identify the loopholes between the design and the implementation of professional development and student learning outcomes.

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework for this study is based on the framework espoused by Weiss et al. (2002) in facilitating research on reform movements in a book entitled Investigating the Influence of Standards: A framework for research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. In this framework, they suggest that three channels, namely the 'Curriculum', 'Teacher development' and 'Assessment' are the mains to influence the educational system. This model was selected in the design of the action research because it provides a diagram which makes the theoretical framework visually clearer. It outlines 'a framework that would aid in the design, conduct, and interpretation of research regarding the influence on student learning' (p.xvi).

Research background

The data for this research is intended to drawn from semi-structured interviews conducted on eight engineering teachers who has in the field of teaching engineering curriculum for at least five years experience and on three teacher trainers. Teachers' experience is needed in this set of research as they are considered as 'gone-through' the phase of transition in the curriculum change.

Teacher researchers are uniquely positioned to provide a truly emic, or insider's, perspective that makes visible the ways that students and teachers together construct knowledge and curriculum. When teachers do research, they draw on interpretive frameworks built from their histories and intellectual interests, and because the research process is embedded in practice, the relationship between knower and known is significantly altered. (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1993, p. 43)

Outline of the study

Chapter one, the Introduction, provides the research background, the research framework and the structure of the dissertation. Chapter two contain definition of some important terms, presents some professional development models: the transmission, the constructive and the co-constructive approach to learning, and finally summarize to which model that fits and constitutes into the current Engineering subject teachers' professional development. Chapter three justify why this empirical research adapt the insider approach and trace method that is used to generate the interview transcripts. Also included in this chapter is the discussion on ethical issues when researching from within. Chapter four is an analysis of the data collect and a report of the research findings. Chapter five concludes the study with analyzing the whole research process, especially as a reflective learning and practitioner. It also suggests a proposal for future research and follow up action.


All teachers should leap changes in the process of teaching and learning parallel to the current globalisation changes. The use of ICT across the curriculum can be made into practice by teachers as one of a teaching aid.



This research explores how engineering subject teachers perceive their own learning into classroom practice and issues in relation to TPD. The literature review explores concepts of TPD (). It is suggested that teachers of engineering subjects in Malaysia have insufficient knowledge of how to support student learning because they has been used in follow diktats from the MMOE rather than develop their own reflective practice. However, this is changing.


The Malaysian Ministry of of Education (MMOE) in its 1994 policy, 'requires all teachers to attend at least one in-service training (INSET) program per year' (Malaysia, 2004, p. 41). The approach of the TPD is to 'provide platforms for teachers to upgrade their knowledge and pedagogical skill… are designed to meet the requirement of various subjects, learning competencies and curriculum specification (p.41). Some of the INSET programmes that are referred to in this paper are the short courses conducted by State Education Departments, short courses conducted by MOE divisions, and ICT).

Tremendous change in the Malaysian education system has come about through the redesign of teaching mathematics, science and engineering in English. The role of teachers has been affected tremendously; more tasks have been thrown to teachers and there are great expectation from parents, policy makers and the government. While Malaysian teachers are still generally regarded as professionals, critics blame teachers today are of low standards and likening the matter to the blind leading the blind (Pandian and Ramiah, 2003). The perception that teachers are having trouble with teaching the content is made worst when teaching the subject in an 'alien' language.

Current issues in the media result in tension for the MOE to gear up equipping teachers with the necessary skills to meet the changing need of the curriculum and to raise education standards. Among measures imposed was a regulation that forces all teachers to a minimal of six hour per day and seven times annual attendance professional courses which has angered to both teachers and parents.

The Malaysian Education Minister, also the Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin recently announced the decision to reversing the teaching of Mathematics, Science and Engineering from English to Bahasa Malaysia and the vernacular mother tongues (Star, 2009).

A review of TPD in Malaysia …

A research team, Idris et al. (2007) examines the perception of Malaysian teachers on the given support in professional preparation. Even though the sample are made of Mathematics and Science teachers, it is believed that engineering subject teachers will generate the same reaction since the MMOE's approach in TPD for these subjects are quite similar. Their findings showed that majority of the Mathematics and Science teachers alleged that they were competent in teaching the subjects in English but needed more support in learning how to solve student learning, especially students who found themselves weak in English. From this research, it is apparent that teachers perceived learning as knowledge that needed to be taught, trained and transmitted.

A similar review of TPD was launched in 2000 in England and Wales (DfEE, 2000)…in (Burton and Bartlett, 2005)

Training programmes

The MMOE adopted 'the cascade model' of training, similar to the 'Training of Trainers' concept where 'the master trainers train other teachers at the state and district levels' (Malaysia, 2004, p. 42). In the same report, it is mentioned that this is financially advantages and practical. It is also implicitly reported that it is a form of 'transmission approach':

it is based on the assumption that knowledge can be transmitted and disseminated from the centre to the periphery or from the master trainers to the trainers

(Malaysia, 2004, p. 42).

In-service training programmes for engineering subject teachers consist of Ettechs (English for the Teaching of Technology) courses, teacher professional development courses, marking scheme assessment courses and ICT courses. The Ettechs courses were made compulsory to all engineering teachers to enhance teachers' English speaking competencies. It was an effort by the MOE to build confidence amongst these teachers who are not familiar with the English Language by introducing the multiple uses of ICT and teaching aids.

Due to financial constrains, the annual teacher professional development courses are usually conducted with the combination of development of content-based knowledge, immersion with the changes to the curriculum and the pedagogy in relation to the implementation of the policy and also a slot in, brief version of ICT course between the TPD course, so as to teach teachers skills to utilize the ICT hardware and the teaching courseware (CDs) provided by the MOE.

A major review of the education system in Malaysia was published in 2006 called the National Education Blueprint 2006-2010. This was presented by then education minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and has received some sceptical remarks from the public. The blueprint has been criticised as another 'decorating' plan, too many official documents which will bring no changes to the system and when time is due, it will be forgotten (e.g. The 2001-2010 Education Development Masterplan by then education minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad).

Defining Teacher Professional Development

Teaching is a profession. Knowledgeable teachers are not technicians, but professionals, worthy and able to make reflective decision or judgments and plans based on principled knowledge that is adapted to the particulars of their teaching situations, their students, their unique experiences, and their own special insights, self knowledge, values, and commitments. They have a body of understanding, knowledge, skills, and dispositions: a set of constructs that can be invoked for the explanation of cognitive phenomena… professional judgment is required. Knowledge… enlarges the range and quality of discretionary judgments made by professional teachers in the performance of their complex work.

(Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1993, p. 41)

The idea of TPD differs according to educational settings and contexts. Professional development is generally seen as an individual's development in a particular job. Teacher professional development is the development of a teacher in his or her classroom teaching and own learning to be a better teacher. Professional development can be both formal and informal experiences. The most accurate description of TPD in my research context, is 'the provision of organized in-service programmes designed to foster the growth of groups of teachers…'(Glatthorn, 1995 in Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 11). On a large scale, that is, state level professional development initiatives for engineering subjects teachers. Formal experiences can be through professional meetings, workshops, courses and mentoring; and informal experiences like for instance: through reading or watching teaching related programs or articles. In this research, the notion of TPD will be based on formal agendas run and held responsible by the MMOE. The BPTV is the organizer and is responsible for the technical and vocational education in the upper secondary level school under the MMOE.

Studies of Malaysian teacher professional development are limited. However, there is an increase of awareness that the teaching profession are in dire need of change and development.

In most part of the world, teacher development is seen as the ultimate agent in any educational reforms. Although not as the only 'variable of change', teachers are the essential tool to ensure a healthy education system. Before the major education reform in 2003, TPD in Malaysia was not highly regarded element in the education agenda. It was only after the drastic and impulsive change of teaching Mathematics, Sciences and Engineering in English which brought panic. Isu berkaitan dengan kelemahan guru dalam pertuturan bahasa, and the syllabus revamp has caused anxiety to the whole nation, and especially parents of the affected young people.

A good pedagogic approach in learning will certainly benefits both teacher and students. Initiating and monitoring teachers' progress will ultimately nurture their teaching techniques and approaches thus bringing quality learning(Penuel et al., 2007). Primarily, the aim of TPD is to raise standards of pupil achievement and the emphasis has always been on teaching techniques.

The importance of TPD/ understanding the professional development design

Almost all literature in the field of TPD acknowledged the importance of the initiatives towards the teacher and classroom performance (e.g. Burton and Bartlett, 2005; Penuel et al., 2007). The teacher's professionalism usually reflects his or her competency in the teaching and learning process (both content and pedagogically), efficiency (commitment and passion), use of methods and resources. Fundamentally, the aim is to raise standards of pupil achievement and the emphasis is on the techniques of teaching.

The notion of teacher as reflective practitioner is not new (Borko, Whitcomb and Byrnes, 2008). As early as 1904, Dewey had asserted the importance of teachers to be learner in teaching through the process of being reflective in their own practice.

One issue in the TPD is that teachers are not provided with adequate teaching standards.

Professional development models

The model of TPD has experienced a shift to a new approach. Villegas-Reimers (2003) provides a thorough overview of TPD in the international perspective and articulate a range of models that are frequently used in the TPD in some countries. With my experience in teaching and a participator to the TPD, the form of TPD in Malaysia is likely courses or workshops that provide new information on a particular setting to on the subject, and often, some statistical related matters on towards the national assessment criteria (for example, the frequency of a topic that has been tested in the national level examination; and the marking elements and requirements in the assessment criteria). However, Villegas-Reimers (2003) has shown evidences that these 'in-service training' or 'staff-development' method are already outdated. 'The professional development of teachers is considered a long-term process that includes regular opportunities and experiences planned systematically to promote growth and development in the profession' (p. 12).

Very much similar to the learning approach that is taught here at the IOE, the suggestive models for the new TPD is the inclusion of the notion of 'teachers as active learners, lifelong learners, reflective practitioner', 'school as a learning community', 'TPD as a guide to school reform', and also, 'as a collaborative process' (Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 16).

There are distinctions between professional development systems and professional development models (Ingvarson in Feiman-Nemser, 2008). Professional development systems refer to the overall layout plan of initiating professional development (Feiman-Nemser, 2008, p. 16). On the other hand, professional development model 'are specific process and opportunities that are planned to provide professional development to teachers from the beginning of their preparation' (Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 16).

In this research, I would exclude discussion on the professional development system because Malaysia's TPD was already widely known to be using the 'traditional system of professional development': the MOE is the organizer of the event; actors are the teacher trainers and officers from the curriculum department; usually in the form of courses or workshops, which quite often addresses direct issues. However, I would stress that this form of system is considered as crucial for in-service engineering teachers as it usually helps in responding to policy demands from the MOE.

The traditional 'transmission-oriented model'

The constructivism model

Contrasting to the transmission-oriented model is the constructivism approach model. Here, teachers are referred to 'as active learners: who are engaged in the concrete tasks of teaching, assessment, observation and reflection' (Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 13).

The teacher has to see and accept the need to grow professionally… eager to attain new knowledge, skill, attitudes, values, and dispositions. Within such dispositions there is pride, self-esteem, team spirit, commitment, drive, adventure, creativity and vision

(Komba and Nkumbi, 2008, p. 71).

Many researchers reported that teachers are made better teachers when they practice awareness into their own learning and being reflective. The notion of 'reflective practitioner' is that:

the teacher pay attention to daily routine and the events of a regular day, and to reflect on their meaning and effectiveness…(and) commitment to serve the interest of students by reflecting on their well-being and on which aspects are most beneficial to them; a professional obligation to review one's practice in order to improve the quality of one's teaching; and a professional obligation to continue improving one's practical knowledge'

(Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 104).

The co-constructivism model

Co-constructive in learning occurs when teachers co-construct knowledge and share experiences and information or educational resources among themselves.

Learning from the experience of other countries

The role of teacher trainers

Confusion occurs in determining between the use of teacher-trainers or teacher-educators in the initial stages of my dissertation. In my own context, the 'instructors' in teaching the individual group of engineering subjects teachers are called JU, abbreviated from Malay word Jawatankuasa Utama. They are teachers elected because of experience in the subject field by respective state level education officers. Therefore, contrary to the majority of studies, definition of teacher-educators is mostly in regard to ones profession (e.g. lecturers in teacher training programmes) that requires educating teachers, usually pre-service teachers. The word, teacher-trainers is used in this research context as they are 'insider' (subject teachers themselves) and peer guides to other in-service teachers.

Very little research has been done involving teacher-trainers or teacher educators (Villegas-Reimers, 2003) despite suggestions of its substance in the improvement of TPD. My one year experience of being the teacher-trainer in my state proved beneficial to me, although time frame is meagre. It helped me to understand how TPD initiatives are prepared, none of which is related to professional development.

A discussion on TPD

One of the aims of this research is to look into the coherence of TPD for teacher learning and the implementation of the initiatives.

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, engineering subject teachers are provided with various curriculum materials. A study by Roseman et al. (in Penuel et al., 2007) has shown that efforts to design and produce these materials are insufficient to support student learning.

The current compulsion sees that teachers should function as researchers and as practitioners. An idea espoused by Schon suggests that teachers should engage with action research in order to reflect on own learning (Weber, 2007).

In Malaysia, through the TPD, teachers are advised to adopt the "direct instructional, small-group work, co-operative learning, problem solving, group discussion, and critical thinking" model of teaching that encompasses learner-centred instruction.

What I want to see in TPD ?




This chapter provides information about the research method used to generate the interview transcripts, which will help answer my research questions. The niche area of my research will be the research design, the 'insider research'. More specifically, it will explain the methodological reasons of placing priority to the insider epistemology to form the basis of my analysis of current issues in relation to the TPD practice for the upper secondary level engineering education. Also, the chapter will outline the preparation for the interviews, including a discussion on insider research ethics, how the sample is chosen, why semi-structured interviews are used and how questions for data collection is generate.

Section One: Insider Epistemology

Much of educational research in relation to classrooms and teachers is based on insider epistemology (Sikes and Potts, 2008; Tangen, 2008). Generally, insider researchers are

…people who, before they begin to research, already have an attachment to, or involvement with, the institutions or social groups… it gets them access to the particular people.. and/or the phenomena that they want to investigate.

(Sikes and Potts, 2008, p. 3)

The rationale for insider positioning of a researcher is proposed by Charlton et al. (in Tangen, 2008, p. 159) as:

Non-disabled people cannot understand "the disability experience", and therefore research on disability should be conducted by people who have first-hand experience of being disabled

Oliver (ibid) supports the view that research of disabilities, which requires the experiences of an 'insider', can help reduce the tendency of inaccurate findings and distortions. An insider researcher, therefore, has the characteristics of being 'a member of the 'in-group'... (and) shares the social world of the research participants' (Gallais, 2003, p. 2). However, I believe that there are clear advantages to insider research, but first-hand experience has its limitations too. For instance, an insider may take on the blind-spots of a practitioner and find it more challenging to have a clearer level of discernment when evaluating practices. Charlton et al. have taken on an extreme position by arguing that you cannot talk about something unless you experience exactly the same thing. Nevertheless, I argue, this is not always true, since no two people's experience is ever exactly the same, and if we believe our experiences are the same this could result in problems.

As an engineering subject teacher, I can be regarded as an 'insider' in relation to my role as researcher. However, as Fox, Martin and Green (2007) point out, insider researchers normally bring about some changes to practice in the organization as a result of the research.

Studies have always assumed insider research is the same as practitioner research (Borko, Whitcomb and Byrnes, 2008; Fox, Martin and Green, 2007). However, the two are not always the same thing. A practitioner researcher is the primary source of the research process and the research findings will bring changes to the organisation (Burton and Bartlett, 2005; Fox, Martin and Green, 2007). In contrast, an insider researcher is more likely an individual who is currently or even previously in the field but less likely to be the main source in the research process (Fox, Martin and Green, 2007). As I want to gain a greater insight of the practice by hearing from my colleagues, this places my research outside the domain of practitioner research and towards the domain of an insider research.

The most significant aspect of practitioner research has been one that is theorised by Fox et al. (2007, p. 79) is that is

… is not to use (this) research to facilitate change in others. Instead… to facilitate change in themselves…

For example the researcher has known the sample group and the context of the organisation as a practicing teacher.

Most insider research is action research (Sikes and Potts, 2008). However, my research domain falls outside of this category because I am not involved in a cycle of collecting data, analysis, and making change to practice. Elliott (1991) concludes that the nature of action research is to 'improve practice rather than to produce knowledge' (p. 49). Action research prompts a tendency to change or even to improve a certain practice, and judgemental skill is needed to discern a worthwhile change (Dadds, 1995; Elliott, 1991). I do not intend, or have the authority to, change any of the current practices in relation to teacher professional development. Instead, the purpose of this study is to shed light on some issues related to profession learningin the Malaysian education system, particularly in the engineering curriculum.

Very similar to the conceptual framework of Tangen (2008), taking advantage of my position, I conducted this study from a number of vantage points both as insider (a former student of the engineering curricular and a current in-service engineering curricular teacher) and as an outsider (as a researcher). As an insider, I am an ex-student who followed the engineering curriculum at upper secondary level. I went through the technical and vocational teacher training program and I am an in-service teacher majoring in the Engineering Drawing subject. I am also writing from a view point of a current staff of Putrajaya Presint 8(1) secondary school, both as an Engineering Drawing subject teacher and the subject head teacher [1] . I am also selected to be a KPN [2] between 2007 and 2008 in training in-service KPS [3] in my state. As an upper secondary engineering teacher, I felt that I knew the system well enough to be able to write something about it. Therefore, insider epistemology seems fit for this research which supports the underlying principle that 'insiders have a privileges access to knowledge of their own experiences' (Tangen, 2008, pp. 157,159).

As I am constantly reminded to be reflective in my process of learning at the IOE, I would like to relate problems and opportunities encountered throughout the role of an insider research.

The nature of insider research is very much based on the qualitative approach to data collection, which relies on the interpretation of the researcher in processing data. The interpretative approach is built on the premise that social reality is the product of human thinking or action. This approach to social research sees interpretations of knowledge as 'culturally derived and historically situated' (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2006, p. 60). The data and my findings might reflect very much on my cultural beliefs and the fact that I was an insider in this research.

Another interesting issue relates in congruence between my learning as a researcher and the learning of teachers I am investigating. It's important to point out that as an insider, I am learning about practices that will have an impact on me when I return to teaching. It is encouraging to discover that the Malaysian government moving towards a reflective stance for TPD. Thus, this study may be an excellent source of reference for providing knowledge and experience in relation to this.

Section Two: The ethics of insider research

Nevertheless, conducting insider research has its fair share of criticism, particularly the questioning of ethics, validity and the reliability. Sikes and Potts (2008) identifies that insider researchers has the tendency to be biases and fail to maintain the anonymity of the participants.

In order to avoid these criticisms, researchers that adopted insider research design have suggested that future insider researcher should:

'at all times and in all respects, (be) ethical' (Sikes and Potts, 2008, p. 8)

be 'cautious and reflexive (in their) approach' (Hodkinson, 2007, p. 131)

apart from being reflective, one should consider the 'fundamental issues of space, time and power' (Gallais, 2003, p. 6)

A visit to the BERA homepage suggests that ethical issues should be considered before piloting any research. In the effort of not abusing my power as a teacher (especially a teacher trainer) who is also a researcher, I had considered all the issues concerning the participants, the sponsors and the authorities from all possible angles. Due to the fact that all interviewees are people that I know, and have contact with, there must be a certain level of trust for them to provide their thoughts to me. After a verbal agreement to be the sample in my research, a formal e-mail is sent to explain my current situation as a student, the purpose of doing the interviews, the authorities that the findings will report to, and together with ethical elements that will protect their confidentiality and rights. Amongst their statutory rights are:

They will remain as anonymous and if any quotes were to use from their interviews, permission should be obtained if before hand

They right to request to withdraw from this research if they feel uncomfortable at any time or stages during the research.

The availability of the research findings. They can access the findings from me if they wish.

From the part of the researcher's sponsor, no condition has been given to restrict the use of neither sample nor guidelines. However, a consent letter (refer Appendix A) was sent to the BPTV, BPK and scholarship department in the MOE Malaysia, to ask permission for research to be conducted on some selected teachers in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and the state of Selangor. The letter asserted that these interviews would be conducted only outside schooling hours and would not affect the teaching and learning in class.

Among the boundaries standing as an insider researcher ground is how much 'insider' that I manage to grasp? Relate to the insider epistemology in the first part in this chapter, I point out that outsider researchers are not able, or at least, will not be as having a clearer picture compare to insider researchers. However, I believe it also occurs that, the moment I become a researcher, I also became an outsider. I noticed that it is hard to draw boundaries between two roles (while in the process of participation an interview with a colleague or as an interviewer) and judging on what is on record and what is off-record in these circumstances. The idea that insider 'make the familiar strange' (as Stenhouse expressed it in Sikes and Potts, 2008, p. 7) fit well into this picture. Therefore, Sikes and Potts (2008) caution that this situation 'is ethically questionable and likely to cause relationship problems' (p.8).

Ethical issues can still be creditable. Accounts of researchers draw their experiences from conducting research from within (e.g.Smyth and Holian, 2008) cautioned that in an insider research (when interviewer know the interviewees); bias can be exaggerated - such relationship should be borne in mind when analysing findings.

(Suggestions by sikes and potts in page 43 and 179)

Therefore, some essential steps on towards my responsibilities to my interviewees when reporting on this research are no mention of name, age, name of school, years of experience or their post.

Section Three: Research methods

This section is presented by detailing the methods that were used and most importantly, why it has been used. My preferred methods were the analysis of documentary materials and semi-structured interviews with the engineering subject teachers and teacher trainers. This is justified after considering the purpose of the research that is to explore issues in relation to the teacher professional development to the Malaysian Engineering subject teachers. Document analysis is done in order to identify current issues that are common to the TPD.

Qualitative or quantitative method of research can be both valid and useful according to the research purpose. As best described by Hitchcock and Hughes (1989), qualitative research 'is more amenable and accessible to teachers…the context of teaching and learning itself becomes the focus (and is) the most productive approach (pp. 12, 25) compared to quantitative research. It is, however, possible for a single investigation to use both methods. I believe that adopting interview method would lessen my influence as an insider researcher by…

I justified between the research tools: structured, unstructured or semi-structured interview by weighing which tool fit best into my purpose (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2000). The desire to gain 'rich-data' can be fulfilled if unstructured interview is used, but data gained will be difficult to analyse. In contrast, a structured format might limit analysis through a common framework but data analysis will be made simple. The choice was therefore striking a balance, to use semi-structured format. The aim of this design was to collect comparable information through themes from interviewees in a more flexible way.

A definition of semi-structured interview adopted in my method is well articulate by Piergiorgio Corbetta:

In semi-structured interview, the interviewer does not pose pre-written questions, but refers to an 'outline' of the topics to be covered during the course of the conversation (only the content, not the form, of the questions is predetermined).

(Corbetta and Patrick, 2003, p. 285)

The method model

As a practitioner in my own field, the task to find potential participants prepared to tell their stories of their perception on teacher development objectives was not as arduous, I relied heavily upon my extensive local network. Over the past seven years, I had developed a network of teachers, teaching in my own field, through attending courses, workshops and trainings.

The population from which the samples were drawn consists of approximately.. engineering teachers from the states [4] of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. These three states were chosen as the researcher is one of the engineering teacher in these states and teacher developments for engineering subjects of these three states have sometimes being held simultaneously. Statistics conducted by the MOE revealed a total of xxx engineering teachers throughout the state of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (refer to Appendix xxx). Out of these, which eight teachers and five teacher educators were selected. These were in-service teachers with at least five years of experience as an engineering subject teacher. They had witnessed and gone through transitions since the engineering curriculum change in 2006 (refer to Chapter 1).

The interview method is preferred is as it best benefits the purpose of the research and due to the fact that participants are from the selective group of teachers, partly also due to the insider epistemology. The familiarity which existed between the interviewer and these practitioners was seen as enabling the latter to convey their feelings and opinions on a highly sensitive matter. 'Effective' interviews, as suggested by Thompson (1993), require a relation between the interview and the interviewee to reveal the true attitudes of the latter.

With xx teachers in the sample, the group was small enough to merit interviews. Robson (2002) points out that one of the most suitable use of interview is 'where individual perceptions of processes within a social unit - such as a work-group, department or whole organization - are to be studied prospectively, using a series of interviews' (p. 271).

As the researcher is an international student, with no intention of going back to her home country for the data collection purpose (as time and cost is prohibitive), the researcher searched for other alternatives, such as the use of modern technology to facilitate data collection.

The researcher used virtual interview using applications like skype, msn, yahoo or google talk live chat to communication with the interviewees. "Audacity" was used as a recorder during the whole 40-45 minutes of interview. The necessary function from a computer, in my case, the laptop, is to have a speaker and a microphone. A video camera is not important in this circumstance.

The interview sessions were conducted in a private room, in one of the student halls. Because the interview sessions were conducted online, several measures needed to be taken into consideration, such as volume and sound control. Since the interviewees were also teachers that I know, and had not kept in touch with for quite some time, there were some moments of emotions at the beginning. To overcome this, the first section of the interview consisted of a series of general questions designed to draw conversation onto the main theme. In addition, a comprehensive introduction was given which emphasised my current status as a student, stated purpose, intended use of the study results and re-assured confidentiality (refer to Appendix xx).

The process of analysing the data involved transcribing the interviews, then coding of the data. Coding is the 'translating of question responses and respondent information to specific categories for the purpose of analysis' (Kerlinger in Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2000, p. 283). Based on Kerlinger's advice, I went through the data line by line, using codes to describe the data obtained according to themes. The coding allowed me to better understand the data and to detect particular patterns present so that it will provide meaning: the interpretative approach.


As a novice researcher, I found the analysis of the data the most interesting but also the most challenging task in this research, particularly in structuring and putting definite meaning, while being ethical the same time. Robson (2002) discusses importance of the planning stages in the method of data analysis before committing yourself to data collection. I organised my questions for data collection around my research questions to a large extent (see Appendix xx for series of questions for data collection). These questions are generated from the sub-questions which help to answer the research questions. Upon preliminary analysis, I developed my own coding scheme, which involves theme(ing) topics into categories of information. These themes are then attached by labels to the interview transcripts.

In my findings section, I have been more selective in my use of data to allow for discussion, while trying my best to be ethical and avoid biases. I have attempted to ensure that my interpretations are as valid as possible, using compare and contrast with the literature review from Chapter Two.



Lessons from the journey: My diary of experience of embarking this research

In Autumn of 2009, I had teased out themes that might be the issues that might have affect the engineering subjects teachers perception towards the TPD initiatives. After the interview Spring 2009, and especially in the process of data analysis, teachers and teacher trainers had offered other perspectives that I could not have imagined.

The experience of deploying this insider research is that, uncertainties evolve as 'how inside is inside' and why I still feeling 'outside'? 'Inside' in the sense that I know the settings, the context and the people; I am coming in as one of them. Likewise, feeling of being 'outside' happens as I am restricted to giving my own point of view, in order to maintain that findings are really 'as a result of' interviewing the participants. I am unsure, to what level that I can claim the authenticity of the research findings as this is a form of interpretive approach of data analyzing. Whether if the reporting of my own experience would be unethical ?

The process of analyzing and reporting findings has been the most confusing part of my insider approach research. The high level of awareness of avoiding bias and following the codes of ethics are almost unbearable. Mockler (2007) addresses this as "meta-dilemma", a condition when researcher judging 'through the lens of the ethics of story' (p.91). Writing an analysis and reporting findings while maintaining the codes of ethics forced me to omit some necessary nuances and details. While, in one hand, doing this was essential for the interviewee's protection, on the other hand, salient details are 'lost' and that is almost as similar as 'tampering with the evidence'.

Suggested findings

All interviewees not/agreed that TPD is important as it helps to improve them professionally. However, most opinioned that it was inadequately supported and rarely motivated. TPD was sufficiently coordinated and budgeted for.

Findings indicate an imbalance between

Suggested solution

The research is to raise awareness the importance of building a conception of learning through the TPD, it should form as a combination of raising teacher academically and professional growth.

Secondary technical schools should held under rigorous study in order to assess the various aspects of the systems, in terms of strengths and weaknesses. In the effort of


This adventure through uncharted territory revealed much about….