Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Immaculate Namukasa


This qualitative research focused on elementary teachers’ conceptions of self-directed professional development. Self-directed professional development is professional development that is internally motivated and arises from the teacher’s own initiative (Eekelen, Vermunt & Boshuizen, 2006; Mushayikwa & Lubben, 2009). The central question which framed this research is: how do elementary teachers perceive, engage in and understand the role of self-directed professional development in elementary mathematics education? Given that elementary teachers should nurture students’ interests and abilities in mathematics, it is important to understand how they foster their professional growth through self-directed professional development in mathematics education.

Teacher’s conceptions of self-directed professional development were analyzed through the lens of phenomenography. The goal of phenomenographic research is to describe various ways in which people experience a phenomenon (Limberg, 2008; Marton, 1981; Marton & Pong, 2005; Trigwell, 2006). Mezirow’s (1991) theory of transformative learning and Knowles’ (1984) theory of andragogy are the theoretical frameworks, on which the nuances of teachers’ experiences of self-directed PD were interpreted. The iterative process of reading and coding data as described by Chamaz (2008) were incorporated in the phenomenographic data analysis. Teachers’ conceptions of self-directed professional development resulted in an outcome space of five categories of description.

Findings suggest that elementary teachers are passionate about mathematics teaching and their professional growth through self-directed professional development. Teachers utilized a variety of formal and informal activities to facilitate their own learning in mathematics education. Teachers’ engagement with self-directed PD resulted in transformational thinking and practice in mathematics education. Elementary teachers, whether novice or experienced, engaged in lifelong learning activities aimed at providing meaningful teaching and learning experiences for themselves and their students. Self-directed professional development provided teachers with autonomous, empowering experiences as they made professional judgments regarding the time, context and content of their learning experiences.