Transforming Individuals and Influencing Policy through Professional Learning and Development

Issue 4, Volume 42 of Professional Development in Education, the academic journal of the Association is now available on-line. This issue was in part influenced by a seminar the Editorial Board jointly organised and ran recently.

In May, the Editorial Board visited the Republic of Ireland to hold one of its periodic meetings and run its annual seminar both hosted by the Mayo Education Centre based in Castlebar, County Mayo. The seminar had two key themes centred on education policy developments and teacher inquiry. In relation to education policy developments, members of the editorial board along with ipda member Dr Fiona King of Dublin City University, analysed and discussed from a multi-nation perspective key issues such as the changing role and delivery of teacher education; the nature of professionalism and the future for professional learning.

As for the teacher inquiry aspect of the seminar this proved to be the inspirational part of the event as a number of local teachers presented the findings from either their completed or ongoing doctoral research. Without exception their engagement with doctoral study was transformational from a personal and professional perspective. The presentation of their findings showed how conceptualising and theorising about their practice led to changes and improvements in not only their practice but policy. This in turn had a positive impact on their schools and their students from a teaching and learning perspective.

The impact of policy changes is brought starkly into focus by the first article by Jackson and Burch that analyses and dissects the changes in initial teacher training (ITT) in England in the past twenty years. This has led in recent years to English schools being given a far greater role through the School Direct policy in controlling and delivering ITT. The article examines the role of teacher educators in both universities and schools. Significantly, it highlights the divide between the theoretical and practical approaches to ITT adopted by academics and practitioners.

The second article by Maggio examines the professional development of teacher educators in Chile. As the author points out, the professional development of teacher educators is an under-researched area which she seeks to partly rectify through this mixed-methods study that collected evidence from teacher educators involved in four pre-service Chilean teacher education programmes. A number of significant findings emerge from this study, notably, there is a lack of policy direction in terms of a lack of support for and development of teacher educators in the formative years of their new career.

The next article by Santagata and Bray examines how professional development processes can promote teacher change in relation to daily routines amongst a small group of United States elementary school teachers. The teachers were engaged with a professional development programme focussed on student mathematical errors. Through this programme the researchers wanted to change the teachers approach in terms of being becoming aware of and willing to use alternative practices.

The fourth article in this issue by Dogan, Pringle and Mesa is a review of empirical studies examining the impact of professional learning communities (PLCs) on science teachers’ knowledge and practices as well as how they focus on student learning. A significant finding from this review was that science teachers started using more inquiry-based learning methods and assessments. As the authors point out, the beauty and relevance of PLCs is that they get teachers coming together to have meaningful conversations.

The theme of PLCs is continued in the next article by Svanbjörnsdóttir, Macdonald and Frímannsson from an interesting and innovative perspective. The focus of this article is on the creation of a PLC in a new Icelandic school. However, it is a PLC with a difference in that the school with all its stakeholders is the PLC. Based on a long-term action research study over three-and-a-half years, the authors give an account of how the school as a PLC developed from its opening day. They examine in great detail how students, parents and paraprofessionals experience a sense of community in this school that is developing as a PLC.

The following two articles examine key dilemmas and issues for female teachers from two distinct perspectives. The article by Done, Murphy and Knowler is a challenging theoretical piece underpinned by several theoretical frameworks including those of Bourdieu and Deleuze and Guattari. It offers an alternative view in terms of whether women can or should progress through the school leadership hierarchy to senior positions. The authors argue that many women decline the leadership route and instead opt for what they term the ethics of care approach.

The article by Mitton-Kükneris is a comparative qualitative study of Canadian and Turkish female teachers’ experiences as teacher researchers engaged in completing their postgraduate studies whilst working. The study highlights the complexity and difficulty the participants experienced when attempting to do this. Notably, in terms of the time pressures the female participants highlighted due to their multiple obligations from a work, family and society perspective and how they dealt with these competing demands. The article demonstrates as the preceding one does that there are still a number of barriers female educators have to overcome in terms of their professional development and learning.

The final article by Turner, Huang, Poverjuc and Wyness is an English-based small qualitative study that examines the under-researched area of the support mentors provide new lecturers as part of a part of a postgraduate programme developed to further professionalise their practice as university teachers. There has been a growing international drive to professionalise university teaching that impacts on teaching, learning, assessment, quality and pastoral support and this article further enhances our understanding of this development.

Dr Alex Alexandrou, Associate Editor, Professional Development in Education

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