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Professional Learning (Marion Jones)

During the past ten years, there has been a noticeable increase in the interest in teachers’ continuing professional development and workplace learning and how it can form an integral element of whole school development, designed to raise teaching effectiveness and, hence, pupil outcomes. However, we must be aware that both terms are not unproblematic in terms of agency, in the way in which they position teachers as active learners or passive recipients.

Following the launch of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Strategy ‘Learning and Teaching‘ (DfEE, 71/2001) ,a study by Hustler et al. (2002) was commissioned by the DfES with the aim of investigating teachers’ perceptions of continuing professional development (CPD) in terms of their previous experience, current attitudes and future expectations.

There is a growing recognition that professional learning can take place outside structured, pre-determined curricula, indicating a recognition of the significance of workplace learning within the context of lifelong learning in a learning society and different modes of learning, such as from experience, through critical reflection and communities of practice.

Teacher effectiveness and how it can be enhanced through high quality initial teacher education/training and early and continuing professional development has been at the forefront of the UK government agenda. Early professional learning in particular is perceived as a critical stage in teacher formation and plays an important role in shaping practitioners’ commitment to reflective practice, collegiality and lifelong learning. The BaT (Becoming a Teacher) longitudinal research project and the TLRP Thematic Seminar Series on ‘Learning to Teach in Post Devolution UK’ provide insights into this complex mechanism.

The EPPI Review on teachers continuing professional development provided evidence that CPD opportunities appear to be most apparent where sustained collaboration, grounded in classroom observation and support is provided and where it is combined with external expertise and peer support. In practice settings, mentoring schemes have been introduced to provide individual support for professional learning by placing emphasis on reflective practice , while the collaborative aspect of learning has become an integral aspect of educational partnerships and learning networks. Current notions of CPD include an expectation that any outcomes achieved must not only benefit the teacher participating in such a programme, but must pay dividends within a wider context, that of the department, the school and the pupils’ learning. Accordingly teachers are perceived as learners and agents of students’ learning, a theme that has been the focus of the TLRP C-TRIP Bibliography ‘Changing Teachers’ Roles, Identities and Professionalism’. However, relevant discourses highlight potential tensions between notions of performativity and humanistic models of professional learning, between a predominantly technicist or a critically reflective approach, including the culture within which it is embedded and the external pressures incumbent upon it. Increasingly the relationship between learning and well being is recognised as a significant factor in teachers’ learning and their effectiveness in the classroom. The VITAE project ‘Variations on Teachers‘ Work, Lives, and their effects on pupils’ is the most comprehensive and extensive study of teachers’ work that identifies the factors that make teachers’ work more effective across their career phases.

Finally, we should take note of the caveat expressed in the Cambridge Primary Review (2009) , the biggest independent inquiry into primary education during the past 40 years. It highlights the potential danger of adopting a one-size-fits-all model for professional development that constraints teachers in their development of artistry, flexibility and originality on their journey from competence to expertise.



Hodkinson, H. and Hodkinson P. (2005) Improving schoolteachers' workplace learning Research Papers in Education, 20 (2),109-131

DfEE (2001) Learning and Teaching: A Strategy for Professional Development, The Green Paper, 71/2001, London: HMSO

CPD Review Hustler, D., McNamara, O., Jarvis, J., Londra, M. and Campbell, A. (2002) Teachers’ Perceptions of Continuing Professional Development, Research Report No 429

Wenger, Etienne (1998) 'Communities of Practice. Learning as a social system', Systems Thinker

Wenger, Etienne (c 2007) 'Communities of practice. A brief introduction'. Communities of practice

Fuller A.,  Hodkinson H.,  Hodkinson P. and Unwin  L. (2005) Learning as peripheral participation in communities of practice: a reassessment of key concepts in workplace learning British Educational Research Journal, 31 (1), 49-68

Boud, D. (ed) (1998) Current issues and new agendas in workplace learning. Leabrook, Australia: National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd.

Day, C.,  Stobart G.,  Sammons P. and Kington A. (2006) Variations in the work and lives of teachers: relative and relational effectiveness Teachers and Teaching, 12 (2), 169–192

In their book Reflective Teaching, Zeichner and Liston outline ‘the assumptions and beliefs that distinguish the concept of the reflective teacher from the view of the teacher as passive as a mere technician’. Although they concede that conceptions of reflective teaching differ, they believe that ‘they all share an emphasis on the importance of examining our thoughts and understandings that we bring to our teaching’. [Zeichner, K. M. & Liston, D. P. (1996) Reflective Teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum]

Becoming a Teacher (BaT) Project Hobson, A., Tracey, L., Kerr, K., Malderez, A., Pell, G., Simm, C. and Johnson, F. Research Brief No. RBX08-O4 August 2004 Why people choose to become teachers and the factors influencing their choice of initial teacher training route: early findings from the Becoming a Teacher (BaT) project

TLRP Thematic Seminar Series Menter et al, Learning to teach in post-devolution UK: the transition from initial teacher education through induction to early professional development in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. ‘Effective models of professional learning'‘

EPPI Review Cordingley, P., Bell, M., Rundell, B. and Evans, D. (2003) The impact of collaborative CPD on classroom teaching and learning. In: Research Evidence in Education Library.  London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

Parsons, M. and Stephenson M. (2005) Developing reflective practice in student teachers: collaboration and critical partnerships Teachers and Teaching, 11 (1), 95–116

Whitehead, J., and Fitzgerald, B. (2007) Experiencing and evidencing learning through self-study: New ways of working with mentors and trainees in a training school partnership. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23 (1), 1-12

Hurd, S., Jones, M., McNamara, O., and Craig, B.(2007) Initial teacher education as a driver for professional learning and school improvement in the primary phase, Curriculum Journal, 18(3), 307 -326.

C-Trip Annotated Bibliography, Changing Teacher Roles, identities and Professionalism, Hextall, I. Cribb, A, Gewirtz, S , Mahony, P & Troman, G, March 2007

Chris, D., Stobart, G., Kington, A., Gu, C., Smees, R., Mujtaba, T. and Woods, D. (2006) VITAE project

Alexander, R (Ed.) Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review. London: Routledge































How to reference this page: Teacher Education Group (2009) The Teacher Education Bibliography. London: TLRP. Online at (accessed )

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