01 SES 06 A, The Transformative Potential Of Professional Learning: Beyond reproduction
There is an often unquestioned assumption that professional learning and development (PLD) is a ‘good thing’ (Stevenson, 2019). The principal challenges are that teachers cannot access sufficient PLD opportunities or that they do not have the time to undertake the PLD that is available. Numerous studies have demonstrated that teachers experience significant barriers when trying to access PLD (OECD, 2013). These are important challenges, and should not be underestimated. However they generate policy responses that focus only on identifying ‘what works’ solutions within a set of parameters that do not question ‘what matters’ (Biesta, 2007).
The danger of this ‘taken for grantedness’ is that it fails to discuss the fundamentally reproductive nature of much professional learning. It underestimates the extent to which PLD promotes particular agendas in education. Such PLD is often managerially imposed, embedded within performative structures and is central to bringing about cultural changes that value conformity and compliance over deep change (Stevenson et al, 2018). There may be powerful discourses of transformation in contemporary education – in relation to professional learning (Jones, 2009) and leadership (Leithwood, 2004) for example. However, the ways in which PLD is often experienced by teachers is anything but transformational. Rather it is central to seeking only incremental changes within a status quo that is not questioned. The ultimate irony is that learning processes that claim to be about change play a key role in reinforcing existing systems and structures.
In this discussion we seek to explore the potential of professional learning to be disruptive – to challenge current inequalities, dominant ideas and established orthodoxies. We seek to understand how professional learning can be genuinely transformative, not only by opening up possibilities that may be beyond our current imagination, but which connect abstract and conceptual thinking with practical actions capable of bringing about real change (Freire, 1970; Fleming 2016).
The focus of this panel discussion will be a series of short, and deliberately provocative contributions, from several European countries. It intentionally builds on, and seeks to develop, a discussion initiated at ECER 2018 by members of the Professional Development in Education editorial board. The countries represented (in alphabetical order) will be England, the Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This cannot claim to represent the breadth of experience across the European region and so the format will specifically seek to engage audience responses from panel discussion attendees with experience of PLD in other jurisdictions. Initial contributions will be intentionally brief (<30 minutes combined) in order to allow maximum time for discussion.
Within the discussion a number of questions will be opened up for debate.
- What do we mean by ‘reproductive professional learning’ and in what ways does professional learning act in reproductive ways?
- What do we mean by ‘transformative professional learning’? (see Kennedy, 2014). To what extent are current models of transformative professional learning helpful?
- To what extent can ‘professional learning’ be transformative? Are there particular forms of professional learning that afford more potential to be transformative? (see Evans, 2019).
- What are the challenges for those who work in the field of ‘professional learning’ and who seek to work in transformative ways? To what extent is it possible to work ‘in and against’ the system we may seek to transform?
These questions are intended to frame an open and exploratory discussion. We will welcome the framing of new questions as they might emerge from audience responses to the panel discussion. In so doing we seek to make a modest contribution to developing ‘alternative discourses’ in PLD (Kennedy, 2016) and to help re-think how professional learning can open up genuinely transformative possibilities.
Biesta, G. (2007) Why ‘what works’ won’t work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research. Educational Theory, 57: 1-22. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5446.2006.00241.x Evans, L. (2019) Implicit and informal professional development: what it ‘looks like’, how it occurs, and why we need to research it, Professional Development in Education, 45:1, 3-16, doi: 10.1080/19415257.2018.1441172 Kennedy, A. (2014) Models of Continuing Professional Development: a framework for analysis, Professional Development in Education, 40:3, 336-351, doi: 10.1080/19415257.2014.929293 Kennedy, A. (2016) Professional learning in and for communities: seeking alternatives discourses, Professional Development in Education, 42:5, 667-670, doi: 10.1080/19415257.2016.1220541 Fleming, T. (2016). Toward a living theory of transformative learning: Going beyond Mezirow and Habermas to Honneth. Mezirow Memorial Lecture, Columbia University Teachers College. http://www.tedfleming.net/doc/Paper_for_TC_June_2016.pdf Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Jones, M. (2009). Transformational Learners: Transformational Teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 34(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.14221/ajte.2009v34n2.2 Leithwood, K. (1994). Leadership for School Restructuring. Educational Administration Quarterly, 30:4, 498–518. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X94030004006 OECD (2014) The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning. TALIS: OECD Publishing. DOI: 10.1787/9789264196261-en. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/edu/school/talis-publications-and-documents.htm Stevenson, H. Milner, A. and Winchip, E. (2018) Education trade unions for the teaching profession: strengthening the capacity of education trade unions to represent teachers’ professional needs in social dialogue. Brussels: ETUCE. Stevenson, H. (2019) Editorial: professional learning – What is the point?, Professional Development in Education, 45:1, 1-2, doi: 10.1080/19415257.2019.1549306
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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