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Title: Thinking differently about continuing professional development: teachers’ narratives of professional learning
Authors: Chappell, A
Keywords: Professional learning;Continuing professional development;Teachers;Narratives
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: European Educational Research Association
Citation: European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, 22-26 August, (2016)
Abstract: Education currently operates internationally within a policy climate of neoliberalism where market forces underpin activity (Ball, 2012). There is an “emphasis on measured outputs: on strategic planning, performance indicators, quality assurance measures” (Olssen and Peters, 2005: 313) which leads to a culture of performativity. In England, as elsewhere, teachers have experienced an intensification of their work and challenges to notions of professionalism resulting in a culture of box ticking in order to fulfil the range of professional requirements (Ballet et al, 2006). In this climate, teachers are required to take increasing responsibility for themselves including their ‘continuing professional development’ (CPD), which is seen as both a requirement to support school improvement and a professional entitlement (Gewirtz, 2002; Ball, 2003; OECD, 2009; OECD, 2015). Over time, there have been suggestions in research, policy and practice that some approaches to CPD are more effective than others, where effectiveness is measured through school improvement associated to the impact on outcomes for pupils (OECD, 2015). Questions about CPD have often focussed on organisation, structure, delivery and audit, rather than on what works for teachers in relation to their involvement and engagement. This has resulted in significant debate about what constitutes valuable, relevant and practical CPD whilst omitting consideration of those individuals involved in it and their professional learning and learning to be a professional. As an example, Hargreaves (2007) focussed on the movement away from occasional courses, and the expert-to-novice approach; in favour of a completely school-based, peer-to-peer approach suggesting a greater value to particular structures for CPD over others with an emphasis on learning in the context of the school for the good of the school (OECD, 2015). These discussions result in a narrow view of CPD. I argue that a key reason that CPD continues to be problematic is because it is bound up in policy rhetoric and is routed in ideas of ‘training’ rather than education or learning, particularly ironic for teachers given that their work is all about learning. In this climate the teachers have become “missing persons” (Evans, 1999: i) and this research sought to address that. The aim of the research upon which my presentation is based was to understand the ways in which professional learning is experienced by teachers and the meanings they attribute to those experiences by answering the following research questions: how do teachers narrate their professional learning?; what do they identify as the key influences? It built on a piece of case-study work conducted in Greece that recommended the consideration of the individual teacher when examining CPD (Makopoulou and Armour, 2011). The work presented here was underpinned by the recognition of the complexity in the interplay between the individual teacher and their social context specifically focusing on “the relationship between the state, the ideologies of professionalism, and lived interiority” (Hey and Bradford, 2004: 693). This study sought to make a unique contribution to the field of professional learning by using the detailed individual cases of each teacher to illustrate general concerns for the development of effective policy and practice.
Appears in Collections:Dept of Education Research Papers

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