How teachers learn: Rethinking persistent issues and enduring problems
- When? 05 October 2023
- Where? Adrian Cadbury Lecture Theatre, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Donald Freeman is Professor of Education at the Marsal School of Education, University of Michigan, with visiting appointments at Aston University and the University of Graz. He is author, most recently, of Rethinking Teacher Professional Development (Routledge; 2023) and Educating Second Language Teachers (Oxford, 2016).
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The fact that teachers learn– during their professional preparation and on-the-job– is the central premise undergirding teacher education and professional development. It has proved problematic to define and better understand what is particular about this form of learning, however. Instead of examining what is distinctive about teacher learning, teacher educators and researchers generally work from prevailing general theories of learning, with mixed results. And when things don’t go according to plan– as often happens– the problem is usually assumed to be in the program design or research undertaking and not the thinking on which these efforts depend. The situation has become so commonplace that when these shortcomings happen, they are explained by ideas like ‘teacher resistance’ and ‘deficits in knowledge or skill’ rather than by reexamining the architecture of these basic ideas. As a practitioner and a researcher, I argue that there are two principal challenges in reframing the situation: The conceptual challenge of rethinking the idea of ‘teacher learning’ and the methodological challenge of how then to design for and study it. Drawing from my book, Rethinking Teacher Professional Development (Routledge; 2023), I discuss alternative ways of thinking grounded in the Learning4Teaching project which documented public-sector teachers’ experiences and learning from professional development in three countries.