Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 36, Nos. 1–2, March 2010, pp. 211–228.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article considers the professional development of a group of 75 primary and secondary teachers in Melbourne, Victoria, who had been charged with the responsibility of leading the professional learning of their colleagues in their schools. To support these leaders of professional learning in their roles, the Victorian state government’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development contracted members of the Pedagogy and Professional Learning Research Group at Monash University to develop and implement an appropriate Professional Learning program.
The Leading Professional Learning (LPL) program ran for seven months and consisted of a series of four face-to-face workshops that were sustained through the formation of peer networks. Each participant in the program was responsible for designing and implementing a school-specific professional learning project appropriate to their school setting. At the final workshop in the LPL program, participants reflected on and recorded their learning through the formalised process of case writing.
The cases produced by the teacher educator participants in this program form the basis of the qualitative data for this paper. The purpose for using cases was an attempt to capture participants’ understanding of their professional learning through their experiences within the LPL program.
The authors highlight the significant issues confronted by these teacher educators and the capacity of the LPL program to respond appropriately.
The authors found that learning to evolve from teacher to teacher educator in a school setting was (and is) a complex task. Scholarship around identity formation is helpful in shedding light on the complexity these teacher educators experienced around their professional identities and the ways in which they negotiated their multiple identities as teachers and teacher educators.
Furthermore, a core ethos in the program was that the development of learning should be experienced within school-based practice settings. A key support mechanism for this was the establishment of professional learning communities of peers. These networks functioned as supportive and contextually specific communities that provided support, encouragement and resources when appropriate. These networks provided the teacher educators with a more intimate space in which to share their frustrations, vulnerabilities and insights; and, in hindsight, these networks offered potential to more explicitly take up issues related to the experiences of ‘becoming’ teacher educators.
Logistical issues such as lack of time and resourcing for collaborative work seriously undercut active collaboration. However, the LPL program paid serious attention to such collaboration. It responded to the individualistic nature of teaching and, in this case, school-based teacher education, and designed professional learning with a view to improve collaborative practices and skills so as to have a genuine impact on the practices of these teacher educators.
This project proved to be organisationally responsive at the same time that it was professionally valuable—attenuated but intense, supported but autonomous— offering much potential for teacher educators to experience rich learning as leaders of learning.
In conclusion, the movement between their identities as teachers and teacher educators was the significant learning experience for them, and one that the LPL program supported intentionally and unintentionally.