Teacher Learning: the Key to Educational Reform

From Section:
Professional Development
May. 15, 2008

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 59, No. 3, 226-234 (2008)


(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

Teachers are on the front lines of a changing society, and their teaching is no longer appropriate for a knowledge society that needs students who are prepared in problem solving, adaptability, critical thinking, and digital literacies, just to name a few. These changing stakes are accompanied by changing demographics.

Teachers need how to improve their practice, but professional development, though well intentioned, is often perceived by teachers as fragmented, disconnected, and irrelevant to the real problems of classroom practice.

There is now a great deal of evidence that teachers learn best when they are members of a learning community and there is some beginning knowledge their students do also (see, g., Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001; Little, in press; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001; Stoll & Louis, 2007; Supovitz & Christman, 2003; Westheimer, 1998). The teacher communities described here exhibit the best we know so far about effective professional development.

They focus on instruction; are sustained and continuous, rather than short term and episodic; provide opportunities for teachers to learn from one another both inside and outside the school; make it possible for teachers to influence how and what they learn; and engage teachers in thinking about what they need to know. (Hawley & Valli, 2007). Teachers are expanding their circle of like-minded colleagues by forming and joining online teaching communities, which allow geographically dispersed members to meet, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.


Grossman, P., Wineburg, S., & Woolworth, S. (2001). Toward a theory of teacher community. Teachers College
Record, 103(6), 942-1012.

Hawley, W., & Valli, L. (2007). Design principles for learner-centered professional development. In W. Hawley with D. Rollie (Eds.), The keys to effective schools: Educational reform as continuous improvement (2nd ed., pp. 117-137). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

McLaughlin, M. W., & Talbert, J. (2001). Professional communities and the work of high school teaching. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.

Stoll, L. & Louis, K. S. (2007). Professional learning communities divergence: Depth and dilemmas. Berkshire, UK:
Open University Press.

Supovitz, J. A., & Christman, J. B. (2003). Developing communities of instructional practice: Lessons from Cincinnati
and Philadelphia (CPRE Policy Brief).
University of Pennsylvania.

Westheimer, J. (1998). Among schoolteachers: Community, autonomy and ideology in teachers’ work. New York:
Teachers College Press.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Learning communities | No Child Left Behind (NCLB) | Professional development | Reforms