Reframing Professional Development Through Understanding Authentic Professional Learning

Jun. 25, 2009

Source: Review of Educational Research. Vol. 79, Iss. 2; p. 702-739. (June 2009).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Continuing to learn is universally accepted and expected by professionals and other stakeholders across all professions. However, despite changes in response to research findings about how professionals learn, many professional development practices still focus on delivering content rather than enhancing learning. The author argues that the way in which professional development (PD) is usually conceptualized in contemporary research and practice is problematic, limiting critical evaluation and potential for change.

Then, the article proceeds in three sections. First, the current PD literature is critiqued against the background of a broad educational research that is relevant for understanding continuing professional learning (CPL). This overview of the research terrain draws on three different areas of educational inquiry in addition to the PD literature (i.e., community education, workplace learning, and professional education) in proposing a way of reframing PD.

Second, seminal research from the past two decades is revisited to summarize what we know about professional knowledge and learning, examining philosophical assumptions underpinning this research, and the contradictions and tensions involved in learning in the contemporary working context. The notion of "authentic professional learning (PL)" is proposed to differentiate the lived experience of CPL from the usual discourse of PD.

The third section argues for a shift in discourse and focus, in both research and practice, from delivering and evaluating PD programs to understanding and supporting authentic PL. This article concludes by considering implications for practice and future research possibilities extending from reconceptualizing PD and understanding more about authentic PL.


Updated: Jul. 02, 2009