Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 22, No. 6, 653–669, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was (a) to examine the manner in which teachers who were experiencing the implementation of an organisational reform perceived their own professional development process, and
(b) to observe the manifestations of these perceptions in the development patterns exhibited among the teachers.
The participants were forty-three teachers from 10 different schools in Israel.
All of the teachers were participating in a systemwide reform called ‘The New Horizon’. This reform focused mainly on teachers’ professional development.
The author used a semi-structured interview to evaluate teachers’ perceptions of their professional development.
The findings identified two dimensions that characterise teachers’ professional- development perceptions and goals. The research indicates that teachers differ from each other in terms of the source of their motivation for professional development, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, and in the type of development they aim for, whether lateral, i.e. within the realm of teaching, or vertical, i.e. with an eye towards obtaining managerial positions.
These two dimensions together create four patterns of development, which help increase the understanding of the ways in which teachers perceive their professional development and the motivations that drive them to develop in a particular manner.
This study highlights the unique individual aspects of each teacher, as manifested in one of the four professional development patterns identified: the Hierarchically Ambitious, Laterally Ambitious, Hierarchically Compelled or Laterally Compelled.
The patterns of professional development that emerged from this study can be seen as corresponding to certain characteristics and processes of professional identity construction. Teachers who aim for lateral development correspond to the ‘novice experience’, according to which the construction of a teacher’s professional identity is a constant and dynamic process of development and exploration within one’s professional field. In contrast to the lateral patterns of development, which involve adopting the identity of the teacher and developing within this realm, vertical patterns of development constitute a departure from the role of teacher, in pursuit of other advanced managerial positions.
The author argues that the data from this study could serve as an essential tool to help principals and decision-makers analyse teachers’ personal course of professional development, according to the aspirations, desires and capabilities of each individual teacher.
Policy-makers will be able to use the model to develop system-wide plans for professional development that are suited to the different preferences and aspirations of teachers, and according to the teacher’s location along the career continuum.
Principals could avail themselves of this typology to better understand the motivations and aspirations of staff members, through the use of interviews or questionnaires, so as to match the professional development process to the pattern type that characterises the educational staff members at the school.
Finally, individual teachers can identify – through a reflective process – their own preferences and patterns, in light of the model’s typology, and determine whether their current location on the career continuum is appropriate or whether they need to pursue a different professional development pattern in order to fulfil their personal career goals.