Inconvenient Truths about Teacher Learning: Towards Professional Development 3.0

From Section:
Professional Development
Jul. 01, 2017

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 23, No . 4, 387–405, 2017
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article was to present important findings about teacher learning as a fundament for thinking about professional development of preservice and inservice teachers. The author argues that much of a teacher’s behaviour is unconsciously guided by three dimensions (the cognitive, affective and motivational dimensions), and that teacher learning takes place at various levels.
The article discusses the insights which explain the meagre impact on teacher behaviour of many traditional strategies, for instance, the strategy of presenting theories about teaching and learning to teach, hoping that this will promote teacher behaviour matching those theories.


The main conclusion of this analysis illustrates that in teacher learning not only the link between practice and theory is important, but most of all the connection with the person of the teacher.

The author emphasizes that the importance of an in-depth reflection as an instrument in establishing fruitful connections between practice, theory and person.
The author has discussed that:
- many processes guiding behaviour take place without conscious awareness, and as a result, teacher learning is often unconscious learning.
-in the person, the cognitive, affective and motivational sources of behaviour are intertwined, and embedded in a social context, and therefore, teacher learning is multi-dimensional learning. -learning processes take place at various levels in the onion model, i.e. teacher learning is multi-level learning.

The author suggests that teachers' learning processes are multi-dimensional, multi-level in nature and often unconscious. He indicates that it is possible to design an effective approach to supporting teacher learning. Crucial is that such an approach builds on the concerns and gestalts of the teacher, and not on a pre-conceived idea of what this teacher should learn.

Consequences for professional development

This discussion leads to fundamental consequences for professional development and educational change. Educationalists need a more realistic vision, which means that not only practice, but most of all the human beings working in the contexts of their schools become the starting point for change processes.

The challenge for innovators or in-service trainers is to take the responsibility for linking the personal strengths of people in schools with academic knowledge. This describes what the author calls professional development 3.0. In this view of professional development, the often unconscious, multi-dimensional, and multi-level nature of teacher –often unconscious -multi-dimensional -multi-level learning is taken seriously. This implies that the outcomes of learning processes in teachers cannot always be predicted, as each individual teacher should be taken seriously and the process should build upon his or her concerns, gestalts, personal strengths and mission, within the context of their actual work. The building of communities of practice and the organising of individual or group coaching, including peer coaching, seem pivotal to success.
This view of teacher learning and professional development requires quite a shift in perspective, especially for many policy-makers. An inconvenient truth may be that effective professional development 3.0 is first of all value-based, which means that it starts from what practitioners themselves value in their own work. It is also much more open-ended, and to a certain degree more unpredictable than traditional approaches, as it often requires deep cultural change.
On the other hand, research studies on such an approach to professional development have shown that processes in teachers, although different, share certain general characteristics.

Another outcome is that these teachers get acquainted with a new view of learning, namely as a process that starts bottom-up, i.e. from who the learner is. Most of all, professional development 3.0 connects the professional with the personal aspects of learning. These deeper layers may in fact be the driving force behind any effective form of teacher learning.

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019
Professional development | Reflection | Teacher behavior | Teachers’ learning