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Theories of Professional Development for Teachers

Info: 7450 words (30 pages) Dissertation
Published: 29th Sep 2021

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Tagged: EducationTeaching

Updated Literature Review:

This updated literature review is an extension of the first assignment and it has been a learning experience to gain in-depth knowledge on teachers learning and development. I really acknowledge the need of professional development for teachers to enhance their own learning to develop deep knowledge and relevant skills to enhance positive learning outcomes for the students.

This updated literature review helped me to gain understanding on my mistakes and improve my previous literature review by including group of authors, critiquing some perspectives and improving my grammatical mistakes. The structure of this literature involves sub-headings to have a smooth flow and explain different viewpoints of authors. My essay starts by explaining what professional development (PD); how teachers learn through different techniques and then moving on to show how learning is important for beginning teachers and an associate teacher/mentor in Early Childhood.

Defining professional development:

Fullen (1995) defines professional development as “continuous learning focused upon the sum total of formal and informal learning pursued and experienced by the teacher in a compelling learning environment under conditions of complexity and dynamic change” (p.265). Teacher training and in-service professional development are key to effective teaching (MOE, 2005; Fraser, 2008). According to Hummond, Wei, Andree & Richardson (2017) and Rhodes, Stokes, & Hampton, (2004) effective professional development is intensive, creates learning opportunities, identifying own learning needs and others; evaluating yourself, observational and peer-review skills; accessing mentoring; engaging in reflection, professional dialogue and feedback and builds strong working relationships among teachers.

Learning from their own practice and beliefs:

Hattie (2002) and Ramsden (1992) acknowledged that both surface (information) and deep (understanding) learning are necessary to learn and build on their prior knowledge. Individual’s perceptions and actions about changing and developing their teaching are highly influenced by what they believe, as well as by their knowledge (Stroll, 1999).   Teachers learn more effectively from their own practice by living the practical experiments that occur as a part of professional practice (Schön, 1983; Wilson, Shulman & Richert, 1987) as this involves teachers discovering their  teaching practices and beliefs and changing them for better. As research states that any time teachers actively engage into learning from their own practice this is counted as research. Ingersoll (2003) found that teachers overcome great challenges everyday related to subject content, instructional methods, technology, changed laws and procedures, and learning needs which helps them to develop their teaching skills and gain knowledge.

Learning by actively reflecting:

Reflective practice, is integrating theory and practice, thought and action, as Schon described, a “dialogue of thinking and doing through which I become more skillful” (1987, p. 31). Reflective thought is a ―chain (which) involves not simply a sequence of ideas but a consequence (Dewey, 1933, p. 4). If we critically reflect on our practice, we should be able to improve and initiate better ways of operating by changing/ including new strategies in our teaching practice.

Smyth (1989) explains a framework for reflecting as four forms of action which can improve teaching practice  in sequential stages with a series of questions which are describing, informing, confronting and reconstructing widely used by teachers to reflect and enhance their teaching practice (Lovett,2002).Brookfield (1995) states four critically reflecting lenses which are our autobiographies as teachers and learners, our student’s and colleague’s eyes and theoretical literature which can give a complete insight to our assumptions and make us reflect on our whole practice based on research and literature.

Fraser (2008) states that being actively reflective means to identify problems collaboratively and implementing skills to resolve problems through experiences, bringing in change or adapting it ( Absolum, 2006) .

Critics of Schon’s work claim that he has ignored the social context of reflecting whereas Scheffler (1968), argues that reflection can at times be a solitary and highly individualistic affair but can also be by inclusion of other members through communication and dialogue which leads to learning and understanding.

Role of theory:

Brookfield (1995) explains about the importance of his fourth lense which states that theoretical knowledge is essential for teacher’s learning as research and literature helps us to examine our practice and validates it or provides us with in depth knowledge to path of improvement. Furthermore, it provides a name to our practice and our opinions with generic terms and emphasis the research that has been done on particular subject. Joyce and Showers’ (1985) model of teacher learning value the role of theory for teachers learning as it informs our practice and raises an awareness and  provides  practical application.

The challenge  for professional development providers is connection between theory and work practice so that gaps between current and ideal beliefs and practices can be addressed for teacher learners is explained by Lovett (2002 ). Lovett (2002) explains that there are differences of opinion and a lack of importance of theory (Rentoul, 1996) as it not highly valued by some practitioners as they give more importance to practical learning that challenges their thinking.

Learning through observation /constructive feedback:

Learning through observation plays an important part in practice teaching. Observation is a powerful tool for assessing and monitoring a teacher’s progress (Totterdell, Heilbronn, Bubb & Jones, 2002; Bubb, 2007). Magda Gerber (2017) and Drummond (1992) describes observation as a process by which educators can understand and give meaning to what they see and hear, drawing on their own knowledge and experience as it offers a prime source of professional feedback necessary for improvement and develop a language about teaching simply through observing others.

A teacher learns about current course materials and strategies used, interactions with students, how learners respond and interact with the teacher and among themselves, and kinds of language they understand and produce (Wajnryb, 1992; Bubb, 2007).

Effective professional development includes training, practice and feedback, and provides adequate time and follow-up support (OECD, 2009). Observation is also a necessary tool to provide feedback to colleagues in a professional way (Totterdell et al., 2007) .It helps to anticipate some of the issues involved in teaching the class and help you better prepare for your practice. The feedback you get after an observation process is essential to your development as a teacher (Wajnryb, 1992; Totterdell et al., 2002).

Fraser (2008) and Peterson, (1989)  explain how feedback of others is necessary in order to move beyond the limitations of self-assessment and habitual ways of operating as feedback from our students, colleagues and mentors are all valuable in the ongoing process of reflection and teaching practice.

Collaboration in dialogue and action provides feedback and comparisons that encourages teachers to reflect on their own practice who recognise that inquiry and reflection are important processes to sustain improvement (Harris, 2002). Collaborative discussions are most valuable as teachers are involved in sense-making and understanding the phenomena of learning (Peterson, 1989)

Building knowledge through action research/teachers inquiry: 

Ministry of Education encourages teachers to use “teaching as inquiry” model, described in The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007), as a framework to engage in their own inquiries into their own practice and confront their taken-for-granted pedagogical perspectives, value responsive and reciprocal relationships, which forms the basis of engaging in shared learning.

Timperley (2008) state that competent teachers inquire into their practice every day to what worked for children and what needs to improve. Hubbard and Power (1993) and Reid (2004) state that inquiry can be undertaken individually, but it is most powerful when it is collaborative involving educators to seek answers to questions and dilemmas through structured opportunities by reviewing existing assessments, information to refine their skills and engage their students in new learning experiences.

While Alton-Lee’s (2003) Best Evidence Synthesis are quite scientific and data driven but offers support Fraser’s (2008) principles such as monitoring learning can be supported by BES principles of focusing on student achievement, understanding what they have already learnt and what they should do next, use teaching as inquiry cycle to reflect on their practice, and being responsive to student learning using cycles and feedback.

The challenge here is to present this to show there is a disagreement between researchers and the effect it has on teachers. The challenge for teachers is to keep upgrading themselves with knowledge, technology and keep progressing on their path to meet the needs of diverse students.

Teachers also learn through action research, such as creating journals, essays, classroom studies, and oral inquiry processes (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993).Action research enhances teacher learning by proposing ideas to a community of learners to improve their teaching and curriculum as it encourages each other’s intellectual and pedagogical growth (Noffke, 1997; Feldman, 1998).

Learning through collaboration:

Fullan (1993) and Hargreaves (1998) state that professional learning arises from building partnerships with other teachers in the form of collaboration, reflection, enquiry, partnership and participating in building professional communities creating greater interactive professionalism among communities of teachers .

Stewart and Prebble (1993), Hill and Sewell (2010) support quality learning circles as a way of responding to the difficult challenges facing every organisation as observing each other’s practice on a regular basis, discussing this in a supportive way, sharing thoughts and emotions through a sharing circle builds responsive and reciprocal relationships with students, which lays the basis for shared learning.

Joyce &Showers (1985) encourage peer coaching to connect with one another and engage in focussed study through shared language and common understandings and help teachers gain new skills and strategies which involves teachers coaching each other with observations, feedback and meetings.

From a socio cultural perspective, learning is a joint process in which teachers and children participate together in a learning community—both “contributing support and direction in shared endeavors” (Rogoff, Matusov, & White, 1996, p. 389) which also favours Bishop (2001), McNeight (1998), and Wink (2000) suggestion that we need to have a classroom environment that engages in reciprocal learning. They believe that the teacher needs to listen to the students for their opinions and ideas. Bishop (2001) emphasizes “student voice” and “power sharing”.

Learning through technology:

Gilbert (2007) talks about the “new and different ways of thinking” (p. 10) that are now important in the 21st century. Prestige (2010) found use of tools and technology as learning instruments such as online forums and networks, blogs could lead to learning and gaining knowledge in a community.

Different types of professional development can be gained from courses/workshops, education conferences or seminars, qualification programme, observation visits to other schools, participation in a network of teachers, individual or collaborative research and mentoring and/or peer observation and coaching (OECD, 2009) which is a medium involving collaborative conversations and critiquing each other constructively to enhance our learning. This can be achieved by teachers utilizing their time to read and gain knowledge through the different open mediums available to them.

Also engaging in online study and distance learning for teachers is a great way to develop their skills and knowledge.

How beginning teachers learn to learn:

Research has indicates that earning that occurs during the first two years of teaching is essential for effective teacher development (Feiman-Nemser, 2003). As Bubb (2007, p. 1) notes, “The first year is the most formative period in a teacher’s career and support is crucial if they are to develop the competencies, confidence and attitudes that will keep them happy and successful in the job.” Wildman, Niles, Magliaro, & McLaughlin (1989) state that new teachers really have two jobs to do-they have to teach, and they have to learn to teach. Cameron, Lovett, & Garvey Berger (2007) point out that beginning teachers have the zest and a shared desire to make a difference to the world and need induction to support them in their teaching journey. They explain three types of induction, which are experienced leadership and organizational commitment and practices; collegial support; and opportunities to continue learning, which provides them a strong foundation to their life long careers. Mulford (2003) states that key to enhancing environmental and organizational conditions are closely linked to effective induction and the opportunities that teachers have to develop their teaching.

Providing on-site support and guidance is especially critical during the beginning years of teaching (Wildman, Niles, Magliaro, & McLaughlin, 1989). Also letting support teachers to focus in their classrooms only for the first year and access to the allocated provisionally registered teacher (PRT) time allowance makes a huge difference and their wellbeing during starting years (Mulford, 2003). Johnson, & Kardos (2003) also stress that schools must provide new teachers with on-site professional development and make sure that new teachers have access to help on short notice. International research showing that beginning teachers are more likely to stay in schools those invest in their learning (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Newcomers to teaching are more likely to thrive when schools provide expansive opportunities for them to build on the knowledge, understandings and skills they bring with them (Cameron et al., 2007).

Hargreaves and Fullan (2000) emphasise that emotional support is one of the strongest needs of beginning teachers. Cameron, Lovett, & Garvey Berger (2007) state that teachers are able to settle into teaching within an organizational climate where mistakes were normal in the beginning years so they learn from themselves and through their challenges. Experienced staff can provide strategies to create work life balance to ensure the level of engagement in work maintains at a quality standard and that beginning teachers do not begin to feel overworked (Castro, Kelly, & Shih, 2010).

Learning conversations may be important for all teachers, but they are doubly vital for beginning teachers. Cameron, (2009) states that these teachers need access to conversations in order to improve their teaching as they form their own opinions and conversational habits here at the beginning of their careers.

McNally et al. (2008) found that as much as 41 percent of the variation in new teachers’ overall job satisfaction is attributable to working relationships with colleagues in their departments (NZCER,2017). Scott, Stone and Dinham (2001) state participation with other teachers is an opportunity for professional learning during their induction period. Collegial support consists of opportunities for beginning teachers to work with, and learn from their more experienced colleagues. Teachers have greater opportunities to talk about teaching with their colleagues, share planning and resources, examine students’ work, and benefit from the collective expertise of their team members (Cameron, Lovett, & Berger, 2007).

Johnson, & Kardos (2003) refer to collegial support as integrated professional cultures where professional exchange across experience levels and sustained support and development for all teachers as new teachers benefit from mentoring relationships. New teachers flourish in an integrated professional culture that encourages teacher collaboration across experience levels.

Beginning teacher also appreciate opportunities to reconnect with peers from initial teacher education and to meet other teachers through social networks outside is the most valuable aspects of their learning (Cameron, Lovett & Berger, 2007). Opportunities to work with teachers from other schools are also perceived to strengthen beginning teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge.

Effective mentoring of beginning teachers has a positive effect on the retention of teachers, the quality of teaching and learning, and the achievement of students (Hobson, Ashby, Malderez, & Tomlinson, 2009; Ingersoll, 2001; Lind, Franks, & Prebble, 2005), including planning and managing student behavior (Evertson & Smithey, 2000). Evertson and Smithey (2000) found that when beginning teachers worked with mentors became more effective practitioners and were better able to give instructions, maintain student engagement and develop routines. Stansbury and Zimmetman (2000,p. 4) emphasize that it is emotionally challenging time where more experienced colleagues and mentors can play an important role, serving as a sounding board, offering sympathy and perspective, and providing advice to help reduce stress. Avalos (2016) that new practitioners need help to develop coping strategies under the supervision of experienced teachers. This helps to promote teachers’ personal and professional well-being and transmitting the culture of teaching.

Conditions associated with the support and mentoring needed for beginning teachers to assist them with their teaching difficulties are studied by Fantilli & McDougall (2009). Mentoring takes an important place as they provide knowledge and training to other mentors, teachers and beginning teachers come across problems associated with the mentoring process such as what are best practices, use of tools which could hinder their learning and development (Devos,2010).

The challenge for new teachers is that they need to assume similar responsibilities to those who have been teaching for years, and they have to get up to speed quickly (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2002). New Zealand research on induction (Dewar, Kennedy, Staig, & Cox, 2003; Mansell, 1996; Renwick, 2001) indicated that not all new teachers were given adequate support while some teachers managed to get supportive staff. It appeared that the beginning teachers’ key issues focused on: managing student behaviour and creating a work-life balance, in which resilience strategies needed to be part of the preservice teacher development (Keogh, Garvis, & Pendergast, 2010; Hudson, 2012), including problem-solving techniques, and ways to manage people within the work environment (Castro, Kelly, & Shih, 2010)

The most pressing need for a beginning teacher is to make sense of, and survive, the immediate challenges in their classroom. They have a major responsibility for decisions about setting up their classrooms, planning teaching programmes, deciding on expectations and routines, at the same time as getting to know their students and their colleagues, and interacting with parents. Juggling all these responsibilities requires them to integrate different kinds of knowledge, which beginner’s find hard to do. New teachers also find it hard to prioritise which things to do first (New Zealand Council of Educational Research, 2017).

How associate teachers/mentors continue to learn:

An associate teacher has a role in mentoring student teachers in addition to his/her role as a classroom teacher. A mentor teacher (sometimes called a tutor teacher) is a teacher with designated responsibility for assisting a beginning teacher to meet the profession’s criteria for full registration. After working in ECE for around 10 years, I strongly feel that an experienced teacher has to do both in today’s time with budget constraints as every centre cannot afford to have curriculum leaders. This ends up leaving experienced teachers to be a mentor and associate teachers at the same time. I would be using the term ‘mentor teacher’ to imply both in this section.

Research suggests that it is not enough to have a mentor assigned; the mentor must also have relevant skills and knowledge (Norman & Feiman-Nemser, 2005). The mentor also needs to be an experienced, fully-registered teacher who is able to conduct reflective learning conversations and offer guidance, support and give effective feedback (NZTC, 2011).

Sueer (2004, p. 8) supports Rogoff’s (1991) view that mentoring is a jointly constructed activity where the expert (mentor) assists the novice by “providing guidance, feedback and explanation” which allows the novice to develop increasingly more expert ways of solving problems of practice. Johnson, Kardos, Kauffman, Liu, & Donaldson (2004, p. 9) define a mentor’s work with a new teacher as “focused on the central components of teaching: classroom instruction, curriculum and lesson planning, and classroom management”.

Mentoring has been the focus of much of the literature published over the last 15 years on initial teacher education, teacher induction and approaches to professional development for experienced teachers (Hagger et al., 1995; Healy & Welchert, 1990; McIntyre, 1997; McIntyre et al., 1993; Yeomans & Sampson, 1994). Mentoring held legitimacy as a professional learning strategy and at the same time appeared to offer a cost ‘solution’ in training and development for teachers which is evitable in today’s world.

Reflection and self-directed learning explained by Kolb’s (1984) and Boud, Keogh & Walker (1995) emphasise that experience is a continuous and holistic process for learning for mentors. Involvement in guiding decisions creates self -autonomy and commitment to learning. Their research emphasised the application of adult learning principles for life-long learning for teachers.

The process of induction has potential benefits for mentor teachers and schools (Ingersoll & Smith, 2004). Studies of mentors involved in internship and induction programs reported that serving as a mentor caused experienced teachers to reflect on their own teaching knowledge, beliefs and practices and broaden their professional knowledge (Mitchell, Murray & Dobbins 1997). Mentors can also develop new skills, because supporting other teachers to develop expertise requires them to develop new skill sets, and teachers are energised by learning new skills (Ingersoll & Smith, 2004).

Mentors learn soft skills such as interpersonal, leadership, management and communication skills which contributes to their overall changes in behaviors such as self‐realisation, and change in attitude. It also reinforces their own skills and knowledge of their subject (Rekha & Ganesh, 2012). Also they learn to build rapport and trust.

Cameron, Lovett, & Garvey Berger (2007) explain successful mentoring is depended on strong mentoring relationships, and sensitivity to the developmental needs of the beginning teachers, including knowing when to intervene, when to offer assistance, and when to stand back. They observe, set goals and provide constructive feedback, formative and summative assessment contributing to their own learning.

Teachers who take on the role of mentor are making a valuable contribution to the growth of their mentee, but are also learning new skills and knowledge that will help them in their teaching careers (Moir, 2012). Quality mentoring can improve the practice of the mentor (Roehrig, Bohn, Turner, & Pressley, 2007) through increased reflection, and creates the desire to be an effective model of excellent teaching (Sweeny, 2008). According to Moir and Bloom (2003), mentoring process include replenishment and “the skills and passion to make lifelong teacher development central to school culture” (p. 58).

Hargreaves and Fullan (2000) state that “mentoring practice may fall short of its ideals not because of poor policies or program design but because we fail to regard mentoring as integral to our approach to teaching and professionalism” (p. 50).

Patterson, & Thornton (2014) also state the challenges in mentoring faced by educators such as lack of communication between teachers and managers/principals, lack of choice of becoming the mentoring teacher, lack of leadership, revisiting programme, and professional development for mentors.

Recent research on how schools use induction funding (Anthony & Kane, 2008; Cameron, Dingle, & Brooking, 2007) to provide noncontact time for the beginning teacher, with no time available to mentors or supervising teachers. Sufficient time needs to be allowed to provide multiple opportunities to learn, for teachers to be engaged and challenged, and work in a community of professionals (Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2007).

A challenge for mentors is to establish whether assistance and assessment could co-exist together in induction programmes (Patterson,S., & Thornton, K, 2014) resulting in making mentoring relationships challenging. With the responsibility of assessment and decision making regarding full registration falling to the mentor, a power relationship can emerge (Rippon & Martin, 2006). Having the same person in charge of providing assistance and assessment, may discourage a teacher to experiment and break a norm.

Gall and Acheson (1987) define trust as a challenge, which can become an issue when a supervisor can use the data that emerge during supervision against the teacher. Without trust between the supervisor and the teacher, little of this creativity, risk taking, and professional adventure will take place.


I have personally learnt heaps while researching for this paper and reworking on the literature review was more insightful and valuable for me. I am also a great believer to work as a team and in collaboration. Being able to collaborate helps me to broaden my horizons and provides me with a different perspective. Also, constructive feedback that I receive from my peers is very valuable and I rely on theory to improve and validate my practice.

I have extremely been fortunate to learn extensively on how to support beginning teachers as it is very evident in today’s world and I would be implementing strategies that I have learnt. Also, being a mentor and continue to learning is challenging at times with so many responsibilities but this is an area where I would continue to focus on.


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