Tracing complexities of teacher professional learning to evidence of transformed practice

Debra Talbot

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

This inquiry examines the complex interactions involved in teachers’ professional learning experiences and the expression of such learning in transformed teaching practice. The study is temporally situated amid new education policies that bring with them expectations of transformed teaching, expressed through notions of ‘quality’ and ‘21st century learning’ (ACARA, 2012b; AITSL, 2012c). The centralised, managerial agenda, particularly as it relates to professional standards, creates a view of teacher learning as an activity undertaken by individualised teachers and heavily reliant on standards-accredited programs of professional development. Teachers described the interactions that they believed had influenced their learning about their teaching work. They selected and demonstrated evidence of their learning, and reflected on the ‘fit’, as they perceived it, between their learning and evidence. Dorothy Smith’s ideas of ‘mapping the social’ were utilised in order to reveal the complex of social and textual relations that coordinated the teachers’ learning in each case. A dialogic analysis, based on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, was employed in that it was able to reveal the subversive influences that enable teachers to resist a compliance agenda in the interests of producing knowledge that assisted them to transform their teaching practice.

This thesis seeks to highlight: the complex interactions between learning experiences, people and ‘governing’ texts in the form of ‘informant specific maps’; the role of the ‘professional learning architect’ in context-specific approaches to learning that support ‘spaces of possibility’ for transformative professional learning; and the capacity for ongoing teacher education inherent in the process of teachers selecting, demonstrating and reflecting on evidence of learning that they value as having transformed their teaching work.

Supervisor: Professor Debra Hayes