Higher-degree research being undertaken by Debra Talbot




Associate Professor Debra Hayes

Thesis title:

Tracing complexities of teacher professional learning to evidence of transformed practice



Project description

The study, submitted for examination at the end of August 2015, examined the complex interactions involved in teachers’ professional learning experiences and the expression of such learning in their transformed teaching practice. Teachers described the interactions that they believed had influenced their learning about their teaching work. They were required to select and demonstrate evidence of their learning, and to reflect on the ‘fit’, as they perceived it, between their learning and their evidence. The research was temporally situated when, for the first time, Australian teachers were beginning to work with both a national curriculum and a set of national professional standards as part of a centralised, managerial agenda.

The research was situated within a methodological approach known as institutional ethnography. It employed Dorothy Smith’s ideas of ‘mapping the social’ in order to reveal the complex of social and textual relations that coordinated the teacher’s learning in each case. A dialogic analysis, based on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, was utilised 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.

The research contributes to knowledge about teacher learning by highlighting: the complex interactions between learning experiences, people and ‘governing’ texts that influence teachers’ professional learning and expressing these interactions in the form of ‘informant specific maps’; the role of the ‘professional learning architect’ in context-specific pedagogical approaches to teacher and student 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.

Debra Talbot is a casual lecturer and tutor on a variety of education studies, master of teaching and science education units. Simultaneous with her doctoral research, Debra was part of a research team on a longitudinal study of alternative education for secondary students. She has been a classroom teacher and head of department in the government and independent sectors, a professional learning consultant for the AISNSW, the Australian Academy of Science and continues to consult independently.


  • Oct 2014: Best Research Paper Award, Research Students Forum, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

Professional and community roles

  • Member Australian Association for Research in Education
  • Member Australian Teacher Education Association


  • Talbot, D. & Hayes, D. (in press). Teachers’ experiences of re-engaging disenfranchised young people in learning through inquiry-based pedagogies: A phenomenographic study. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies.
  • Talbot, D. (2015). Teachers talk about their learning. Knowledge Cultures: Bakhtin at the boundaries. , 3(4), 171–187.

Other publications

  • Talbot, D Mockler, N. (2013). Australian Curriculum Classroom Approaches: Science, Palgrave Macmillan. South Yarra.
  • Hayes, D., Down, B., Talbot, D., Choules, K. (2013). Big Picture Education Australia: Experiences of students, parents/carers & teachers (pp. 4 - 59), Sydney, Australia: The University of Sydney.
  • Talbot, D. Mockler, N. (2012). Australian Curriculum Classroom Approaches: Mathematics. Palgrave Macmillan. South Yarra.

Conference presentations