Century Teachers: Lead Learners for School Improvement
Teachersmustbe leadlearnersfor 21st
Century school improvement, where adaptability,
resilience and professionalism will have fundamental importance. The discussion, in
adopting a socio-cognitive perspective on learning, is developed in four sections. The
introductionelaboratesthree propositionsinrelationtoteacherlearning: itoccurs along a
continuum; it is deeply contextualised; and, it is a shared responsibility. The second
section introduces some of the significant factors framing teacher learning in Singapore.
The third section introduces elements of a cognitive view of learning, while the final
sectionextends that discussion to a socio-cultural view of teacher learning. The value of
thisdiscussionliesinitsbringing-togetherof otherwisedisparatediscussions which, while
extremely valuable in isolation, once pooled offer a view of teacher learning that
corresponds in its complexity to the challenges that face those who seek to promote
teacher learning in the 21st
In the first decade of the 21st
Century, the relationship between teachers/teaching and
learners/learningisbeing re-developed. In the early 20th
Century, when teacher education was an
apprenticeship in the form of ‘pupil teacher’, the teacher was distinguished from the student
primarily intermsof his/hercompetence inthe 3Rs. As teachingbecame more professionalised,the
distinctionmoved to one of disciplinary expertise, with the teacher the expert, and that expertise
was largelydevelopedduringinitial teachereducation(ITE). Thatexpertise hadcareer-longvalue,as
the disciplinary knowledge of relevance to schooling was seen as consolidated and stable. Once
curriculum development became less centralised, and the role of teaching expanded, teachers
became the objectof learning.Teacherprofessional development(TPD) wasseenasanefficient and
effectivemeansof upgradingthe expertise of teachers during their post-ITE career. In a sense, TPD
was/isseenasa relativelystraightforwardmeansfortransferringexpertise fromthose with more to
those with less through sharing best practice—‘levelling up’, as we say in Singapore. Here the
teacher is recipient of what others have learned.
The emergent relationship between teacher and learning recognises that in the 21st
complexity of schooling demands a disposition to engage with greater complexity, ambiguity and
uncertainty. Thus,the expertise of teachersisexpanding from disciplinary authority focused on the
propositional knowledge that characterises a discipline, to the procedural and conditional
knowledge associated with the limitations of existing knowledge and the development of new
knowledge withinadiscipline. Forthisreason,teachers will needto become leadlearnersas well as
lead knowers. Please note that we are arguing the need for both lead knowing and lead learning.
Indeed,it can be argued that the capacities to enact and to meta-model lead learning (where they
explain that enactment) will become core professional capacities of the 21st
profession. Thus, this discussion is an initial response to the need to develop an explicit view of
learningthatacknowledgesthe verycomplex nature andcontextof professionalteacherlearningfor
this new role.
The international research literature is ambiguous in relation to the association between teacher
learningandthe improvementssoughtbyeducationalreforminitiatives. In her ‘anticipatory’ letter
to the nextPresidentof the UnitedStates,AnnLieberman(2008) arguedthat teacher learning is the
key to educational reform, and therefore to school improvement. In making this argument, she
acknowledged that “professional development, while well intentioned, is often perceived by
teachersas fragmented,disconnected,andirrelevanttothe real problemsof classroompractice” (p.
226). She is also implying that the concepts of teacher development and teacher learning are
mutually constituted. This is an implication we accept in this paper. On the other hand, literature
alsodocumentsregularlythe failure in reform efforts, particularly in the US (Putnam & Borko 2000,
Slepkov2008). While we adoptthe paradoxical view thatbothversionsare true,we wanttosuggest
that an understanding of teacher learning should inform efforts to achieve both teacher
development and educational improvement.
The focus of this paper is on teacher learning, viewed from a socio-cognitive perspective, but
learning is always ‘of something’. It is generally accepted that teaching requires a professi onal
knowledge base thatminimallyincludes:(1) contentknowledge,(2) knowledgeof the curriculum, (3)
general pedagogical knowledge, (4) subject-specific pedagogical knowledge, (5) knowledge of
students,(6) knowledge of educational goals, and (7) knowledge of other content (Shulman, 1987).
In providing this set of categories over two decades ago, Shulman was also arguing that this
knowledge must have an intentionality—effective educational practice. It is knowing-for-action
rather than knowing-for-knowing’s-sake, an issue elaborated later in the discussion of ‘adaptive
The paper reflectsthree central propositions in relation to teacher learning. First, teacher learning
occurs alonga continuum,the formal aspects of which begin with ITE, followed by both formal and
informal elements of TPD throughout an individual’s career. Second, teacher learning is deeply
contextualised. Third, teacher learning is a shared responsibility. Each is elaborated in turn.
First,the learning continuum for teachers has both formal and informal aspects, with both aspects
strongly associated with experience. Inevitably that includes an individual’s own experience of
schooling, as well as later university education and life experiences, including professional
experience asaneducator. The formal aspectof the learningcontinuumcommenceswithITE,which
provides a basis for commencing that career and for ongoing learning. In-service learning, by
contrast, anticipates and enables a progression towards ‘adaptive expertise’ on the part of those
teachers whose teaching roles remain primarily classroom based. We use the term ‘adaptive
expertise’torefertoa dispositiontoprofessional practice and learning that involves “intentionally
seeking new challenges and insights rather than resting on one’s laurels” (Bransford 2007, p. 1).
Thisis a viewof self thathas increasingvalue toprofessionalswhoare working in a rapidly changing
world,where lessflexible formsof expertise maybecome impedimentsto professional competence.
Indeed, Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005), suggest that ‘adaptive expertise’ represents the
‘gold standard’ outcome for professional education. The development of adaptive expertise, as
representedinFigure1below,involvesanoptimal interaction between engagement in innovation,
and the developmentof the pedagogical routineswhichare the basis for teaching efficiency. Other
research on expertise suggests that this process is more punctuated than incremental—by
implication periods of innovation should be followed by periods of consolidation, with the latter
allowingthe refinementandautomationof the new routinesthatexpressthe particular innovation.
Figure 1: The dimensionsof adaptive expertise(afterDarling-Hammond&Bransford2005, p. 49)
In theircritique of stage modelsof professional development, Dall’Alba and Sandberg (2006) argue
that a focus on ‘stages’ of step-wise development along that continuum tends to conceal
fundamental aspects of professional skill development. They suggest that the development of
expertise is embedded within the context of professional practice, and can be characterised in
relation to two independent factors: embodied understanding of, and in, practice; and, skill
progressionthatisassociatedwithincreasingexperience. Thus, Dall’Alba and Sandberg are arguing
that professional development tends to follow relatively individual and contextualised
developmental trajectories, trajectories as exemplified in Figure 2, below.
Figure 2: Model of development of professional expertise (afterDall’Alba&Sandberg2006, p.400)
The four distinct trajectories represented in Figure 2 acknowledge that: skills can develop without
substantive additional understandings – (c); understandings can develop without improvement in
skills – (b); and, skilfulness can regress, while understandings improve – (a) – as is often the case
withattemptsat innovation. Onthe other hand, (d) represents stasis in terms of the development
of professional expertise, an unfortunate yet too common phenomenon. Each of these
developmental pathways is available to those teachers engaged in professional learning.
The second and related proposition underlying the paper is that teacher learning is deeply
contextualised. Thatis,while “current teacher development theories put the teacher as learner at
theircentre”(Slepkov2008,p. 86), we see this as a necessary but insufficient acknowledgement of
the complex relationships between teacher learning, educational improvement, and the ‘local
learning infrastructure’. We use this expression to represent site-centric cultures, structures and
operational parameters, and the implications of those site-centric factors for the achievement of
change in teacherpractices,andsubsequentimpactson student learning (see Sparks & Hirsh 1997).
change in practices is likely to require changes in that infrastructure.
Third, responsibility for teacher learning is shared by a number of parties. The teacher, as one of
theirprofessional responsibilities,mustbe opentolearning,andactivelyseekopportunities to learn
inways thatwouldbenefittheir professional practice. That is, they must engage in and be models
for theirownstudents,of continuousandself-directed learning in ways associated with the notion
of adaptive expertise. Giventhatteacherswork collegially and collaboratively their own peers and
supervisor/s have a responsibility to support and contribute to teacher learning. In all contexts
specificagenciesare chargedwithprovidingopportunitiesforformal learning. These usuallyinclude
boththe formal institutionsinvolvedinprovidingITE and TPD, as well as the employing authorities.
Before leaving this introduction we want to define what we mean by ‘teacher learning’. We use
John Biggs’ (1999, p. 13) cognitively-based and adult focused view that learning is:
...a wayof interactingwiththe world. Aswe learn,ourconceptions of phenomena change,
and we see the world differently.
The range of interactions that could contribute to teacher learning include, but are not limited to,
experience itself, conversations with colleagues, reading, reflecting, experimenting. Not only can
teachers‘see the worlddifferently’ as a result of such interactions, but as a result they can interact
with it differently. For teachers this can result in two different types of outcomes. Learning can
focus on improving what they are currently doing. For example, they can seek to improve the
relevance to their students of a particular unit of work. This might involve attempting to see that
aspect of the world more as their student see it. This improvement-focused learning tends to be
incremental innature,andmostof practice-focusedlearning is of this type. Learning can also focus
on changingwhatteachers do. Educational policies call for this second type of learning when they
require teachers ‘to see the world differently’ in ways that depart from current practice.
An individual’s ‘conceptions of phenomena’ are an outcome of learning. Gunnar Handal and Per
Lauvås (1987) provide a representation of teacher knowledge that links ‘conceptions’ with
interactions, and was one of the earlier expressions of the intellectual tradition which John Biggs
(1999) draws on in his definition quoted above. Handal and Lauvås (1987) distinguished between
the conceptions associated with formal theories and those which are the basis of personal
understandings,andwhichare the basisfordecisionmakingandaction.We refer to this knowledge
as ‘personal-professional knowledge’. Figure 3, illustrates an adapted version of their discussion.
Figure 3: Personal-professional knowledge(afterHandal &Lauvås 1987)
Personal-professional knowledge is an outcome of both personal experiences and transmitted
knowledge. Mostimportantly,ateacher’sattitudes,beliefsandvaluesare the filtersthroughwhich
they give attention to those experiences and knowledge, and which frame the meaning that they
attach to those experiencesandknowledge. (We returntothe issue of perceptual filtersinthe later
discussion of Biggs’ ‘3P’ model of learning.) In a profound sense, teacher learning is the process
through which an individual’s ‘personal-professional knowledge’ is updated.
In summary, teacher learning involves the interactions with their world by which teachers develop
the personal-professional knowledge that is the basis of their professional decision-making and
practice, and through which they change that knowledge as a means to improve and/or change
specific aspects of those decisions and/or that practice.
Teacher learning in Singapore
HarionSalleh(2008, pp. 88-92) identifiedthree landmark initiatives in terms of recent professional
developmentinSingapore. The first involved the establishment on the Teachers Network in 1998.
As a unit within the Ministry of Education (MOE) its vision and mission are to:
“builda fraternityof reflectiveteachersdedicatedto excellentpractice throughanetworkof
support, professional exchange and learning”; and,
“serve as a catalyst and support for teacher-initiated development through sharing,
collaboration and reflection leading to self-mastery, excellent practice and fulfilment”
(Salleh 2008, p. 88).
The bottom-up nature of these statements is indicative of a significant new approach to teacher
learning, in contrast with the more traditional top-down approach. The personal and networked
approach,combinedwiththe breadth of the Teachers Network’s mission, imply that the MOE, as a
system, is supportive of a non-instrumentalist view of teacher learning.
The second landmark development can be seen to complement this view. This involved the
introduction of the Enhanced Performance Management System (EPMS) in 2001. This provides “a
comprehensive appraisal framework for all staff in education in accordance to the three tracks –
Teaching, Leadership, and Specialist” – within which they are located. Within each track, “13
competencies are identified to be effective in raising the performance of the education officer”
(Salleh 2008, p. 89). In a profound sense, the EPMS maps the limits of the desired outcomes for
teacher learning. Put differently, the EPMS provides the ‘top-down’ targets for the ‘bottom-up’
The third landmark,initiatedin2003, involvedthe call for“bottom-upinitiative, top-down support”
(Salleh2008, p. 91). Thisis clearlyalignedwiththe firsttwodevelopments,inthatitidentifiesMOE’s
responsibilityforprovidingthe necessaryflexibilityinsupporttoenable ‘bottom-up’learning “in the
spirit of diversity and ‘peaks of excellence’” (p. 91).
Collectively, these three developments mean that in Singapore, MOE and school leaders share
responsibility for initiating and supporting teacher learning that addresses the needs of staff and
students,tailoredtothe site-specific needs. While those ‘needs’ are often generated as a result of
top-downpolicyinitiatives, the responses are intended to be ‘bottom-up’— teacher-initiated and
site-specific. In a profound sense, this is a response to the much-discussed requirement for
flexibility,initiative,diversityandexcellence ineducational practice necessary to national success as
a knowledge economy.
The more recent call by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for teachers “to teach less to our students
so that theywill learnmore”(Lee 2004) provides a substantial addition to the top-down framing of
teacherlearning. Thisnew frame, known as ‘teach less, learn more’ or TLLM, represents “a change
on fundamental ideason epistemology” in a number of areas, as summarised by Ng Pak Tee (2008,
Constructionof knowledge (notjusttransmissionof knowledge)
Social constructivism(notjustindividual study)
Formative assessmentandself assessment(notjustsummative grades)
Ng cautionsthat,while the changesinepistemological beliefs associated with TLLMare intended to
leadto changesinpedagogical practices, the question remains as to “whether the initiatives delve
beyond the surface to change the basic philosophy and approach to education” (p. 13). While
schoolingpractices, the enormousdemandforandof,teacherlearning thatitrequiresalso needs to
Elements of a cognitive view of teacher learning
The literature on teacher learning has been subject to substantive consolidation in recent years.
One of the most important expressions of that consolidation is the work edited by Linda Darling-
Hammondand JohnBransford(2005). Inthat work,Hammerness,Darling-Hammond, Bransford and
colleagues (2005), nominate three widely documented challenges for teacher learning. The first
challenge is titled the ‘apprenticeship of observation’, first discussed by Dan Lortie in 1975. This
refers to “the learning that takes place by virtue of being a student for twelve or more years in
traditional classroom settings” (p. 359). This apprenticeship is the basis for the preconceptions,
particularlythe tacitattitudesandbeliefs,thatall whobeginthe formal processof learning to teach,
bringto that process. The secondchallenge, termed ‘the problem of enactment’ by Mary Kennedy
in1999, requiresthose whoare learning to teach to develop the ability to “think like a teacher” (p.
359). In essence,thischallenge involves the need to enact in practice the new understandings that
they develop during initial teacher preparation. The obverse of this is what Scardemalia and
Bereiter referred to as ‘inert knowledge’ – knowledge that can be recalled but not applied in the
contextof practice. The thirdchallenge involves‘the problemof complexity’. Thisinvolvesthe need
to developbothbehaviouralroutines(basedonthe abilityto ‘think like a teacher’) and the capacity
to interrupt those routines so as to adapt behaviour to specific student responses, “and the
particular objectives sought at a given moment” (Hammerness et al 2005, p. 359).
These three challenges reflect the limitations of our human capacity to think—our basic cognitive
capacities.We wantto provide abrief overviewof the operationof those capacities. Inso doing we
draw on the work of John Biggs, specifically his ‘3P’ model of learning. The model represents
learningasan interactive system,identifying“three pointsof time atwhich learning-related factors
are placed: presage, before learning takes place; process, during learning; and product, the
outcome of learning” (Biggs, 1999, p. 18) – see Figure 4, below.
Figure 4: Adaptedrepresentationof Biggs’‘3P’model of learning
The original 3P model has been adapted to include:
the recognition that ‘the learner’ can be an individual, or a school community, or a larger
the recognition that learning is an ongoing process, so that with the passage of time,
‘products’ become ‘presage’; and,
the role of ‘attentional filters’ in the interactions between the two sets of presage factors,
and the presage factors that are operationalised during the process stage.
The notionof ‘attentionalfilters’wasaddedtothe original ‘3P’model toacknowledge the literature
which suggests that the key ‘process’ actors tend to give differentiated attention to the presage
factors—ignoring some while giving sustained attention to others.
The 3P model represents any formal process of ‘instruction’ as an intervention in an otherwise
natural and relativelytaken-for-grantedflow of experience. As such, all interventions represent an
attemptto capture and/ordirectattention. Thiscan be done inat leastthree ways:the provision of
content-like information – ‘learn this’ or ‘hear this’ – propositional knowledge; the provision of
modelsorexemplarsof procedures –‘do itthisway’ – procedural knowledge perhaps accompanied
by conditional knowledge; and, the provision of information about thinking and learning itself –
‘approach the issue in this way’ – meta-cognitive knowledge. As a result of this intervention, the
presage conditions are changed. Thus, learning has to be understood as a cyclic process. Put this
way, learning is initiated through an interruption of the relatively taken-for-granted flow of
experience –whetherthatexperience is self-directed, or ‘other’ directed, and leads to a change in
how the flow of experience is understood and/or engaged with.
One of the key contributions of the ‘3P’ model is the attention it gives to the presage issues.
Informal views of learning tend to treat the learner as a tabula rasa—the classic ‘empty jug’ into
which information is poured. In our experience, many failures of learning are best understood in
terms of a failure to engage with and address these presage issues. In particular, the
‘apprenticeship of observation’ noted above gives rise to particular personal-professional
knowledge, as well as the benefits and limitations of particular enactments of that knowledge —
beginningteacherstendto model themselves of their favourite teachers, and to overlook the fact
that those teachers may not have been effective for all their peers.
A key aspect of presage conditions, be they meta-contextual or learner-specific, is their relative
‘invisibility’. Beginning and experienced teachers tend to be relatively unaware of the personal -
professional knowledge that influences their participation in any learning process. Similarly, the
institutional culture tendstobe ‘recognised’bythose whoare new toit,but be takenfor grantedby
those whohave workedwithinitforsome time. The literature on ‘conceptual change’, developed
mostlyinrelationtothe teachingof science andmathematics,demonstratesthe powerof so-called
naive understandings or preferences. That literature should serve as a warning that presage
conditions,be theypersonalorsocial innature,have a remarkable resilience. One of the results of
this resilience is the too frequent adoption of the so-called surface approach to learning, where a
prime intention is to perform as though learning has occurred or that change has been achieved,
when these performances have minimal, if any, impact on the original presage conditions.
A socio-cultural view of teacher learning
The literature on teacher learning is increasingly underpinned by socio-cultural views of learning.
This is exemplified in the work of Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005), and Putnam and Borko
(2000), as well as the rapidly expanding corpus that explores learning within professional
communities, as exemplified by McLaughlin and Talbert (2006) and Stoll and Louis (2007). Putnam
and Borko(2000) identifythree themeswithinthis work: “that cognition is (a) situated in particular
physical and social contexts; (b) social in nature; and, (c) distributed across the individual, other
persons, and tools” (p. 4). We briefly elaborate each theme.
The process or activity of learning always takes place in a setting that has physical, social and
affective characteristics. As humans we automatically attend to those aspects, as well as the more
specificcognitiveinformationthatisprovided, or develops through that process. Those contextual
aspectsare automaticallyintegratedwithinthe ‘content’. Integrationis sosignificant that the recall
of content tends to be triggered by re-experiencing one or more of those contexts. For example,
cognitive research suggests that our memory functions to automatically make available to us the
informationthatthe physical contextimpliesthatwe will need. A common example is the memory
of howto place the keycorrectlyina car ignitionsystemissomethingto which drivers who are very
familiarwiththatcar needtogive no consciousattention. Similarly,studentsare advisedto prepare
for examinationsinconditionswhichapproximate the expected physical environment of the exam,
as this assists recall of that information during the subsequent exam.
Cognition-as-social acknowledgesthe fundamental importance of language to conceptual learning,
and that language, in turn, is a social convention. It is through describing and naming experiences
that we developunderstanding. Putnamand Borko (2000) extend this argument to include cultural
practicesbeyondlanguage itself,suggestingthat“learningis as much a matter of enculturation into
a community’s ways of thinking and dispositions as it is a result of direct instruction in specific
concepts, skills, and procedures” (p. 5). This position is expressed in the significance attached to
communities of practice as sites of and for learning, as well developed in the literature on
professionallearningcommunities,andinthe literature that critiques campus-based initial teacher
preparation. Uwe Gellert (2008) extends this acknowledgement through research on pedagogical
routines and collective orientations of mathematics teachers. In particular he argues the need for
the focus of research to shift from individual teachers to communities of teachers in order to
understandhowchange inpedagogical practice requiresbothindividual andcollectiveengagement.
We wantto extendthe analysisof PutnamandBorko by drawing attention to the fundamental role
of emotionsinattemptstorevise personal-professional knowledge. Immordno-Yang and Damasio
(2007) suggestthat“the relationshipbetween learning, emotion and body state runs much deeper
than manyeducatorsrealize andisinterwovenwiththe notionof learning itself” (p. 3). Drawing on
findings from neuroscience, they argue that effective functioning in the ‘real world’ requires the
integrationof emotional andcognitivethought. Indeed,theysuggestthatemotions direct effective
reasoning, rather than vice versa: “the processes of recognizing and responding to complex
situations...are fundamentallyemotional andsocial”(p.7).The acknowledgementof the ‘personal’
nature of the understandingsthatunderlieactionsisanacknowledgement that those theories have
an affective as well as cognitive nature. By implication, the explanatory power of transmissible
knowledge may appear of little value to real world functioning of teachers that ‘requires the
integration of emotional and cognitive thought’. Indeed, the very focus on ‘rationality’ may
contribute to the much-lamented theory-practice divide.
The linkbetweenemotionandcognitionrequiresacknowledgmentbecause of the central role of the
teacheras an individual,aperson,asimpliedinthe earlierquotation:“currentteacherdevelopment
theories put the teacher as learner at their centre” (Slepkov 2008, p. 86, our emphasis). There are
two issues that have particular salience as a result of this acknowledgement: the moral nature of,
and, the emotional labour that is, teaching. Robert Boody (2008) exemplifies the relationship
betweenmoral purpose andprofessional learning,and illustrates the way that moral commitments
tendto provide the motivationforundertakingthe riskybutrewardingworkof self-directedteacher
learning. He usesthe expression‘toughlove’toexpressthissense of obligationandmoral response.
Mary DixonandRose Liang(2009), in interviewing 75 Singaporean primary and secondary teachers,
foundtheirindividual moral commitmentsgave profoundmeaning and direction to their education
practices.Theysuggestthatthese individualsexperiencedconsiderable emotional stress as a result
of the tension between their sense of personal moral purpose, and the prevailing (and necessary)
systems-based approach to educational improvement. Few accounts of teacher learning
acknowledge this personal and emotional element, or its significance.
The complexityof some tasksrequires that their achievement involve contributions from teams of
individuals, as well as physical and symbolic tools, often in the form of sensors attached to
computers. Modern motor cars, for example, are so reliant on sensors and computer decision-
systemsthatevenexperiencedmechanicsrequire additional computingcapacityto engage with the
car’s own diagnostic systems. Similarly, there are consistent calls for inter-disciplinary and trans-
disciplinary collaborations as a means to access the range of information needed to address any
complex problem. The researchof Gellert(2008),referredtoabove,illustratesthe collective nature
of learning (and not-learning) as teachers engaged in professional conversations.
These three factorssituncomfortablywiththe relatively individualistic notions of learning that are
impliedbymosttraditional formsof educational practice,includingprofessional development. This
is most evident in the assessment practices associated with formal education, where open book
examsandgroup workare viewedwithscepticism in terms of ‘measuring’ individual learning. The
notion of ‘authentic’ assessment has been developed as a response to this perception, but even
then, the focus of application tends to remain the ‘isolated cognitive individual’ rather than real
world functioning that require recognition and response to complex situations in ways that are
‘fundamentallyemotional andsocial’. The significance of these three factors has to be addressed in
any model of the processof teacherlearning. One accountthat approachesthis acknowledgement,
represented in Figure 5 below, is provided by Peter Jarvis (2005).
( TimeTime The Whole Person –
The Whole Person –
Body/Mind/Self –Life History
An Experience –(Episode)
Figure 5: A model of the process of human learning(afterJarvis2005, p.8)
While all models are simplifications, this model suggests that learning results from a complex of
interactionsinvolving:the person’s life history; social situations; socially constructed experiences;
emotion;action;and, thought/reflection. The topsectionof the figure implies that if an experience
failstoengage emotionsandactionsandthought,thenitisunlikelytoleadtolearning. Thisinvolves
the 1+2+3 subroutine that results in outcome 4. On the other hand, the 1+3+5+6+7 subroutine
resultsin outcome 8, ie, a change in personal-professional knowledge. Jarvis argues that both the
whole personandexperience as-a-unityare transformedasa resultof learning:“As time progresses
and experiences are transformed, human beings are always in the process of becoming ... always
emerging ” (Jarvis 2005, p. 13).
In acknowledging the involvement of both external and internal contexts in learning, it also
acknowledges that experience, in itself, does not necessarily lead to changes in personal -
professional knowledge. Similarly, exposure to ‘transmitted knowledge’ (see Figure 3) or
‘professional development’, of itself, may not lead to learning. Significantly, the 1+3+5+6+7 sub-
routine involvesengagement in and with, experience, reflection, emotion and action. It reflects a
fundamental rejectionof aviewof humanlearningasstrictly rational. The latter view reflects what
Gray (2002, p.64) refers to as a ‘cardinal error’—equating “what we know with what we learn
throughconsciousawareness”. Our pointisthat a socio-cognitive view of learning neither implies
nor requires rationality. It is, on the other hand, the basis for functioning as lead learners.
This discussion of teacher learning for school improvement can be summarised in terms of an
adaptedversionof the three challengesforteacherlearningidentified by Hammerness et al (2005),
discussedabove. Thisadaptationlocatesthosechallengesalongthe continuumof teacher learning,
rather than within ITE. At a more generic level, these challenges are largely associated with the
presage andprocessof learning,particularlythe former. Inthisbroadercontextthe ‘apprenticeship
of observation’ includes observations and experiences of attempts at teacher learning for school
improvement. In particular, we highlight the impact of negative experiences of this process in
teachers’ preparedness to re-engage with this intention. Our experiences suggest that one of the
best predictors of the potential for change in a school, are the outcomes of recent attempts to
engage in change – positive presage can be built upon, negative cannot be ignored.
Thought / Reflection
The Person(Body/Mind/Self) changed
– changes ‘stored’
Person more experienced
The belief systemsof individualsrepresent,asnoted earlier,a particularly important presage factor
associated with the ‘apprenticeship of observation’. The beliefs, and related language patterns,
developed through this apprenticeship serve to both anchor learning with particular patterns of
experience, and to invite a miss-recognition by participants of richer theoretical ideas as having
eithersimilarmeaning to an individual’s personal-professional knowledge, or no relevance in the
context of their professional practice. Other research indicates that it is more difficult to change
existing beliefs than to develop new ones. Again, this makes the challenge of refurbishing the
personal-professional knowledge of those engagedinTPDvery difficult. The ‘take home message’is
that teachers play a key role in their own learning through the individual personal-professional
knowledge thattheybringtoITE andTPD. Of no lesssignificance isthe riskthatexperience tendsto
consolidate those personal-professional theories, making subsequent changes in them more
difficult to achieve.
Thisis where the interactionsbetweenthe embeddedandembodiednature of professionalpractice,
and the ‘local learning infrastructure’, and the intended outcomes, must be acknowledged and
engagedwithin order to address ‘the problem of enactment’. The routines that express teachers’
personal-professional knowledge are bothcollegial andindividual. School improvement necessarily
involveschangesand/orrefinementinthose routines. However,itisemotionrather than conscious
decisionmakingthatdirectthose routines. The achievementof leadlearningwill require teachersto
reflect,individuallyandcollectively,onthe affective underpinnings of their former practices, and to
anticipate the affectiveconsequencesof the intendedpractices, for themselves, their students and
increasingly, the parents of their students.
This discussion anticipates the ‘problem of complexity’, here strongly associated with the
requirementsof ‘adaptive expertise’. One responsetothischallenge involvesthe development of a
‘local learninginfrastructure’withinwhichindividual teachers are able toenacta largerrepertoire of
pedagogical routines. The currentreality, reinforced by socio-political pressures for accountability
and risk minimisation, is that these school-level infrastructures often exhibit profound
disfunctionality in relation the notions of lead learning, and adaptive expertise. These desired
outcomesinvolverisktaking,andhighlevelsof trustinteacherstomake professional decisionsinan
iterative and developmental way. Accountability and risk minimisation too often point in the
opposite direction—towardspedagogical practicesthatare predictableand highly aligned with pre-
structured curriculum packages, and performance standards for both teachers and students.
Successful engagement with complexity requires an environment of high trust, one where all key
stakeholders engage in processes that are characterised by respect, structure, challenge, and a
shared language that enables meaningful conversations about and through those processes.
The view of teacher learning for school improvement presented here is, like the context within
which it is located, characterised by complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty. Efforts to support
teacherlearningwithinITEandTPD needtobe informedby, and to provide a meta-introduction to,
this thinking if it is to be effective in terms of both direct contributions to the development of
teachers’ capacities, as well as to a less-direct but more long-term contribution to teachers’ self-
awareness. Mostdiscussionsof teacherlearningindicatethatreflectionisan essential tool for such
learning,yettheytendtoignore the cognitive and social complexities within which such reflection
necessarily occurs. Recent research, such as that of Asman and Markovits (2009) and Kaasila,
Hannula, Laine and Pehkonen (2008), illustrate the profound impact of personal beliefs and socio-
emotional orientations on teachers’ attempts to engage in learning. This discussion and that
research argue that a rational, linear-cumulative view of learning is an inadequate basis for the
development of teachers for the 21st
The value of this discussion lies in its bringing-together of otherwise disparate discussions which,
while extremely valuable in their own right, once pooled offer a view of teacher learning that
corresponds in its complexity to the challenges that face those who seek to promote teacher
learningin the 21st
Century. For teachers to be lead learners for 21st
Century school improvement,
where adaptability,resilience andprofessionalism have fundamental importance, teacher learning
must be understood and located within social-cultural, emotional, and ‘local learning
infrastructures’. Learning that helps to achieve change within a context of complexity necessarily
involvesuncertaintyandrisk. This type of learning cannot rely on templates and/or processes that
were developedelsewhere. The professionals best placed to engage with that uncertainty and risk
are those whoworkwithin it—teachers who become lead learners can help achieve and lead local
school improvement. While Singapore’sMOEknowsthis,its own efforts to support TPD need to be
based on a more rigorous and robust understanding of the complexities of teacher learning.
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