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Learning as opportunities

April 16, 2016

The Australian curriculum has been dubbed “over-crowded” in numerous articles since 2014.

Simultaneously, a burgeoning professional development marketplace persists in promoting Sisyphean lifelong learning – termed in the UK continuing professional development, often abbreviated to its acronym CPD  – which seems likely to generate

a view of policy making which stresses ad hocery, serendipity, muddle and negotiation (Ozga, cited in Ball, 1993, p. 10).

Within this paradigm, teachers behold complexity and react to the terrors of performativity out of mistrust and confusion.

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While research has shown that much of what is identified as professional development has failed to generate improvements in student achievement, misconceptions to be challenged are identified as

  • delivery by experts
  • conference attendance
  • formal, external training
  • costly and time consuming PD
  • PD which is a “necessary disruption to teaching”  (Cole, 2004, p. 5-6).

In troubling times, we are urged to mind the gap.

What if, by maintaining considered awareness of system constraints – pressure exerted to achieve compliance – teachers’ professional attention re-focused on opportunities to apply what we learn in our own contexts?

Readily available opportunities which abound on Twitter, for instance:

Broadening our understanding of what constitutes professional learning (as distinct from professional development) is recommended since

…the concept of professional learning carries little baggage and is seen to be a more embracing term, it provides a better starting point for discussions about ways to improve teacher effectiveness (Cole, 2004, p. 6).

Assisting others to navigate this shift in perception renders complexity a potentially engaging dynamic: Across a daunting fault line, disruption of what has previously been taken for granted has potential to renew teachers as agents of change without unnecessary distinctions between theory/practice (Sachs, 2003).

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Selected references

Ball, S.J. (1993). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 13(2), pp. 10-17Retrieved August 22, 2014 www.onesearch.uwa.edu.au

Ball, S.J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), pp. 215-228. Retrieved April 16, 2016 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0268093022000043065

Cole, P. (2004). Professional development: A great way to avoid change. Melbourne: IARTV Seminar Series No. 140. Retrieved April 16, 2016 http://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/professional-growth-resources/performance-and-development-resources/professional_development_a_great_way_to_avoid_change_-_pcole_2004_iartv.pdf

Sachs, J. (2003). The activist teaching profession. Buckingham: Open University Press.

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