Monthly Archives: December 2010

What is teacher’s professional development?

I started wondering, do I handle the concept “teacher professional development” too easily? What is it exactly, how it can be measured, what are the phases or characteristics of this phenomena? As Evans (2008) said: Yet if we want to know how to get the best out of teachers we need to understand teacher development. Essentially, we need to understand the process involved: what must happen in order for teachers to develop. After reading different authors, I highlight following definitions:

Evans (2008): the enhancement of their professionality, resulting from their acquisition, through a consciously or unconsciously applied mental internalisation process, of professional work-related knowledge and/or understanding and/or attitudes and/or skills and/or competences that, on the grounds of what is consciously or unconsciously considered to be its/their superiority, displace(s) and replace(s) previously-held professional work-related knowledge and/or understanding and/or attitudes and/or skills and/or competences. It is a form of personal enlightenment, on a scale that may range in magnitude from being enormous to miniscule, that is relevant to the individual’s professional life and practice. It is a mental, not a practical, process – though it may (and often does) motivate practice. Since it is a mental process it is also an independent, not an interpersonal, process – though its stimulus may be (and often is) found in interaction with others. Internalisation process that occurs within someone’s mind: the mental process whereby an individual arrives at the stage of knowing something (in relation to his/her professional work) that s/he did not previously know, or of understanding something that s/he did previously understand, or of knowing how to do something that s/he did not previously know how to do, or of holding attitudes that s/he did not previously hold.

Evans proposed model for teacher professional development which is illustrated in the figure below.

She explains the model:

behavioural development definition: the process whereby people’s professional behaviour or performance are modified with the result that their professionalism, professionality or professional practice may be considered to be enhanced. Her definitions of attitudinal and intellectual development differ from this only by the replacement of the words ‘professional behaviour or performance’ with, respectively, ‘work-related attitudes’ and ‘professional-related knowledge, understanding or reflective or comprehensive capacity or competence’.

In relation to second tier dimensions, labels are intended to be generic, umbrella, labels rather than narrowly stipulative. By epistemological change she means change in relation to the bases of what people know or understand and to their knowledge structures. Rationalistic change is about change to the extent and nature of the reasoning that people apply to their practice. Analytical change refers to change to the degree or nature of the analyticism that people apply to their working lives. Comprehensive change involves the enhancement or increase of knowledge and understanding. Perceptual change refers to changes in perceptions, viewpoints, beliefs and mindsets. By evaluative change she means changes to people’s professional- or practice-related values, including the minutiae of what they consider important: that is, what matters to them. Motivational change refers to increased motivation and levels of job satisfaction and morale. Processual change is about change to the processes that constitute people’s practice – how they ‘do’ or ‘go about’ things. Procedural change similarly relates to changes to procedures within practice. Competential change involves the increase or enhancement of skills and competences. Finally, productive change refers to increase of people’s output: to how much they achieve, produce or ‘do’.

Day’s (1999) definition: Professional development is the process by which, alone and with others, teachers review, renew and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of teaching; and by which they acquire and develop critically the knowledge, skills, planning and practice with children, young people and colleagues through each phase of their teaching lives.

Ganser (2000): Professional development includes formal experiences (such as attending workshops and professional meetings, mentoring etc) and informal experiences (such as reading professional publications, watching television documentaries to an academic disclipline etc.). When looking at professional development, also have to be examined the content of the experience,  the process by which the professional development will occur and the contexts in which the professional development will take place.

Villegas-Reimers (2003) have pointed that professional development of teachers’ has several characteristics:

– it is based on constructivism rather than on a “transmission-oriented model”. Teachers are treated as active learners who are engaged in the certain tasks of teaching, assessment, observation and reflection.

– it is perceived as a long-term process, teachers are expected to learn over time.

– it is perceived as a process that takes place within a particular context. Villegas-Reimers refers to Darling-Hammond (1998) by stating that the most effective form of professional development is that which is based in schools and is related to the daily activities of teachers and learners. The most successful teacher development opportunities are on-the-job learning activities such as study-groups, action research and e-portfolios (Wood and McQuarrie, 1999).

– professional development process should me intimately linked to school reform as it is a process of culture building not just skill training.

– a teacher is conceived of as a reflective practitioner, someone who enters the profession with a certain knowledge base and who will acquire new knowledge and experience based on that prior knowledge

-professional development is conceived of as a collaborative process

According to Villegas-Reimers (2003), the most traditional form of professional development is the typical “in-service staff training” that includes the use of workshops, short seminars and courses. Another types of professional development forms are for example case-based professional development, self-directed professional development, collegial development (professional dialogues, peer-supervising etc), observations of excellent practice, increasing teacher participation in new roles, skills development model, reflective model: teacher as reflective practitioner, project-based models, portfolios, action research, teacher narratives, the cascade-model or training-of-trainers model, coaching-mentoring.


Recently I had an useful discussion with Samuel Mathews from University of West Florida about my PhD plan. He asked my how do I measure my teachers’ professional development and as I have been struggled here a bit and admitted that maybe this phrase has been used to easily,  he totally agreed with me. Then he brought good example about his own development: He used to use paper-based textbooks with his students for years. Suddenly he discovered that electronic materials are more up-to-date and start using them instead of books. That can be considered as his professional development – moving from paper-based approach to e-approach.

What about my target group? He suggested that if there is starting to develop the conversation between school practice supervisors and university supervisors, then professional development of these educators have been taken place. They did not collaborate before, but now they do. It can be measured, how often, on what issues, with which responses they do communicate. Or pre-service teachers or induction year teachers who present their development portfolios to university or commission currently mainly paper-based. But if they start to using e-portfolios, professional development have occurred.

Sam also pointed that I can measure if with the implementation of e-portfolio, the communication between school-university-pre-service teacher will change less formal; if the questions that will be asked in e-portfolio, change somehow in time, if the reflections of pre-service teachers will develop and go more in depth in years – all these aspects measure the professional development of my stakeholders.

This discussion gave me really valuable input as I was a bit in trouble in that issue really.


Day, C. (1999) Developing Teachers: the challenges of lifelong learning (London, Falmer).

Evans, L. (2008). “What is teacher development and how is it achieved? Ontological and processual models”. Paper presented within the symposium, Issues in European Teacher Development: linking theory and practice, at the European Conference on Educational Research, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 10-12

Ganser, 2000Ganser, T., (2000). An ambitious vision of professional development for tacher, In NASSP, Bulletin, 84

Villegas-Reimers, Eleonora. 2003. Teacher Professional Development: An International Review of the Literature. Paris: UNESCO, International Institute for Educational Planning.

Wood, F.H., & McQuarrie, F. (1999, Summer). On-the-job learning. Journal of Staff Development, 20(30), 10-13.