Teachers' Learning: Committed and Resilient Teachers are More Effective Practitioners
This paper draws from the findings of seven UK-based teacher education projects funded by the ESRC 'Teaching and Learning Research Programme', which the author was the principal investigator for one and a co-participant in another. Different in design and methodology, the projects point to the roles of teachers in promoting a range of learning outcomes. Together they illuminate phases of teachers' lives, work and careers exploring matters such as, their values and dispositions towards teaching and learning, classroom practices and wider societal and policy contexts which impact on what they do. In turn this sheds light on the formation and re-formation of teacher identity and professional knowledge over time. Working in different and sometimes challenging contexts, many teachers believe in the transformative capacity of education, that is, to change young people's lives for the better. They show a commitment to their learners, often supporting them as individuals. At the same time they cope with competing pressures in their 'working lives', often from managers and politicians, as well as from within their 'personal lives'; yet the barriers between these 'lives' are in some ways permeable and inter-dependent. Many students value teachers, not just because they are 'good' teacher, but because of the people they are. If teachers are to maintain or increase their commitment, resilience and effectiveness they not only have to manage their 'home-work lives' but need to be equipped and supported throughout their lives so that they can recognise and manage the tensions. For example, whereas policy prescription, work intensification and growing bureaucracy restricts professional autonomy and destabilises their work and careers, they might look to forms of professional renewal through engagement in new practices, such as 'assessment for learning'. It may be that current policy restricts teachers' capacity to learn, but the research suggests that improvement will only come about if more expansive learning environments are created, in which teachers talk to each other, that is, to focus on their own classroom practices and what underpins them.
Keywords: Teacher Learning, Teachers' Lives, Teacher Identity
Dr. Martin Jephcote
Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University