The professional development of teachers: European perspectives

Anne Edwards, Viv Ellis

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The title of this chapter contains two contestable phrases: the professional development of teachers and European perspectives. Killeavy (2001) suggests that the phrase ‘teacher professional development’ has different meanings across Europe, or no meaning at all. Even when the meaning involves the professional learning of teachers, the research is often characterised by different understandings of ‘development’. Recent studies, for example Gravani and John (2004) and Hagger et al. (2008), have questioned stage-scheme models of teacher development such as that of Fuller and Bown (1975), while the Vitae study (Day and Gu 2007) has teased out complex relationships between teachers’ development and environmental conditions over the professional lifespan. More radically, Ellis’s work (2007a, 2007b) has offered a different view of development with a cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) reinterpretation of the concept of teacher development. Here development is not seen as cumulative or ‘vertical’ (Engestrom 1996: 1), but is characterised by ‘horizontal trajectories across social worlds’ informed by affective stances or dispositions towards practice (Ellis 2007a: 160). In general, however, what development means remains largely unexamined. In contrast, what Europe and being European entails has been endlessly examined, but Europe’s diversity and shifting shape mean that it remains as contestable a concept as development. Back in 1985 Seton-Watson suggested that ‘the word “Europe�? has been used and misused, interpreted and misinterpreted in as many different meanings as almost any word in any language. There have been and are many Europes’ (1985: 9). Twenty-five years later, trying to identify what Europe is and means, leads towards a plethora of tensions, if not incipient contradictions between, for example, the concerns of the newer and the older European states; EU members and those who are not; regions and states; national and European government; and linguistic groups within states. Europe as a late twentieth-century concept emerged to curb the nationalism that led to two world wars, but it remains a work in progress. Education exemplifies the policy flux that characterises both the will to connect at a policy level and the practical difficulties in doing so at national and regional levels. It became an important focus of European activity with the initiation of the Bologna Process in 1999. Intended to create a European system of higher education, the Process now involves 46 countries which all ascribe to the European Cultural Convention. The Bologna Process emphasis on education was soon reinforced by the European Council, at its Lisbon meeting in 2000, when it set the goal of making the European Union (EU) the ‘most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world’. A ‘European Higher Education Area’ (EHEA) which extends beyond the EU, is now being developed; a ‘European Qualifications Framework’ (EQF), which includes doctoral level study, has been established; and existing transnational mobility schemes have been augmented. However, the diversity that marks Europe, within and beyond the EU, still plays out in national policies for teacher education and in their implementation in higher education. It is seen in attempts at creating international coherence; the varied histories and purposes of the institutions that provide teacher education; the different sites in which it occurs and the experiences of the learners as they work in and across those sites. In this chapter we attempt to maintain some purchase on that diversity by seeking common tensions, contradictions and developments in national systems for the professional learning and development of teachers. Our starting point is a heuristic tool (Table 24.1) which owes a great deal to Hedegaard’s (2009) cultural historical analyses of cultures, institutions and practices. By distinguishing between practices at national or regional level, practices within institutions, those in settings within or networked with institutions, and those experienced by learners Table 24.1 permits a focus on the motives that drive those practices and offers lenses through which we can examine how these layers interact in different states or regions and how teachers’ professional learning is shaped in the different settings that comprise teacher education in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Teacher and School Development
EditorsChristopher Day
Place of PublicationLondon UK
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781136715976
ISBN (Print)9780415669702
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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