Clare and I (Clive) are glad to announce the release of our new book Growing as a Teacher, published by Sense. https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/professional-learning-1/growing-as-a-teacher/
It’s based on the first 8 years of our longitudinal study of 42 teachers, teaching mainly in Ontario but also New York and New Jersey.
Our central finding was that teachers learn a great deal informally, especially through classroom experience. This is in line with Donald Schon’s (1983) notion of “reflection in practice”: teachers learn through “experimental research, then and there, in the classroom” (p. 66). Similarly, Chris Day (1999) speaks of “the largely private, unaided learning from experience through which most teachers learn to survive, become competent, and develop” (p. 2).
Over their first 8 years, our teachers learned about: program planning, assessment, individualization, teaching for relevance, classroom organization, community building, work-life balance, and many other topics. In varying degrees, they developed a comprehensive, integrated vision of effective teaching, going well beyond their initial understanding.
In the book we discuss key implications of these findings:
- Teachers should see themselves as major “experts” on teaching, with abundant opportunities to inquire into teaching over the years. They should be willing to make decisions in the classroom and take a firm stance in adapting system initiatives.
- ITE instructors should promote this strong conception of teacher learning and expertise, and see themselves largely as “laying a foundation…preparing novices to learn in and from their practice” (Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p. 1016).
- PD facilitators should dialogue with teachers and build on their emerging vision and approach, rather than imposing system mandates in top-down fashion.
- Principals should support teachers in their learning, providing frequent opportunities for them to watch each other teach and share their developing insights.
Teachers can benefit greatly from external input, but not if it’s imposed “top-down” without reference to their views and experiences.
We have greatly enjoyed listening to the teachers in our study and will continue to do so into the future. We hope their voices and experiences will be helpful to teachers, teacher candidates, ITE instructors, and all those responsible for school policies and ongoing teacher learning.