Teacher professional learning and development

by Helen Timperley

Overview

Timperley reports on the results of her research into what teacher professional learning needs to take into account if it is to be effective for both teachers’ practice and students’ outcomes. She identifies 10 key principles, all of which are interrelated.

This article's excellent organisation and practical content make it very useful for all school leaders. It is as relevant to middle and senior leaders as it is to principals.

One of our reviewers attended a session where this material was used with a cluster of principals. “It was really helpful for thinking through key areas for planning professional development. The headings provide a great starting point for reflection,” he said.

Teacher professional learning is an ongoing cycle that begins with schools identifying the educational outcomes they value for their students. Then they need to identify the knowledge and skills that teachers need so that students can bridge the gap between current understandings and the valued outcomes.

Timperley has identified that active leadership in organising and promoting teachers’ engagement with professional learning is a key component in achieving significant changes in their practice.

Active leadership involves:

  • developing a realistic vision of better student outcomes, more meaningful curriculum content, and different pedagogical practices
  • managing teachers' engagement in their learning processes and helping them to translate their new understandings into effective practice, using external expertise where necessary
  • participating in the professional development themselves, so that schools better understand the conditions that will sustain teachers’ ongoing learning.

Reflective questions

These questions may guide you as you read the article:

  • How do you and your other school leaders help teachers address the question: “What do we as teachers need to learn to promote more effective learning for our students?” (Principle 4 – assessment for professional inquiry)
  • In Principle 5, Timperley reminds us that all learning activities for staff will require both trust and challenge if they are to bring about real change in practice. There is likely to be a difference between teachers’ existing ideas and the ideas being promoted for them to adopt. This implies taking risks. In your leadership of teachers' professional learning, how will you ensure that teachers will feel supported and safe through this process?
  • As part of the cycle of professional development, what steps will you put in place to identify the impact of teachers’ changed practice on your students?

Further reading

Kreider, H. & Bouffard, S. (2006). Questions and Answers: A conversation with Thomas R. Guskey. The Evaluation Exchange, XI(4), Winter 2005/06.

Robinson, V. (2007). “School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why”. In the ACEL Monograph Series. No. 41. October. This article has an extensive list of references to consult.

Videos

Helen Timperley videos:

Professional learning that makes a difference to students – Edtalks

Self review

Reference

Timperley, H. (2008). “Teacher professional learning and development”. In The Educational Practices Series – 18. Ed. Jere Brophy. International Academy of Education & International Bureau of Education: Brussels.

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