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'Useful' professional learning... useful for whom?

Kennedy, Aileen (2015) 'Useful' professional learning... useful for whom? Professional Development in Education, 41 (1). pp. 1-4. ISSN 1941-5257

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Abstract

That continuing professional development (CPD), or learning, for teachers is a good thing seems beyond question. However, broad agreement with the sentiment does not necessarily recognise the complexity of the situation and the multiple perspectives that position teacher professional learning as good, or indeed as fundamental. It quite clearly serves a wide range of purposes, which might be placed along a spectrum from performative to developmental. ‘Usefulness’ is therefore understood in relation to the underpinning perceived purpose of the learning. Under a performative focus, professional learning serves as a form of external accountability, and the usefulness of the learning is related to the extent to which it can be seen to satisfy externally imposed accountability measures, often associated with system-wide reform priorities. Under a developmental focus, professional learning is much more likely to be perceived as useful if an individual teacher or establishment views the learning as appropriate to their own needs, in a specific place at a specific time. This contrast reveals an age-old tension in relation to whom and what professional learning is for.