Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Developing Teachers' Professional Learning: Canadian Evidence and Experiences in a World of Educational Improvement

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Developing Teachers' Professional Learning: Canadian Evidence and Experiences in a World of Educational Improvement

Article excerpt


This article discusses and examines research, policies, and practices to support the professional learning and development of teachers. Linked to the Canadian Journal of Education's important 40th anniversary, my intent is to provide an article to provoke and stimulate dialogue within the Canadian education community (and beyond) through providing research-generated insights and suggestions. I begin by discussing international debates concerning educational improvement and the manner in which Canada is profiled in international assessments and comparisons. I argue for the importance of research in and from Canada to be conducted and profiled to contribute to a narrative and evidence about Canadian education and the diverse communities and contexts within Canada. Using the example of a recently conducted study of the State of Educators 'Professional Learning in Canada (Campbell et al., 2016), I discuss findings concerning teachers' professional learning. Drawing on the experiences from that study, I conclude by arguing for the importance of learning from, with, and for Canada, that diversity is our strength, but inequities are our greatest challenge.

A World of Educational Improvement

The existence and persistence of inequities in educational experiences within schooling and in outcomes for students is a long-standing concern with considerable attention in Canada and globally. The rising use and profile of national and international assessments, debates about international benchmarking (Schleicher, 2009), and research on the educational strategies, practices, and outcomes in different national contexts (e.g., Barber & Mourshed, 2007; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Fullan, 2010; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2012; Jensen, Sonnemann, Roberts-Hull, & Hunter, 2016; Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010) have contributed to rising interest in the content and processes of "Whole System" educational change at national and/or state/provincial levels, as well as educational improvement within and across districts and schools (Fullan, 2000). The quest of whole system educational improvement is to support all students to learn, all teachers to teach, all education leaders to lead, and all schools (and systems) to improve (Campbell, 2015).

There is considerable debate and critique about the purposes, approaches, and outcomes of policy approaches to transform education systems within and across countries (Sahlberg, 2011, 2016; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009, 2012). One of the main areas of attention and contention is policy and practice concerning the development and work of school teachers. The phrase "the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers" (Barber & Mourshed, 2007, p. 16) promoted by reports from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2010) has become widely used by policy makers.

As Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) propose: "Teaching is at a crossroads: a crossroads at the top of the world. Never before have teachers, teaching, and the future of teaching had such an elevated importance" (p. xii). Nevertheless, while the development and valuing of teachers is paramount in educational improvement, based on our research of teacher learning and leadership in Ontario, Lieberman, Yashkina, and I have argued:

... the emphasis on teachers at the center of educational improvement has proven to be a mixed blessing with divergent views on whether teachers should be the subjects of external changes--for example, with the imposition of teacher performance measurement and evaluations--or the agents of change with opportunities for teachers themselves to develop and exercise their collective professional judgement. (Lieberman, Campbell, & Yashkina, 2017, p. 11)

In this wider context of international assessments, research, and debate, Canada's education systems in general (and/or with reference to specific provinces) have been profiled, researched, and critique. …

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