How do teachers learn to teach in a competent manner? Earlier argument suggests that teachers are guided by emerging professional concepts (of education, teaching and learning) and by their actual classroom experiences. Over time, the ability to apply principles associated with a favoured ideal of good practice firms up, boosted by novel insights and innovations during periods of training and further professional development. But the varying situations in which teachers learn how to teach are complex. They are complex because teachers’ professional expertise is—from the start—subject to multiple influences from central government legislation, from classroom and school communities and (initially) from the kind of help and instruction given on teacher-education courses. These latter courses are, themselves, prey to competing political, professional and academic demands. Course leaders must combine a top-down managerial approach (conforming to political legislation) with bottom-up school-based learning, via school—college partnerships, often exhorting student-teachers to integrate these various strands of influence through a form of reflective appraisal or critical thinking.
In other words, when we look at teachers as learners (i.e. as learning to become competent) we find they must integrate a bewildering variety of experiences in order to benefit from them. For this reason, it is likely these days that any coherent system of teacher education and professional development will fall back on various sorts of collaborative (or collegiate) methodologies, just to cope with multiple, diverse pressures. However, they will do so for other reasons than as coping strategies. Modern, democratic states expect young teachers to learn from other practitioners, experts and interested stakeholders while refining their skills. Such expectations, feeding on a seemingly insatiable public appetite for ever higher