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Improving professional development relationships that support teacher learning

Danielle Lillge (Department of English, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 2 October 2019

Issue publication date: 16 October 2019




Current top-down literacy reform mandates have reenergized attention to professional development (PD) outcomes. Still, questions remain about why English teachers struggle to apply their learning. Refocusing attention on understanding the complex yet critical relationship between professional development (PD) facilitators and teachers offers one explanation.


Using a telling case from an interactional ethnography, this paper illustrates how through their language-in-use teachers and facilitators can productively resolve conflicts that, if left unaddressed, can prevent teachers from acting on their professional learning.


A set of discursive moves – flagging, naming, soliciting and processing – provide a toolkit for surfacing and successfully resolving conflict in PD interactions.

Research limitations/implications

These moves offer a way of prioritizing the importance of teacher–facilitator relationships in future research aimed at addressing the longstanding conundrum of how best to support English teachers’ ongoing professional learning.

Practical implications

Teaching facilitators and teachers how to collaboratively address inevitable conflicts offers a needed intervention in supporting both teacher and facilitator learning.


Previous research has affirmed that facilitators, like teachers, need support for navigating the complexity of professional learning interactions. This paper offers a language for uncovering why teacher–facilitator interactions can be so challenging for teachers and facilitators as well as ways of responding productively in-the-moment. It contributes to a more capacious understanding of how these relationships shape diverse English teacher learning.



Lillge, D. (2019), "Improving professional development relationships that support teacher learning", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 365-381.



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