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Rethinking professional learning for teachers and school leaders

Deborah M. Netolicky (School of Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia)

Journal of Professional Capital and Community

ISSN: 2056-9548

Article publication date: 10 October 2016



Situated within the conversation of the global push for teacher quality and for professional learning that positively shapes teaching practice in order to improve student learning, the purpose of this paper is concerned with transformational learning that actively shifts cognition, emotion, and capacity (Drago-Severson, 2009).


This paper is set against the backdrop of one independent, well-resourced Australian school during its professional learning intervention. It draws together findings from a narrative study that examined the lived experiences of 14 educators. The educators interviewed for this study included the researcher (also an educator at the school), two teachers, and 11 school leaders at middle and executive levels.


While the study set out to explore how educators’ experiences of professional learning (trans)form their senses of professional identity, it found that it is not just professional learning, but epiphanic life experiences that shape professional selves and practices. Learning is highly individualized, not one-size-fits-all. It is that which taps into who educators see and feel they are that has the most impact on beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, and practices.


This study suggests that transformational professional learning can occur in a wide range of life arenas. It recommends that the definition of professional learning be broadened, that teachers and schools think more expansively and flexibly about what it is that transforms educators, and about who drives and chooses this learning. Schools and systems can work from their own contexts to design and slowly iterate models of professional learning, from the bottom up and the middle out.



Netolicky, D.M. (2016), "Rethinking professional learning for teachers and school leaders", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 1 No. 4, pp. 270-285.



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