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Understanding teachers as complex professional learners

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    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Professional Development in Education on 20 Mar 2018, available online: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19415257.2018.1449004.

    Accepted author manuscript, 737 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalProfessional Development in Education
Issue number1
Early online date20 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2019


This article explores how ideas from complexity and ecological thinking have the potential to act as a conceptual lens to help us better understand, design and support teachers’ long-term professional learning. Using primary physical education (PPE) as a curriculum context, the challenges of contemporary professional learning, particularly within this PPE context are explored. From an ecological starting point, key ideas from complexity thinking are then introduced that have the potential to inform our view of professional learning. Teacher professional learning is considered as a process which is recursive and non-linear and two themes as the key to the future are proposed and discussed: the need to recognise and appreciate the ‘initial conditions’ of each teacher and the need to have a long-term focus on five professional learning drivers i.e. self-organise and interact; reflect and inquire; identify and negotiate boundaries; consolidate, challenge and create, and make connections. As this recursive process unfolds, we stress how teachers should be supported to elaborate and deepen their knowledge, skills and relationships through a mixture of experiences that consolidate, challenge and support creativity. © 2018 International Professional Development Association (IPDA)

    Research areas

  • complexity thinking, ecological perspectives, primary physical education, professional learning

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