Accident or Design
: To what extent do teachers plan and own their professional learning?

  • Paul David Walsh

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Professional learning, a key aspect of teacher professionalism, receives considerable interest from the academic and policy making communities; however it is an area with limited empirical evidence specifically relating to teachers working in special schools. This research examines the extent to which eight teachers working in two special schools have ownership and are able to plan their
professional learning within the context of whole school Continuing Professional Development (CPD) processes and activities. It explores whether transformative models of CPD (Kennedy, 2005) offer teachers more support in making choices about professional learning, examining the issues from the perspective of both the teacher and the school.

A distinction is made between professional learning, professional development and CPD. Professional development and CPD refer to the planning, organisation and delivery of professional development activities within schools. Professional learning is the process whereby teachers move towards a greater level of expertise as an outcome of formal and informal professional development.

An interpretive methodology was used to analyse qualitative data gathered from semi structured interviews and school documentation, to build two case studies. Computer assisted qualitative data analysis software was used within the interpretive approach to analyse the data; the intention was to look for patterns and themes in the case studies i order to examine the planning and ownership
of professional learning.

The emerging picture of how effectively teachers were able to plan their learning was a complex one, with teachers expressing variable degrees of ownership and planning. Special school training needs, based on a medical model of identification and intervention, impacted upon the degree to which the teachers interviewed felt that their planning of professional learning was effective. The interpretation of the findings concluded that the effectiveness of the planning of professional learning was curtailed by a lack of personalisation in the organisation of whole school CPD and a lack of coherence between whole school CPD planning and the teachers’ professional learning focus. Evidence revealed that institutional development needs and special school improvement issues often took precedence over teachers’ professional learning needs.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorChristine Lloyd (Supervisor) & Jeanne Kay (Supervisor)

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