Teachers’ learning and work relations: (Shifting) engagements and challenges
Relative to other workers, teachers show high levels of engagement in both formal and informal modes of learning. Because teachers’ area of professional expertise is supporting (student) learning, they represent a particularly interesting group for analysis. While teachers generally perceive considerable relative autonomy in structuring the learning environments of their students at the micro-level of the classroom, they have had much less control over the institutional contexts shaping their own professional development or learning needs. Traditionally, much professional development for teachers has been formal and developed ‘from above’ without including the voices and perspectives of teachers. Our decade-long case study on Canadian teachers’ learning was designed to illuminate how teachers themselves perceive their learning engagements and challenges. This chapter will summarize our key findings. One primary finding is that teachers especially understand the necessity and value of work-related informal learning, particularly through collaboration with colleagues. Complex institutional dynamics, from policy directives to management trends, both enable and constrain teachers’ engagement with, and prospects for, informal learning. While the pressures for lifelong learning under the guise of the knowledge-based economy have penetrated into the domain of school teaching, our study suggests that the institutional dynamics have not generally been (re)aligned to better support teachers’ informal learning needs and desires.