Teacher professional development: learning in the subject community

Por: Jeanne Keay.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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While previous research on professional development has concentrated on experienced teachers [1], this research aimed to understand how the process of induction, experienced by newly qualified teachers (NQTs) of physical education (PE) in secondary schools, influenced their professional development. The research adopted a critical realist perspective, which acknowledged ontological realism with epistemological relativism and change as an outcome. In a school PE context, which appears to retain the traditions of the past [2], the impact of individual and group agendas on the process of professional development and how they were internalised by the individual were of particular interest.


The research was conducted in two stages. Stage 1 investigated the experiences of 3 successive cohorts of NQTs through questionnaires; a grounded theory approach [3] was used to analyse data and inform the research process for Stage 2. This paper reports some of the findings of Stage 2, which used an ethnographic approach to case study methodology to investigate the individual experiences of 8 NQTs. Case logs and semi-structured interviews were used to record the data. Meetings took place at 5 points during the induction year and a further meeting, at the end of the NQTs second year in teaching, was used to clarify interpretation of data.


The opportunities for externally based professional development were limited and NQTs became increasingly reliant on the support of the PE colleagues. Their practice suggested that during the year they had accepted the norms of the department, which in most cases were traditional and narrow in scope. They perceived themselves to be different to other teachers and were influenced by the practice of their colleagues.

Discussion / Conclusions

The PE departments provided a setting for professional development in which ad hoc and unplanned learning took place. Experienced teachers appeared to become unintentional ‘standard setters’ for the NQTs and it is doubtful whether they realised the extent of their influence on the development of the NQTs. The opportunities offered through school-based professional development are enormous [4], but the process must be intentional and, if PE is to make any progress, must include critical self-reflection by all PE teachers.



  1. Armour, K. & Yelling, M. (2002) PE and Sport Today, 10, 13-15
  2. Curtner-Smith, M. (1999) Sport, Education and Society, 4(1), 75-97.
  3. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research, London: Sage
  4. OfSTED (2003)PE in Secondary Schools, London: OfSTED




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