Transformative professional learning: an ecological approach to agency through critical reflection

Marguerite Jones, Jennifer Charteris
  • Reflective Practice, May 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2017.1307729

Transformative professional learning -an ecological approach to agency through critical reflection

What is it about?

Within the global economy, education leverages social and economic improvement. Teachers are positioned as drivers and agents of compliance within change processes. Addressing this concern, we investigate intern teacher agency, as transformative professional learning, that occurs through a process of critical reflection. Critical reflection is conceived as an important element of teacher agency within the current political milieu. This article addresses the role of critical reflection in school-based intern teacher professional learning (PL). It is argued that intern teacher agency is inherent in transformative PL characterized through partnerships, which provide scope for decision-making and critical reflection.

Why is it important?

The article commences with an exploration of trends in teacher professional learning. It proceeds with an account of the emergent and ecological nature of agency and an explanation of critical reflection as an integral aspect of intern teacher agency. A framework is introduced that synthesizes Biesta et al.’s (2015) model of agency as a chordal triad with the framework for reflective practice (Jones, 2012). Finally, we illustrate Transformative Professional Learning through an intern teacher case to frame agency as an enactment of critical reflection that affords Transformative Professional Learning.


Dr Jennifer Charteris
University of New England

Transformative professional learning is an appealing construct that is under theorized. The goal of this paper is to make overt the practices that are inherent in such profound professional learning. These may otherwise be taken for granted or even underestimated. Rather than being a linear set of steps that results in the output of agency as an innate and static attribute that someone can have, we posit that agency is produced ecologically through the interplay between the three chordal dimensions of the model. Teacher agency is an important aspect of critical reflective practice and as such is an important feature of initial teacher education. This is particularly salient in the current neoliberal climate where there is a systematic attack on teacher professionalism that undermines teachers’ capacity to exert judgment and control over their own work (Biesta et al., 2015). Rather than deferring to generic and potentially ill-fitting evidence of ‘what works’, as teacher educators we can support pre-service teachers to develop the knowledge, skills and efficacy to reflexively generate practices, which are bespoke for their context. Through critical reflection, intern teachers can take aspects of different dimensions of the chordal triad to reframe perceptions and to theory-build. Transformative professional learning is therefore a potent process that can be linked with profound shifts in understandings and practice.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Jennifer Charteris