Digesting Diane

Monday, December 10, 2012

Diane’s talk – ‘Are there stages in teacher development?’, argued that “the sequence of stages from novice to mastery as identified within many developmental phenomena does not exist in teacher development, and that a trajectory with an implied endpoint is not a useful way to think about teacher training/education.”


So what’s the problem with a ladder?

Where to begin… well one example she offered was Fessler’s Career Cycle (1981).

Pre-service  >  Induction  >  Competency Building  >  Enthusiastic & Growing  >  Career Frustration  >  Stable & Stagnant  >  Career Wind Down  >  Career Exit


Where do you fit? Well, if we apply this to IH it would be impossible to avoid classing the likes of David Carr, Maureen McGarvey and Steve Brent in the latter half – something I’m not convinced any of them would welcome. The problem is that any such grid-like structure only allows for mono-directional ‘progress’.

In fact the cultural metaphor of the ladder – implicit in any stage-based criteria – is “misleading and reductive

Further to this we immediately have the problem of defining the first and last rungs!

It is widely recognised that no student, nor trainee, nor teacher for that matter starts as a blank slate, bringing as we know, all their preconceptions, expectations and lifetimes of experience in with their notebooks and anxieties. So how can we decide where to begin – and if we disregard this entirely, are we not disregarding those very individuals and their needs?

And what about the top? Is it safe to assume that anyone with twenty years’ experience is automatically a ‘good teacher’. Perhaps not. The problem seems to be that we have abundant descriptions of ‘good teaching’ and yet there is “no terminal competence for teachers” (Graves). And independent of context there is “no single way to learn” (Ericson).

Any research in this area – and in fact any stage based criteria – tend to fall flat as soon as it begins to talk of averages – “When was the last time you taught an average student?” We could add, when was the last time you encountered an average teacher?

Diane demanded, “We need to free ourselves from average thinking.”


The problems we face as teachers are myriad and unquantifiable. The number of decisions happening moment to moment in any classroom and the factors influencing those decisions are astounding.

On top of these momentary demands are a huge number of developments; technological, methodological, pedagogical and researchical – which have led to broad and minor changes alike in the teaching environment at every level; from the students, classrooms and materials, to conferences, pedagogy and management decisions.

Super-diversity and Inter-dependance are increasingly the norm.” – The challenge now for teachers is “far more formidable than in the past.”

So how can we train and educate teachers for this?



Diane after debunking so many ladders, shared her own insight on the matter.

The key to this is that it is an ongoing and never-ending process. In each new situation; a new role, a new school, even a new class this process renews itself and builds on what has come before.

The problems inherent in learning the ins and outs of your profession, your institution and your learners will never cease shifting.

This non-linear perspective seems more intuitive in the interweb age. We stopped thinking about career progression as linear a long time ago, why should it persist elsewhere?

But we still need to be careful to steer clear of any frustration, stagnancy or  career wind down. We need to instill and encourage professional curiosity.


So what does it mean for IH?

Well I guess we have to ask ourselves some tricky questions:

Does our organisation / staffroom / DOS team / colleagues … contribute to a culture of continued engaged learning?

And is this enough to stave of stagnation?


If you want to see Diane in full flow, or come to your own conclusions about her speech you can watch the whole thing here:

You can even see our own Mel asking Di a corker here at 24:24






This also connects to an earlier post by Justin about instituting frameworks for development

Observation Debate: Helpful Frameworks?


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