Historically, formal directive approaches to teacher learning, based upon a developmental expert-to-learner model, have dominated policy and research, with limited success. This study is based on a learner-centered view of teachers learning from the problems of their own teaching. It demonstrates the understandings that can result from teachers’ explanations of what they do and why when they encounter everyday situations that evoke their learning. Further, the microethnographic study renders these explanations as a framework for further research on teacher learning in informal school-related settings. The framework emerged from a constant-comparative analysis of the structure, language and content of a years’ worth of journal entries written by 10 teachers in Lithuania and the United States in three very different primary schools: an established Russian school in Lithuania, a Lithuanian school restructured since the political change over, and a newly built school in the American Midwest. The choices of schools and teachers were made to intentionally amplify cultural and social differences, and all entries were written and analyzed in their original languages: Lithuanian, Russian and American English. Analyses of the entries were triangulated with two years worth of ethnographically collected data at the schools, including multiple interviews with teachers and administrators. Analyses revealed that in their journals all the teachers expressed their dispositions toward learning, identified their sources of learning, highlighted problems as their focus for learning, described processes in which they engaged in their attempts to solve professional dilemmas and expressed their reaction to those dilemmas. Their entries reflect what they thought was important to record and explain within these five domains: the extent to which their manner toward seeking learning was opportunistic or proactive; whether they pursued learning alone or socially; where they focused to improve—on themselves or on their teaching; the ways in which their responses to dilemmas were emotional or cognitive; and, how they engaged with their process of learning—spontaneously or more deliberately. We represented these domains and dimensions as a conceptual framework of learner profiles. The framework represents the dominant qualities of each teacher, individually, allowing for displays of uniqueness, and comparatively to observe commonality and difference. The article concludes with suggestions for potential questions for research afforded by this framework: How teachers learn through casual interactions with students, colleagues and administrators; how informal learning relates to school culture; how personal culture influences teacher learning stances; and, how teachers make choices to assume a particular stance in a learning situation. These inquiries beg two central questions: Do teachers’ informal learning profiles change, and if so what contributes to those changes? How can teachers productively and satisfyingly learn from and about their practice? Pursuing these lines of inquiry could provide the knowledge necessary to assist teachers in becoming life-long learners and achieving higher quality in their professional performance. These investigations could also be tied to inquiries into relationships between teacher learning and student achievement. Do particular teacher learning profiles associate with particular kinds of student learning, and how are they mediated?
Jurasaite-Harbison, E., & Rex, L. A. (2013). Teachers as informal learners: workplace professional learning in the United States and Lithuania. Pedagogies, 8 (1), 1-23.