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Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

Factors affecting teachers participation in professional

learning activities
Kitty Kwakman*
Department of Curriculum, Faculty of Educational Science and Technology, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede,
The Netherlands

Received 9 March 2001; received in revised form 17 May 2002; accepted 15 July 2002


This paper describes two studies into teacher workplace learning. The rst study aimed at developing a denition of
teacher learning at the workplace and at exploring factors that may affect teacher learning at the workplace. Based on a
conceptualization of teacher workplace learning as participation in professional learning activities, the second study
addressed two research questions to be answered by means of a survey: 1) To what extent do teachers participate in
professional learning activities? and 2) What factors affect this participation? Results reveal great discrepancies between
theory and practice in opportunities for professional learning at the workplace.
r 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Professional development; Secondary school teachers; Teacher improvement; Teacher surveys; Teacher learning;
Professional learning activities

1. Introduction background for this curriculum renewal is a

growing need in modern society for people who
In the Netherlands, a large-scale educational are ready for lifelong learning and who know how
reform is currently being implemented in second- to learn. Secondary schools have to bear their own
ary education. This reform aims at a major change responsibilities in this respect and are expected to
in the secondary school curriculum, and is also prepare adolescents in acquiring basic competen-
described as teaching and learning for under- cies for lifelong learning. The interest in these
standing (Hargreaves & Fink, 2000; McLaughlin, learning competencies is closely linked to new
1997). To this end, new subjects addressing social theoretical insights in which learning is conceived
and technical competencies are incorporated into as an active, constructive, collaborative, and
the curriculum in addition to traditional subject context-bound activity. Current theory holds
matter knowledge. Next, the development of that students learn best when they have the
higher-order thinking skills has been explicitly opportunity to actively construct their own knowl-
dened as an educational goal for students. The edge (McLaughlin, 1997, p. 79).
It is widely acknowledged that promoting this
*Tel.: +31-53-4894199; fax: +31-53-4893759.
kind of student learning requires teachers to adopt
E-mail address: kwakmanc@edte.utwente.nl a new pedagogical approach (Bransford, Brown, &
(K. Kwakman). Cocking, 1999; King & Newmann, 2000;

0742-051X/03/$ - see front matter r 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
150 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

McLaughlin, 1997; Putnam & Borko, 2000). In their own knowledge and direct their own learn-
order for students to construct their own knowl- ing. As this active and constructive learning is
edge, teachers can no longer adhere to their heavily inuenced by an individuals existing
traditional role of transmitting knowledge. Instead knowledge and beliefs and is situated in particular
teachers have to full a new role by creating contexts (Borko & Putnam, 1996, p. 674), a
stimulating learning environments and by acting change in teaching practice always affects preex-
as facilitators in students learning processes. How isting knowledge and beliefs as new knowledge
are teachers prepared for this new role? Tradition- and beliefs about teaching, learning, learners, and
ally, teachers attend courses, training, or confer- subject-matter have to be acquired. Consequently,
ences and read professional journals to refresh and teachers must be supported to acquire this new
update their knowledge and skills. Nevertheless, knowledge and beliefs, whereas specic attention
the sufciency of these traditional professional has to be paid to support for changing their
development activities has been debated recently existing knowledge and beliefs in different do-
(Darling-Hammond, 1998; Lieberman, 1996; mains. From this perspective teacher learning does
Moore & Shaw, 2000; Wilson & Berne, 1999). As not take place by transmission of knowledge only,
Bransford et al. state, Much of what constitutes as learning has to be facilitated by creating
the typical approaches to formal teacher profes- favorable learning environments in which teachers
sional development are antithetical to what take charge of their own learning (Bransford et al.,
research ndings indicate as promoting effective 1999; Putnam & Borko, 2000). Although the aim
learning (1999, p. 192). of learning is ultimately a change in classroom
Although there is much agreement about the practice, learning does not only have to be situated
limitations of this traditional professional devel- in this setting, as powerful learning experiences are
opment approach, there is less agreement about gained outside the classroom as well. As Putnam
the way teacher learning has to be organized and Borko state, the most appropriate staff
otherwise. Opinions and solutions regarding alter- development site depends on the specic goals
native ways to support teacher learning seem to for teachers learning (2000, p. 7). Putnam and
depend on the kind of theoretical perspective Borko strongly recommend situating teacher
taken. In the literature two different theoretical learning in multiple learning settings (in and out
perspectives are prevalent that help to understand of classrooms) in which teacher educators play an
different approaches to teacher learning: the important role.
cognitive psychological perspective and the profes- From a professional development perspective,
sional development perspective. In the following traditional professional development activities fall
section these two perspectives will be described short of helping teachers learn how to teach for
and analyzed in order to develop a rationale to understanding. Just as in the cognitive psycholo-
direct further study into alternative professional gical perspective, it is stressed that teachers
development approaches. learning does not primarily address fact-based
knowledge, but that teachers have to learn new
1.1. Perspectives on teacher learning conceptions of content and pedagogy, and have to
take on new roles (McLaughlin, 1997). As these
From a cognitive psychological perspective, this kinds of changes in roles are at stake, traditional
new view on learning does not only apply to ways of learning characterized by transmission of
student learning, but to teacher learning as well knowledge are bound to miss the mark. Instead,
(Borko & Putnam, 1996; Bransford et al., 1999; teachers have to acquire competencies that help
Candy, 1991; Putnam & Borko, 2000). As a result them full this new role. The working context is
of this new view on learning, practicing teachers proposed as the most suitable place in this respect,
themselves have to learn new ways of teaching. But as new teaching competencies can only be acquired
if teachers are assumed to learn in the same way in practice (Hargreaves, 1997; Moore & Shaw,
that students do, teachers also have to construct 2000; Retallick, 1999; Scribner, 1999). However,
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 151

the view on what constitutes a working context the cognitive psychological perspective attributes
differs within this perspective. Some authors to the workplace as a setting for learning, it was
consider the working context as primarily related concluded that studying learning at the workplace
to the daily job of teaching, so largely taking place would be a worthwhile endeavor to shed some
within classrooms and schools. Other authors take light on the question whether schools really are
a broader view on the working context that, next places for teachers to learn. Restricting our study
to classrooms and schools, also includes various to learning at the workplace also implies that we
types of communities such as cross-school profes- focus on learning that is primarily situated in
sional communities, networks, and schooluniver- classrooms and schools and that we exclude
sity partnerships (National Commission on learning within professional communities that
Teaching & Americas Future, 1996; National require contacts with people outside the school.
Staff Development Council, 2000). In order to investigate learning at the workplace
So, both perspectives acknowledge that current empirically, two studies have been carried out. The
reform calls for a debate about new professional rst study consisted of a theoretical review and an
development approaches, and both stress the empirical inquiry into the way teachers learn
situated nature of knowledge and learning. within their workplace, as well as a review of
Although both perspectives advocate that tea- factors that promote or inhibit teachers work-
chers learning experiences have to be situated in place learning. The study was set up to develop a
and out of classrooms, the two perspectives differ denition of teacher learning at the workplace and
not only with regard to the role of staff developers to build an empirical model for explaining teacher
in learning settings outside classrooms but also learning at the workplace. The second study was a
with respect to arguments for situating learning survey investigation, springing from the results of
outside the classroom. In the professional devel- the rst study.
opment perspective teachers themselves are key
actors in directing and arranging their own 1.2. Teacher learning at the workplace:
learning processes, whereas the cognitive psycho- participating in professional learning activities
logical perspective attributes an important role to
staff developers in this respect. Besides, the An answer to the question: In what ways do
professional development perspective favors pro- teachers learn within their workplace? was
fessional communities as learning settings as a obtained from a literature review as well as from
signicant source for learning in addition to the empirical investigation. In the literature review we
learning taking place at the workplace, whereas started from the assertion that cognition is situated
the cognitive psychological perspective favors in nature. From that we searched for adult and
learning settings outside classrooms because the professional learning principles within the elds of
workplace is not considered to be as appropriate school improvement and organizational learning
to reach all learning goals. theories (Lieberman, 1996; Moore & Shaw, 2000).
Both perspectives value the strengths of the So, three theoretical learning principles were
workplace as is demonstrated by the expression unfolded that were taken as constituting elements
that schools have to develop into places for of a denition of teacher learning at the work-
teachers to learn (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Har- place. Next, a qualitative investigation was carried
greaves, 1994; Smylie, 1995). However, as schools out to reveal existing viewpoints of teachers
are expected to provide a large range of learning themselves on their ways of learning at the
opportunities for their teachers, it is also remarked workplace in order to validate the theoretical
that most schools fall short in this respect assumptions. The design and results of this study
(Bransford et al., 1999; Fullan 1993; Hargreaves, will be described after the presentation of results
1997; Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1998; from the theoretical review.
Moore & Shaw, 2000; Putnam & Borko, 2000). The idea that cognition is situated in nature was
Combining this remark with the limitations that taken as a starting point as this idea is prevalent in
152 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

cognitive psychological and professional develop- cing the collaborative level of learning as research
ment perspectives on teacher learning. Theorists into self-directed adult learning has shown that
who consider cognition as situated assume learn- adults undertake many learning projects out of
ing and knowing to be integrally and inherently their own initiatives and bear individual responsi-
situated in the everyday world of human activity bility for planning, executing and evaluating their
(Candy, 1991; Darling-Hammond, 1998; own learning activities (Candy, 1991; Merriam &
McLaughlin, 1997; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Caffarella, 1991).
Scribner, 1999). Thus, learning and participation The notion of individual and collaborative
in activities are integrated, as activity is an learning is also widely addressed in professional
integral part of the learning that takes place within development approaches in which both levels play
it (Putnam & Borko, 2000, p. 4) on the one hand, a signicant role. However, there is a growing call
whereas teacher learning is regarded to be centered for more collaboration in order to stimulate
around critical activities of teaching and learning teacher learning (Hargreaves, 1997; King & New-
on the other hand (Darling-Hammond, 1998). As mann, 2000; Jenlink & Kinnucan-Welsch, 2000;
teachers learning is embedded in everyday activ- Lieberman, 1996; Little, 1993; McLaughlin, 1997;
ities (McLaughlin, 1997) teacher learning at the Moore & Shaw, 2000; Rosenholtz, 1989; South-
workplace is consequently taking place by tea- worth, 1994). The reasoning behind this call for
chers participation in activities within the school collaboration is that feedback, new information or
context. This idea of learning as participation in ideas do not only spring from individual learning,
activities is a rst learning principle that is present but to a large extent also from dialogue and
in school improvement and organizational devel- interaction with other people. Moreover, colla-
opment theory also. Both domains stress the boration is assumed to create a learning culture
integration of work and learning processes as a and helps to build a community in which further
necessary condition for improvement and devel- learning is supported and stimulated.
opment at an individual as well as at an organiza- The third learning principle refers to the aim
tional level (Hargreaves, 1997; King & Newmann, attached to teacher learning: learning is regarded
2000; Livneh & Livneh, 1999; Marsick & Watkins, as necessary for teachers to develop professionally.
1999; Moore & Shaw, 2000; Scribner, 1999; As professional development can be described as
Wenger & Snyder, 2000). The process by which teachers acquire the new
A second learning principle stems from the knowledge, skills, and values which will improve
recognition that learning is not only individual but the service they provide to clients (Hoyle & John,
also social in nature (Jarvis, 1997). The notion of 1995, p. 17) teachers learning is strongly con-
individual learning is prevalent in the concept of nected to professional goals which demand tea-
self-directed learning (Caffarella, 1993; Candy, chers to strive for continuous improvement of
1991; Clardy, 2000; Houle, 1980). However, their teaching practices. From this principle,
individual learning may not be equated with self- teacher learning is rather referred to as profes-
direction as self-directed learning has very differ- sional learning. Moreover, adhering professional
ent meanings which are heavily debated within the aims to learning strongly inuences the preferred
context of critical adult education theory (Brook- and proposed means that may lead to these goals.
eld, 1993; Candy, 1989, 1991). Although the There is much agreement within the literature
political questions raised in this debate appear as about these means, that is to say about how
signicant in the eld of adult education, we do teachers have to learn in order to develop
not intend to open this debate here. We do take professionally. All ways of professional learning
from this debate that learning is culturally bound can be sorted into four categories: three categories
and thus strongly related to the context in which it regarding the individual level of learning, and one
takes place which logically implies that it is also category referring to the collaborative level of
collaborative in nature. However, the individual learning. A rst category frequently mentioned has
level of learning may not be neglected in introdu- to do with reading in order to collect new
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 153

knowledge and information or data (Darling- but also provides teachers with feedback and
Hammond, 1998; King & Newmann, 2000; brings about new ideas and challenges. However,
McLaughlin, 1997; Moore & Shaw, 2000; Scrib- collaboration may take very different forms that
ner, 1999). Keeping up is a core responsibility of do not automatically lead to learning (Hargreaves,
professionals, as the professional knowledge base 1994). Little (1990) convincingly argued that the
underlying professional work does rely on the content of collegial interaction is most important
input of new information since it is subject to in considering the contribution of collaboration to
continuous improvement. Main aim of reading is teachers professional development. The content,
keeping up to date with new insights and devel- what the interaction is about, differs according to
opments inuencing the professional eld such as the extent to which teachers depend on each other
new subject matter, new teaching methods and within this interaction. Thus, Little distinguishes
manuals, new pedagogical approaches, but also four types of collegiality that vary in this respect
new societal developments which have an impact and that refer to collaboration of teachers within
on education and teaching in general. A second their own schools: story-telling, help, sharing, and
category is referred to as doing (Darling-Ham- joint work. In joint work teachers are most
mond, 1998; McLaughlin, 1997; Moore & Shaw, dependent on each other whereas storytelling
2000) as well as experimenting (Bransford et al., demands almost no mutual interdependence and
1999; Houle, 1980; King & Newmann, 2000; takes place informally.
Moore & Shaw, 2000). By doing and experiment- In conclusion, these three learning principles
ing teachers not only gain new experiences but help us to come up with a denition of learning at
apply new ideas as well, so they really put effort in the workplace. Combining the rst two principles
improving their own professional practices within will lead us to conclude that learning at the
the classroom as is most signicant from a workplace may be conceptualized as participation
professional point of view. However, it is debated in activities at an individual and at a collaborative
whether doing in itself may be linked to learning, level. The third learning principle helps to further
as doing also addresses routine behavior (Jarvis, restrict the range of individual and collaborative
1987). So, it is suggested that experimenting as an activities that teachers may participate in by
intentional effort of teachers to try something new stressing that those activities have to help teachers
within the classroom is most appropriate in this in their professional development. It urges us to
respect. A third category that is remarkably often rene activities into professional learning activ-
referred to is reflection (King & Newmann, 2000; ities. So, learning at the workplace is conceptua-
McLaughlin, 1997; Moore & Shaw, 2000; Retal- lized as participation in professional learning
lick, 1999). Reection is viewed as the cornerstone activities, which can be divided into individual
of professional development as it is prerequisite to activities addressing the categories of reading,
recognize and change routine behavior (Schon, . experimenting, and reecting and into collabora-
1983). Unlearning routines is a rst step in tive activities taking place within the school.
changing practices, and thus in improving the Although the denition is applicable to our
quality of teaching and education (Eraut, 1995; research goals we have two remarks concerning
Hoyle & John, 1995). Although it is stressed that this denition. At rst, we may conclude that the
the object of this reection is to address teachers meaning of workplace is confusing as it does not
own way of teaching, the act of reection is only refer to the concrete spot where learning takes
regarded as connected to the availability of feed- place but also to the connection of learning to the
back that may spring from different sources within daily work of teaching. We adopted the idea that
the work environment. The fourth category learning taking place at the workplace is situated
addresses collaboration, also referred to as the in classrooms and schools and so, we excluded
collaborative level of learning. Collaboration is collaborative learning with people outside the
most important to professional development as it school. Actually, our nal denition includes
not only provides necessary support for learning individual activities that can be undertaken outside
154 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

the school as well, like reading and reecting Sixteen secondary school teachers participated
although both categories of professional learning in the study. The sample consisted of 7 teachers in
activities may also take place inside schools. This history, 5 in mathematics, and 4 in Dutch
means eventually that the activity itself is con- language. Their years of teaching experience
sidered more important than the situation in which ranged from 6 to 33 years. Five women and 11
it takes place. Although this is in accordance with men were involved, all of them were teaching in
our own starting points we question whether our upper secondary classes. All interviews lasted at
arguments to exclude collaborative activities out- least 50 min, were tape-recorded and transcribed.
side the school proved valid in this respect. We So, open interviews were conducted in which the
think that collaborative activities in which teachers following topics were addressed:
participate outside the school need to be addressed * recent developments inuencing teaching prac-
in future research especially in connection to
teachers daily work. Nevertheless, in this research * keeping up with the job and with new develop-
we did not include those activities considering the
need for limiting our research domain. Secondly, * learning from teaching;
although we argued that learning and participa- * challenging situations;
tion in activities are conceptually related, it has to * personal and professional development during
be acknowledged that participation in professional
their career;
learning activities is not synonymous with the * participation in and appraisal of extra curricu-
learning that arises from this participation. Never-
lar activities;
theless, the choice to conceptualize learning as the * collaboration with colleagues.
latter was made deliberately, as participation in
activities was considered prerequisite for learning Analysis of the data took place in two phases.
to occur. Moreover, we argue that participation in First, all fragments referring to learning were
professional learning activities has to be investi- selected. Next, these fragments were coded and
gated rst before examining the learning results categorized into professional learning activities
and processes that go along with this participation. using the constant comparison method (Strauss &
In addition to this theoretical answer, a quali- Corbin, 1990). For coding and categorizing
tative study has been carried out to get insight into collaborative activities, the four types of collegi-
the perspective of teachers themselves on how they ality developed by Little (1990) were used. So,
learn at their workplace (Kwakman, 1999). The analysis of fragments referring to collaboration
choice to include teachers voices was made was narrowed towards the content of collegial
deliberately to verify the adequacy of the theore- interactions. This procedure identied 32 different
tical denition of teacher learning at the workplace learning activities. Secondly, all those activities
at rst. Secondly, we wanted to explore the specic were categorized within the four categories of
professional learning activities in which teachers reading, experimenting, reecting, and collaborat-
participate in practice to further operationalize the ing. Results are shown in Table 1.
variable participation in professional learning Littles collegiality types were helpful in struc-
activities for the survey study to be conducted in turing various collaborative activities, as these
the second phase of the research project. There- appeared to form the largest category. Although 6
fore, data gathering took place using an inductive of the 32 learning activities could not be placed
approach (in which teachers were invited to talk into the four categories derived from theory, all
freely about their own learning) to increase the four categories contain relevant professional learn-
chance of getting to know how learning takes place ing activities in which teachers participated during
empirically. However, data were analyzed accord- their daily work. As the majority of activities t
ing to the theoretical categories of teacher learning into the four predened categories, it was con-
at the workplace in order to develop an empirical cluded that the denition of teacher learning
inventory of professional learning activities. at the workplace proved helpful in structuring
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 155

Table 1 tasks, but also to sources of learning that arise

Professional learning activities categorized
from teaching and pupil interaction in itself. So, it
Categories Professional learning activities has to be acknowledged that participation in
professional learning activities takes place beyond
Reading Studying subject matter literature
Reading professional journals the four categories as perceived by teachers
Studying teaching manuals themselves.
Reading newspapers
Experimenting Helping students learning study 1.3. Factors affecting teachers professional
learning activity
Preparing lessons individually
Experiment with new teaching
methods The second part of the rst study explored
Constructing lesson materials factors promoting or inhibiting teachers work-
Constructing tests place learning in order to construct an empirical
Working with new method
model for teacher learning. As most salient factors
Reecting Supervising student teachers
Receiving coaching of guidance that inuence teachers participation in profes-
Coaching colleagues sional learning activities are still unclear, we
Receiving pupils feedback started from a basic model about learning at the
Collaborating (a) Storytelling workplace with the sole assumption that learning
(b) Help:
Asking for help
is inuenced by personal as well as by contextual
Giving help factors (Clardy, 2000; Retallick, 1999; Scribner,
(c) Sharing 1999). To further rene factors within this general
Materials model, we searched for theories that t our
Ideas about innovation conceptualization of teacher learning as participa-
Instructional issues
tion in professional learning activities. So, we used
Ideas about pupil counseling
Ideas about education adult learning theory and social psychological
(d) Joint work theory of work stress. The choice of adult learning
Coordination theory seems inherent to our emphasis on partici-
Joining committees pation in learning activities as this is a familiar
Preparing lessons
research topic within this domain. Although the
Implementing innovations
Not tting into Counseling pupils use of work stress theory may be surprising, this
categories Executing non-curricular tasks choice was inspired by the fact that this theory
Performing management tasks conceptualizes learning as active usage of learning
Organizing extracurricular activities opportunities within the working environment.
for pupils
Moreover, stress theory provides a challenging
Classroom interaction with pupils
Teaching in itself perspective on teacher development as it proposes
a model in which stress and learning are concep-
tually related.
Both theories helped to discern relevant factors.
professional learning activities, and that the notion Concerning personal factors, ve factors were
of professional learning activities serves as a useful discerned. With regard to contextual factors, it
analytical tool. appeared that these had to be split into two
However, activities as they arise in practice also different categories: task factors and work envir-
give cause for questioning the adequacy of the four onment factors. Within these subcategories, ve
theoretical categories and the proposed denition task factors and three work environment factors
of learning at the workplace. Activities that do not were discerned.
t into any of the four categories suggest the The rst three personal factors derive from
existence of other types of activities as well such as adult learning theory. Within this domain, the
participation in non-curricular and non-routine inuence of individual characteristics in generating
156 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

self-directed learning has been examined exten- meaning that is attached to the new professional
sively with the intent to reveal learner character- role teachers ought to full now-a-days and the
istics of successful learners (Caffarella, 1993). responsibilities that go along with this role. The
Although the importance of motivation is stressed second and third factors concern appraisals that
in the literature (Clardy, 2000; Eraut, Alderton, are crucial in the process of meaning-making as
Cole, & Senker, 1998; Farr & Middlebrooks, 1990; judgements mirror how personal and situational
Scribner, 1999), results about the kinds of char- characteristics interact (Boekaerts, 1996). As
acteristics that affect self-directed learning are meaning is situation-specic in nature, appraisals
confusing and even contradictory (Merriam & elicit the meaning teachers attach to different
Caffarella, 1991). A rst possible explanation for professional learning activities by making judge-
these disappointing results is a lack of effective ments about different features of each professional
instrumentation and theory (Clardy, 2000). In learning activity separately. Features considered as
each investigation, a lot of different characteristics most signicant to teachers are the extent to which
are related to self-directed learning addressing a activities are appraised as feasible and meaningful,
mixture of motivational aspects such as attitudes, which implies that both features are regarded as
skills, styles, personality characteristics, as well as separate factors within the model. So, appraisals of
preferences (Candy, 1991). A second possible feasibility and appraisals of meaningfulness of
explanation for this lack of clarity is offered by separate professional learning activities are in-
Candy (1989, 1991) who states that the origin of cluded as second and third factors within the
self-directed learning is less a function of model.
individual character or personality differences The fourth and fth personal factors spring
and more a function of the contextual factors in from work stress theory in which it is assumed that
which people nd themselves. That is, self-directed stress and learning are mutually related, such that
learning is more inuenced by more situational stress affects the participation in professional
factors, leaving individual difference factors with learning activities (Karasek & Theorell, 1990;
less explanatory value (Clardy, 2000, p. 108). Leithwood et al., 1999). This relationship between
According to Candy, self-directed learning can not stress and participation in learning activities
be explained by a context-free personal character- remains conceptual rather than empirical due to
istic such as self-directedness, as peoples will- the fact that work stress research is predominantly
ingness to participate in self-directed learning directed at explaining stress, not at explaining
activities is shaped (y) by their construction of learning. There is some evidence that this relation-
the particular situation and circumstances (Can- ship is much more complex than the Karasek
dy, 1991, p. 155). Starting from a constructivist model assumes (Kwakman, 2001). However, as the
view on knowledge and learning, Candy argues Karasek model represents the dominant perspec-
that personal understandings and attitudes of tive in the occupational stress area due to a clear
individual learners are most important to address, underlying conceptual reasoning (Kwakman,
but only if they are considered to be situation- 2001) and as learning plays a vital role within this
specic and context bound. As motives and model, stress was viewed as an important personal
interests are also shaped and modied through variable to include in the research model. As it was
interaction with other people (p. 199), activities recognized that stress is also a complex concept
will not be entirely self-directed as the environment that is dened in many different ways, we decided
in which they take place is directing learning to a to rely on the way stress is dened and measured
certain degree as well. Hence, it was decided to by Dutch researchers within the area of teacher
select three factors that may capture Candys main stress research (Van Horn, Calje! , Schreurs, &
ideas of personal meaning as well as interactivity Schaufeli, 1997). Findings indicate that two
with the environment: professional attitudes and factors appear as most reliable in this domain:
appraisals of professional learning activities. The emotional exhaustion and loss of personal accom-
rst factor professional attitudes refers to the plishment (Schaufeli, Daamen, & van Mierlo,
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 157

1994). Therefore, those two factors have been work of Ganster (1989) who debates the meaning
included in the model. of the job control variable, two different factors
Five task factors were derived from the social referring to control were included in this research:
psychological model of work stress that is also autonomy and participation. Autonomy refers to
known as the job demand control model (Karasek teachers freedom to determine different task-
& Theorell, 1990). This model proposes that stress related characteristics such as the pace of work,
as well as learning result from the joint effects of the method, and work order (Firestone & Pennell,
job demands and the discretion permitted to the 1993). Participation refers to the inuence a
worker in how to meet these demands (job teacher has over the working environment and to
control). Actually, the model is based on the opportunities to take part in decision-making
interaction between job demands and job control. (Firestone & Pennell, 1993).
On the one hand, the assumption is that control is Finally, three factors that address the work
needed to full high job demands. On the other environment, more specically different types of
hand, it is assumed that high job demands are a support available within this environment were
prerequisite for work-based learning. However, to added to the model. The support factor was
prevent work stress resulting from high job included owing to the criticism of the Karasek
demands, control is considered a crucial factor. model for neglecting this factor (Greenglass,
From the model two different hypotheses can be Burke, & Konarski, 1997; Grifth, Steptoe, &
deduced: the strain hypothesis and the learning Cropley, 1999; Guglielmi & Tatrow, 1998; Schau-
hypothesis. The rst hypothesis is that work stress broeck & Fink, 1998). The theoretical assump-
will occur when job demands are high whereas tionalso conrmed by empirical resultsis that
control is low. The second hypothesis is that a supportive work environment minimizes stress so
learning and growth will occur in situations where that teachers who work in an environment
both job demands and control are high. Although perceived as supportive are less likely to experience
there is little empirical evidence conrming this high stress levels. Besides, numerous studies into
second hypothesis, it may be concluded that job stress as well as into school improvement relate
demands and job control do play a role in support to stress and learning, indicating that
explaining participation in professional learning support may bear relevance with regard to teacher
activities (Kwakman, 2001). Besides, the model participation in professional learning activities
bears face validity as the core factors within the (Firestone & Pennell, 1993; Greenglass et al.,
model are also factors representing important 1997; Karasek & Theorell, 1990; Leithwood et al.,
working conditions in teachers professional learn- 1999). In the literature social support as well as
ing (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996; cultural support are both considered as important
Firestone & Pennell, 1993; Little, 1993; Rosen- in this respect. Social support refers to the total
holtz, 1989; Smylie, 1995). Stress theory as well as amount of helpful social interaction of managers
theory concerning working conditions emphasize and colleagues that is available within the work
that job demands and job control are both multi- context, as well as to instrumental and social-
dimensional in nature and have to be operationa- emotional aspects (Karasek & Theorell, 1990).
lized carefully. So, they are broken into ve task Cultural support indicates the impact of the
factors. Job demands can take different forms school culture as supportive factor in teachers
referring to three different factors (Soderfeldt et al., participation in professional learning activities.
1996). First, pressure of work refers to quantitative The underlying rationale is that the school has to
demanding aspects such as the pace of work and provide an environment in which participation in
workload. Second, emotional demands refers to the professional learning activities is widely appre-
extent to which the job requires emotional invest- ciated and therefore intentionally stimulated
ment. Third, job variety measures the availability (Leithwood et al., 1999). Thus, two different social
of learning opportunities as well as the amount of support factors were distinguished: management
diversity the work offers. In accordance with the support, and collegial support whereas one cultural
158 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

support factor was included: intentional learning 2. Method

Summarizing the results of the literature review The study is exploratory in nature; it is not
into factors inuencing teacher learning at the aimed at verifying hypotheses or testing the
workplace, 13 different factors were revealed: ve conceptual model. The main aim is to elicit factors
personal factors, ve task factors, and three work relating to teacher learning (conceptualized as
environment factors. participation in professional learning activity).
Based on the outcomes of this rst study, a Therefore, only direct effects of personal, task,
research model (see Fig. 1) has been constructed in and work environment factors on teacher profes-
which features of the person, the task, and the sional learning activity are studied. Although
work environment are independent variables, factors assumed to affect participation in profes-
whereas participation in professional learning sional learning activity may be interrelated or
activity is a dependent variable. assert indirect effects, these relationships are not
To explore the relevance of this model, a taken into account.
second study was carried out consisting of a
survey addressing the following two research
questions: 2.1. Sample and procedure

Data collection took place by means of a survey.

1. To what extent do teachers participate in A questionnaire was administered to all teachers in
professional learning activities? 10 secondary schools. These schools were not
2. What are the effects of personal factors, and randomly selected. All schools providing second-
task and work environment factors on partici- ary education at more than two levels within six
pation in professional learning activities? middle-sized cities and three accompanying small

Personal factors

Professional attitudes
Appraisals of feasibility
Appraisals of meaningfulness
Emotional exhaustion
Loss of personal accomplishment

Task factors

Pressure of work Participation in professional

Emotional demands learning activity
Job variety

Work environment factors

Management support
Collegial support
Intentional learning support

Fig. 1. Research model of professional learning activity.

K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 159

villages in the Netherlands were invited to in accordance with the outcomes of the qualitative
participate in the study. From these 60 schools, study (see Table 2).
13 schools responded positively. Eventually, 10 Most professional learning activities were re-
schools were willing to distribute the questionnaire formulated into one item each. Two activities were
among their teaching staff. Those schools mainly measured by one and the same item: receiving
participated because of interest in the research coaching or guidance, and coaching colleagues
topic and results that were offered in return of were both formulated as collegial classroom
their investment. observation whereas the activity joining commit-
As school participation was voluntary, this tees was measured by two items referring to
sample of 10 schools was compared with the total joining committees and subsequently informing
population of schools in the Netherlands. Five and consulting with the school management. The
schools provide all levels of general as well as resulting list of 32 activities was subjected to
initial vocational education; three schools provide expert-review. Based on their opinions, 8 activities
only general education (at all levels); two schools were excluded from the list that all teachers are
provide general education at the lowest level as expected to participate in, as these activities would
well as initial vocational education. This propor- not show sufcient range of variance in a survey
tion of different school levels is in accordance with study (see Table 2): preparing lessons individually,
the proportion in the total population of Dutch constructing tests, working with new methods,
schools. Of the 939 teachers in these schools, 542 storytelling with colleagues, coordination, execut-
teachers returned the questionnaire (response rate ing non-curricular tasks, classroom interaction
of 59%). The sample consists of 367 men (68.3%) with pupils, and teaching. Next, 4 activities in
and 170 women (31.7%). The mean age of the which only a few teachers participated, as super-
sample is 45.8 years (SD 9:0) whereas their vising student teachers, counseling pupils, per-
mean working experience is 20.1 years (SD 9:8). forming management tasks, and organizing
With respect to age and gender the sample is extracurricular activities, were also excluded as
representative of the total population of teachers. the variance of those activities was also expected to
However, the majority of the sample is over 40 be too low to allow for effective discrimination
years of age (74.7%), which means that in this (see Table 2).
respect the sample is not fully representative for As the range of professional learning activities
the total population of teachers in the Netherlands within the category of reection was rather limited
(70%). With respect to their primary subject area, as a result of this, two new professional learning
the group is divided as follows: 174 languages activities concerning reection were added. Based
teachers (33%); 99 science teachers (18.8%); 79 on the qualitative study indicating that reection
social sciences teachers (15%); 76 teachers in arts springs also from interaction with pupils, an extra
or physical education (14.4%); 60 teachers in item was formulated as adapt way of teaching to
vocational education (11.1%); and 40 teachers in pupils needs. Teachers perspective revealed that
national curriculum subjects (7.6%). No data are this activity requires reection-in-action. Next, a
available for the total population of teachers in the second extra item referring to explicit individual
Netherlands regarding proportions teaching in reection was formulated: reect individually on a
each subject area. lesson as this is an activity that is stressed in
literature. Thus, 22 activities were pilot tested to
examine the range of variance. As a result, the
2.2. Measures of professional learning activity activity concerning reading newspapers had to be
excluded as the skewness of this item exceeded 1.
To measure participation in professional learn- Eventually, participation in professional learn-
ing activity the range of 32 activities derived from ing activity was measured by 21 items divided
the qualitative study was used. Therefore, activ- within the four categories of reading, experiment-
ities were formulated as items as much as possible ing, reecting, and collaborating. Reading was
160 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

Table 2
Measures of professional learning activities

Categories Professional learning activities Item in questionnaire

Reading Studying subject matter literature Study subject matter literature

Reading professional journals Read professional journals
Studying teaching manuals Study teaching manuals
Reading newspapers
Experimenting Helping students learning study skills Help students to learn study skills
Preparing lessons individually
Experiment with new teaching methods Experiment with new teaching methods
Constructing lesson materials Construct lesson materials
Constructing tests
Working with new method
Reecting Supervising student teachers
Receiving coaching of guidance Collegial classroom observation
Coaching colleagues Collegial classroom observation
Receiving pupils feedback Ask pupils feedback+Reect individually on a
Collaborating (a) Storytelling
(b) Help
Asking for help Talk about teaching problems with colleagues
Giving help Support colleagues in teaching problems
(c) Sharing:
Materials Use colleagues materials in own lessons
Ideas about innovation Share ideas about educational improvement
Instructional issues Share way of teaching with colleagues
Ideas about pupil counseling Share ideas about pupil counseling
Ideas about education Share ideas about education with colleagues
(d) Joint work
Joining committees Join a committee at the school + Give opinion
to school management
Preparing lessons Prepare lessons with colleagues
Implementing innovations Make agreements about way of teaching
Not tting into Counseling pupils
categories Executing non-curricular tasks
Performing management tasks
Organizing extracurricular activities for pupils
Classroom interaction with pupils Adapt way of teaching to pupils needs
Teaching in itself

measured by three items referring to different interaction. Collaborating was measured by 11

objects of reading: subject matter literature, items referring to three variants of collegiality.
professional journals, and teaching manuals. Thus, two activities refered to asking for help and
Experimenting was measured by three activities: to giving help, whereas ve activities refered to
help students to learn study skills, experiment with sharing of teaching materials and to sharing of
new teaching methods, and construct lesson ideas. Activities referring to sharing of ideas were
materials. Reflecting was measured by four items derived from the qualitative study that indicated
representing different sources of feedback: colle- that sharing ideas centered around four different
gial observation, pupils feedback, individual subjects: innovation, instruction, pupil counseling,
reection, and feedback springing from classroom and education in general. The nal four activities
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 161

all refered to joint work-join committees, give Emotional demands were measured by four items
opinions, prepare lessons together, and make from the VBBA; those items were selected that
agreements. addressed the extent to which the teaching job
Teachers were asked to state how often they requires emotional investment.
participated in each professional learning activity Job variety was measured by nine items from the
on a 4-point scale (1 hardly ever; 2 sometimes; VBBA; all items intend to measure the availability
3 fairly often; 4 often). of learning opportunities as well as the amount of
diversity the work offers.
2.3. Measures of personal, task, and work Autonomy as referring to teachers opportunity
environment factors to determine different task-related characteristics
such as the pace of work, the method, and work
Professional attitudes. These were measured by order was measured by seven items from the
means of 12 items reecting teachers responsibil- VBBA that were regarded as most relevant to the
ities with regard to attaining new reform goals, teaching profession.
developing professionally, and collaborating at the Participation was also measured with seven
school level. Teachers were asked to indicate to items derived from the VBBA. Items address the
what extent they agreed with bearing these perceived inuence over the working environment
responsibilities on a 4-point scale (1 disagree; as well as the opportunities to take part in
2 slightly disagree; 3 slightly agree; 4 agree). decision-making.
Appraisals of feasibility. Teachers were asked to Management support. This variable was mea-
state the feasibility of each activity on a 4-point sured by four 4-point scale items (ranging from
scale ranging from not feasible to very feasible. 1 hardly ever to 4 always) derived from a
Appraisals of meaningfulness. Teachers were Dutch questionnaire on organizational stress
asked to state the meaningfulness of each activity (VOS-D; Bergers, Marcelissen, & Wolff, 1986).
on a 4-point scale ranging from not meaningful to Items refer to the amount of helpful social
very meaningful. interaction of staff that is available.
Emotional exhaustion. This variable was mea- Collegial support was measured by four items
sured by means of three items referring to the from the VOS-D that only differ from the
extent to which teachers feel emotionally over- management support items in that they address
extended. Items were derived from the Dutch the amount of helpful social interaction of
version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory for colleagues.
Teachers (Schaufeli et al., 1994). All items are Intentional learning support was measured by 4
scored on a 7-point scale: 0 never; 1 hardly items referring to the four categories of profes-
ever; 2 seldom; 3 sometimes; 4 often; 5 sional learning activities. Teachers were asked to
nearly always; 6 always: state on a 4-point scale (ranging from 1 hardly
Loss of personal accomplishment was measured ever to 4 always) to what extent their school
by four items from the Maslach Burnout Inven- stimulated them to read, experiment, reect, and
tory, referring to a decline in feelings of compe- collaborate.
tence and successful achievement on the job.
Pressure of work. This variable was measured by 2.4. Data analysis
means of seven items derived from a questionnaire
of the Dutch Institute of Working Conditions Analysis was rst directed at constructing scales.
(VBBA; Van Veldhoven & Meijman, 1994). All Therefore, factorial analyses (Principal Compo-
items refer to quantitative demanding aspects such nent Analysis) were executed for the items
as the pace of work and workload. Teachers were referring to professional learning activities, profes-
asked to indicate to what extent each item was sional attitudes, appraisals, stress, task factors,
relevant to their job on a 4-point scale (ranging and work environment factors separately. To
from 1 hardly ever to 4 always). determine the amount of factors the following
162 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

criteria were applied: eigen values > 1, the 3. Results

interpretation of factors, and the amount of
factors in proportion to the amount of explained 3.1. Descriptive statistics
variance. All analyses were performed using
listwise deletion of missing scores, and using Results of factorial analysis (oblique rotation)
oblique rotation. Items belonging to a factor had on professional learning activities yielded three
to have a factor loading of 0.40 at the minimum different factors referring to different types of
within the rotated solution. Then, the reliability of professional learning activities, see Table 3. The
each factor was calculated, followed up by amount of variance accounted for by these three
inspection of item-characteristic curves to see factors was 40.5%, which can be regarded as
whether the proportion of respondents increased satisfactory for a newly developed measurement
monotonically with item scores. instrument. Three items had to be removed to
Next, simultaneous multiple regression analysis reach an acceptable factor structure: collegial
was used to reveal relationships between indepen- classroom observation, talking about teaching
dent factors and participation in professional problems, and individual reection.
learning activities. First, a hierarchical regression The rst factor consists of six professional
analysis was conducted to reduce the number of learning activities representing the three variants
factors as far as possible, and so to reduce effects of collegiality within the category of collaboration,
of multi-collinearity. Factors were controlled for so they are all executed collaboratively. Therefore,
linearity as well as for interaction effects. Only this factor was called Collaborative Activities. The
those factors that accounted signicantly (po0.05) second factor includes seven items referring to
to the amount of explained variance were included professional learning activities within the cate-
in the nal simultaneous regression analysis. Plots gories of reading, experimenting, and reecting.
were inspected to verify the assumption of homo- All activities constituting this factor are per-
scedasticity as well as to localize outliers. formed individually although some activities need

Table 3
Factor loadings of items representing professional learning activities

Factor Factor Factor

1 2 3

Give opinion to school management 0.80 0.06 0.09

Share ideas about pupil counseling 0.73 0.05 0.07
Join a committee at the school 0.68 0.01 0.01
Share ideas about educational improvement 0.62 0.12 0.11
Share ideas about education with colleagues 0.56 0.07 0.23
Support colleagues in teaching problems 0.51 0.07 0.14
Study subject matter literature 0.14 0.66 0.15
Read professional journals 0.08 0.60 0.00
Ask pupils feedback 0.11 0.60 0.17
Experiment with new teaching methods 0.05 0.53 0.21
Study teaching manuals 0.11 0.51 0.07
Adapt way of teaching to pupils needs 0.17 0.46 0.18
Help students to learn study skills 0.15 0.45 0.11
Prepare lessons with colleagues 0.10 0.13 0.71
Construct lesson materials 0.14 0.12 0.65
Share way of teaching with colleagues 0.10 0.04 0.50
Make agreements about way of teaching 0.33 0.06 0.49
Use colleagues materials in own lessons 0.03 0.20 0.46
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 163

interaction with students in the classroom. So, this items did not t into the empirical factors, as all
factor was named Individual Activities. The third these are not directly related to specic tasks or
factor comprises of ve professional learning events but rather to the person of the teacher.
activities: four from the category of collaboration Moreover, the low participation in collegial class-
and one from the category of experimenting. So, room observation offers an extra explanation for
these activities are not to be characterized as not tting into one of the factors.
individual or collaborative. However, they all refer Concerning independent variables, factor ana-
to practical instructional work related to preparing lysis yielded a large number of factors due to the
and delivering lessons. Therefore, this factor was multidimensionality of the variables, as expected.
labeled Instructional Activities (Kwakman, 1999). Although some items had to be removed in order
So, factor analysis results differ from the to reach an acceptable factor structure, a scale
theoretical conception of professional learning could be constructed for every original variable.
activities in two ways. First, three important items Only for appraisals of feasibility did factor
did not t the factors empirically; one item analysis reveal two factors instead of one. Feasi-
addressing the category of collaboration (Littles bility was broken down into Feasibility of
variant of help) and two items referring to Collaborative Activities and in Feasibility of
reection. Secondly, factor analysis revealed dif- Innovative Activities. We use this new term
ferent types of professional learning activities innovative activities because appraisals of activ-
compared to the theoretical categorization of ities within this scale both refer to Individual
professional learning activities. Actually, factor Activities as well as to Instructional Activities.
analysis results only distinguish collaborative Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics of the
activities from all three other categories. Activities three types of professional learning activity
within the categories of reading, experimenting, and of all other scales representing independent
and reection appeared to relate to each other factors.
indicating that those activities share common
aspects. However, factor analysis also indicates 3.2. Participation in professional learning activities
that collaboration does not break neatly down into
Littles variants, but into two types that refer to The frequency of participation in each profes-
different aims of collaboration. These empirical sional learning activity is shown in Table 5. The
outcomes are strongly favored as they provide a activities are ranged from low participation to high
rationale for teachers to participate in specic participation. For each professional learning
professional learning activities rather than just activity the corresponding factor is also indicated:
valuing professional learning activities separately. (CA): collaborative activities, (IA): individual
It appears that professional learning activities are activities, and (IsA): instructional activities. No
centered on tasks that teachers accomplish in factor is mentioned for activities that had to be
practice, as the factors show that professional removed from the analysis.
learning activities relate to each other in a way that
resemble different tasks within the teaching 3.3. Regression results
profession as perceived by teachers themselves.
So, professional learning activities are performed At rst, correlation between predictor factors
in the context of operating within the school and three types of professional learning activity
organization, improving teaching, and (joint) was calculated (see Table 6).
preparation of lessons and materials. This leads Next, regression analyses were conducted for
us to support the idea that not only knowledge is each type of professional learning activity. Results
event-structured (Putnam & Borko, 2000), but that were controlled for gender and subject matter
professional learning activities may be structured (dummy variables) and for years of professional
the same way as well, at least in the perception of experience. As a lot of older women are entering
teachers. Considering this may explain that three the teaching profession now-a-days, years of
164 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

Table 4
Descriptive statistics of factors

M Range SD Alpha Number of items


Collaborative activities 2.29 14 0.58 0.77 6

Individual activities 2.43 14 0.46 0.65 7
Instructional activities 2.25 14 0.49 0.58 5
Professional attitudes 3.11 14 0.52 0.75 6
Feasibility of collaborative activities 2.70 14 0.62 0.78 6
Feasibility of innovative activities 2.69 14 0.54 0.66 6
Meaningfulness of activities 3.26 14 0.42 0.81 13
Loss of personal accomplishment 2.20 06 0.68 0.72 4
Emotional exhaustion 2.68 06 1.08 0.82 3
Pressure of work 2.41 14 0.56 0.87 7
Emotional demands 2.12 14 0.49 0.64 3
Job variety 2.66 14 0.52 0.82 7
Autonomy 2.65 14 0.54 0.73 5
Participation 2.38 14 0.55 0.76 5
Management support 2.95 14 0.69 0.87 5
Collegial support 3.21 14 0.55 0.79 4
Intentional learning support 2.57 14 0.54 0.66 5

Table 5 variables on three types of professional learning

Mean scores on professional learning activities (1=hardly ever, activities are presented in Table 7.
It is noteworthy that one of the stress factors,
Professional learning activities M Emotional Exhaustion, and both task factors,
Collegial classroom observation 1.22 Autonomy and Participation, are not included in
Prepare lessons with colleagues (IsA) 1.69 Table 7 as they appeared to show no direct effects
Ask pupils feedback (IA) 1.84 on any of the types of professional learning
Use colleagues materials in own lessons (IsA) 2.01 activity. All other factors exert an effect on at
Support colleagues in teaching problems (CA) 2.09
least one type of professional learning activity.
Give opinion to school management (CA) 2.10
Read professional journals (IA) 2.11 Secondly, in comparison with the correlation
Share ideas about pupil counseling (CA) 2.17 analysis, regression analysis in which joint effects
Join a committee at the school (CA) 2.34 are determined reduces the number of factors that
Experiment with new teaching methods (IA) 2.38 appeared to be signicant. Regarding the rst type
Share ideas about educational improvement (CA) 2.39
of professional learning activity, Collaborative
Make agreements about way of teaching (IsA) 2.43
Talk about teaching problems with colleagues 2.47 Activities, 11 factors showed some signicant
Adapt way of teaching to pupils needs (IA) 2.49 direct effects where the amount of variance
Share way of teaching with colleagues (IsA) 2.51 accounted for by these factors is reasonably high.
Reect individually on a lesson 2.55 Concerning the Individual Activities, 8 factors
Construct lesson materials (IsA) 2.59
proved to be signicant and the amount of
Share ideas about education with colleagues (CA) 2.63
Study teaching manuals (IA) 2.64 explained variance is also rather high. The third
Study subject matter literature (IA) 2.74 type, Instructional Learning is also affected by 8
Help students to learn study skills (IA) 2.83 factors, although the proportion of explained
Note: (CA)=collaborative activities; (IA)=individual activ- variance is much smaller.
ities; (IsA)=instructional activities. With the exception of the negative effects of
Appraisals of Feasibility and Management Sup-
experience is considered a better measure than port, the direction of effects is in concurrence with
age. The standardized signicant beta weights results from the correlation analysis. Closer
and amount of explained variances of predictor examination of those negative effects indicated
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 165

Table 6
Correlation between independent variables and three types of professional learning activity

Types of professional learning activity

Independent variables Collaborative activities Individual activities Instructional activities

Professional attitudes 0.31* 0.40* 0.23*

Feasibility of collaborative activities 0.50* 0.18* 0.16*
Feasibility of innovative activities 0.16* 0.44* 0.32*
Meaningfulness of activities 0.40* 0.42* 0.36*
Loss of personal accomplishment 0.28* 0.28* 0.10*
Emotional exhaustion 0.05 0.13* 0.06
Pressure of work 0.15* 0.02 0.05
Emotional demands 0.20* 0.16* 0.15*
Job variety 0.26* 0.26* 0.17*
Autonomy 0.08 0.08 0.04
Participation 0.27* 0.12* 0.11*
Management support 0.11* 0.02 0.09*
Collegial support 0.12* 0.05 0.21*
Intentional learning support 0.25* 0.20* 0.18*

*po0.05, two-tailed.

Table 7
Signicant standardized beta weights and explained variances of simultaneous regression analysis for variables predicting three types of
professional learning activities (po0.05).

Types of professional learning activity

Predictor variables Collaborative activities Individual activities Instructional activities

Gender (1=female) 0.07

Subject matter (1=arts/physical education) 0.10
Subject matter (1=science) 0.22
Subject matter (1=languages) 0.17
Subject matter (1=social sciences) 0.16
Professional experience 0.29
Professional attitudes 0.12 0.20
Feasibility of collaborative activities 0.41 0.13 0.10
Feasibility of innovative activities 0.13 0.36 0.24
Meaningfulness of activities 0.20 0.22 0.26
Loss of personal accomplishment 0.16 0.18
Pressure of work 0.10 0.11
Emotional demands 0.09 0.14 0.10
Job variety 0.16
Management support 0.16
Collegial support 0.17
Intentional learning support 0.12 0.09
R2 0.49 0.40 0.29

that this might be due to a suppressor-effect data. So, the negative effects from both these
caused by high correlation among predictor variables may not be interpreted as research
variables. Although a hierarchical regression results. This also leads us to conclude that
analysis preceded the nal simultaneous regression Management Support can be excluded from the
analysis to prevent such effects, those negative model as it is no predictor of participation in
effects are to be contributed to the structure of the professional learning activities. However, the
166 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

positive effects of the Appraisals of Feasibility ing, sharing ideas with colleagues, or improving
validate the inclusion of both feasibility variables lessons.
within the model. Thirdly, the study provides empirical evidence
All other negative effects are ascribed to data for a number of factors that predict participation
dening and to measurement procedures. Effects in professional learning activities. Examination of
of gender and subject matter are attributed to the the beta weights for the signicant predictor
way dummy variables were scored, whereas the variables indicates which variables accounted for
negative effects of Loss of Personal Accomplish- signicant variance in professional learning activ-
ment only points out that a larger loss of ity. It is concluded that different combinations of
accomplishment (thus more stress) relates to a predictor variables account for this variance in
lower frequency of Collaborative and Individual each type of professional learning activity. Only
Activities. one factor (Meaningfulness of Activities) exerts an
effect on all three types of activities. Three factors
did not exert any effect. Thus, all other factors are
somehow related to participation in professional
4. Conclusions and discussion learning activities. But of these factors, personal
factors appear to be more signicant in predicting
Several important ndings that contribute to the professional learning activities than task and work
understanding of teachers professional learning environment factors. Although task and work
activities resulted from this study. environment factors show effects, these effects are
First, the survey revealed three empirical types much smaller than effects of personal factors.
of professional learning activities that differ Besides, although the factors in the model jointly
markedly from the theoretical categorization of account for a signicant amount of variance in all
professional learning activities. A possible expla- three types, it may be concluded that the research
nation for this discrepancy is that teachers perceive model provides the best explanation for Colla-
professional learning activities in connection with borative Activities and least for Instructional
different tasks that belong to the teaching profes- Activities. This implies that other factors have to
sion. Although some professional learning activ- be added to the model in order to raise the amount
ities did not t into these empirical types, the idea of explained variance. Nevertheless, this study
that professional learning activities are embedded suggests that it would be worthwhile to look for
in different tasks, as perceived by teachers factors that are connected to specic types of
themselves, conrms the notion of situated cogni- professional learning activity separately.
tion in which it is assumed that learning is What do these results contribute to our under-
embedded in everyday activities. This result also standing of teachers professional learning? Our
has consequences for further research into profes- rst remark addresses the concept of learning as
sional learning activities as it clearly shows that participation in professional learning activities,
from the perspective of teachers, learning may best which was based on the idea that cognition is
be examined in connection to teachers concrete situated in nature. So, we may not draw conclu-
tasks and daily activities. sions regarding teachers professional learning but
Secondly, the study results suggest that the with regard to teachers participation in a re-
frequencies of participation in various professional stricted range of professional learning activities.
learning activities differ to a large extent. It is Nevertheless, we would like to stress that theoris-
striking that the frequency of activities that ing about the domain of teacher learning would
address feedback from classroom observation benet greatly from further research in which
and from students is rather low, as was the participation in professional learning activities is
frequency of collaborative activities that demand related to learning outcomes and processes. How-
more than just talking or discussing. Teachers ever, examining learning results and processes will
participate most in activities as professional read- require more extensive research in order to
K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170 167

produce knowledge needed to establish how ing that the effects of task and work environment
teacher learning may contribute to reaching factors are diminished if personal factors are
desired reform outcomes. included in the analyses simultaneously. This
In spite of these limitations, this study reveals means that task and work environment factors
great discrepancies between theory and practice in do affect teachers participation in professional
opportunities for professional learning at the learning activities, but that this effect is mediated
workplace for secondary level school teachers. by personal characteristics. This brings to the fore
First, a discrepancy is revealed regarding the the idea that the effects of task and work
range of professional learning activities that environment factors may be indirect rather than
teachers participate in. Theory stresses the im- direct. This conclusion has to be interpreted with
portance of a large range of professional learning caution, as new research has to be carried out to
activities to help teachers develop professionally. explore these types of relationships between
However, this research reveals that the frequency variables thoroughly.
to which teachers participate in some activities is Actually, the rst discrepancy raises serious
rather disappointing, considering the high value questions about opportunities for participation in
that is attached to them. The range of activities is professional learning activities in secondary
more restricted in practice indicating that some schools. How do we explain the restricted range
reective and collaborative professional learning of teachers participation in professional learning
activities are not very common in real school activities? Although it may be the case that
organizations. This conclusion does not apply to teachers also learn in other ways than those
reection generally, as this study shows that examined in this study, the low participation in
individual reection and reection in action take many of the professional learning activities mea-
place rather frequently. So, teachers do reect but sured indicates that powerful opportunities for
not in ways in which they make use of explicit teachers to learn remain unused in practice. Do we
feedback from colleagues or students. have to conclude that schools are not suited for
A second discrepancy concerns the role of the some professional learning activities to take place?
school context in teachers participation in profes- Or that the workplace poses severe limitations to
sional learning activities. The minor effects of task the kinds of professional learning activities in
and work environment factors are not in accor- which teachers may participate? These questions
dance with the signicant role that different once again bring to the fore the difference in
perspectives and theories attribute to the school perspectives of cognitive psychology and profes-
context in enhancing teacher learning. On the sional development theory regarding the role of
contrary, this study shows that participation in the workplace in teachers professional learning.
professional learning activities depends to a large The main conclusion to draw is that although the
extent on personal characteristics of teachers workplace is considered a powerful learning
themselves. As all task and work environment environment in theory, this workplace is not
factors (except Intentional Learning Support) were powerful in itself in practice. In order for a higher
measured with existing instruments that were participation in professional learning activities,
extensively tested for validity and reliability, the two different solutions can be proposed. First, we
minor effects of task and work environment may conclude that the workplace is not a suitable
factors are unlikely to be due to measurement venue for learning to occur and thus choose to
errors. Nevertheless, they may be ascribed to a organize learning for teachers outside of schools.
possible interaction between personal and envir- Secondly, we may argue that the workplace has to
onmental variables that is captured by the full certain conditions that are not present in
measurement of attitudes and appraisals. There schools at the moment, thus we are obliged to
is evidence both from our own data as well as from build these conditions into school organizations in
other research into learning at the workplace (Van order to stimulate learning. We strongly adhere to
Woerkom, Nijhof, & Nieuwenhuis, 2001) indicat- this second line of reasoning, which is also present
168 K. Kwakman / Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003) 149170

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