The aim of the study is to examine how teacher learning in terms of professional agency is facilitated and regulated throughout the teachers’ professional careers, from student teacher to experienced teacher.
Teacher learning has been suggested to be a key not only for professional and school development but also for providing meaningful and engaging learning environments for pupils that foster active, meaning- and application-directed, self-regulated, and collaborative learning even after formal schooling (Dzur, 2004; Dzur, 2008; James & McCormic, 2009; Haggarty, 2004; Kumpulainen, Toom & Saalasti, 2011; Lieberman & Pointer Mace, 2010; Pyhältö, Soini & Pietarinen, 2011).
The present study focuses on exploring teacher learning in terms of teachers’ professional agency. It extends previous research on teacher learning: 1) by providing understanding on teacher learning and effects of professional transitions for teacher learning based on a large scale longitudinal empirical design, 2) by introducing an instrument for exploring different ingredients of teacher learning in a variety of contexts, including teacher training and school, 3) by comparing learning patterns of beginning and experienced teachers and different teacher groups and 4) by introducing an integrative concept professional agency for analyzing complexity of teacher learning.
Development of the professional agency is explored in two contexts that constitute the primary learning environments for teachers: a) in teacher education and b) in school. Three cohorts of Finnish comprehensive school teachers (class, subject and special education teachers) are included in this longitudinal study.
The comparative multiple case study includes the Departments of Teacher Education at Universities of Helsinki, Tampere and Eastern Finland. The varying research-based study programmes of all teacher groups (class teacher, subject teacher, special education teacher education) constitute a representing sample of Finnish teacher education units and student teachers. The participants of the longitudinal study include three cohorts of Finnish comprehensive school teachers. All of the cohorts comprise of class-, subject and special education teachers.
1) Student teachers (n=760), who are starting their studies in the autumn of 2012 in the three teacher education departments,
2) Early career teachers (n=760) who are currently making the transitions to work life (induction phase) and
3) Experienced teachers (n=6000) who are in various phases of their careers and are working in comprehensive school.
The focus of this investigation is in the development of professional agency in professional transitions. Both the change in teachers’ perceptions and behaviour – participation in the pedagogical practices of the contexts – in terms of professional agency are explored. The research project represents systemic, multi-method and longitudinal design. This means gathering multilevel longitudinal data from various sources by using various methods. In the future, the research group aims at designing a comparative study with international research collaborators.