Keynote Toogdag 2009: Jan Vermunt

Teacher learning in the context of educational innovation

Jan Vermunt, Utrecht University

Keynote ICO Toogdag 2009


Teachers are supposed to be experts in learning. Although there is a lot of research on how teachers may promote student learning, the scarcity of systematic research on understanding and improving the learning processes of teachers themselves is striking. However, teachers are the most important agents in shaping education for students and in bringing about change and innovation in educational practices. Too often educational innovations have failed because they did not recognize the need for teacher learning. There is a growing awareness of the necessity of assisting teachers in their professional development. Numerous efforts are being made to enhance teacher learning, with varying degrees of success. Few of these efforts, however, are based on scientific understanding of how teachers learn at work.

This keynote is aimed at increasing our understanding of how teachers learn, by exploring secondary school teachers learning activities and learning outcomes in the context of educational innovation. It is based on a study being part of a recently finished, large scale area of special interest of the Netherlands Scientific Research Association NWO (Bakkenes, Vermunt & Wubbels, in press). The study was conducted within a national innovation programme in secondary education, aimed at introducing more active and self-regulated learning (SRL) in the classroom. During one year 94 teachers reported six learning experiences using digital logs. The learning experiences were content-analysed in terms of learning activities and learning outcomes. The former comprised six main categories, namely experimenting, considering own practice, getting ideas from others, experiencing friction, struggling not to revert to old ways, and avoiding learning―the first two categories being reported most frequently. Reported learning outcomes referred to changes in knowledge and beliefs, emotions, practices, and intentions for practice, with changes in knowledge and beliefs being reported most frequently and changes in teaching practices being reported rarely. Learning activities were associated significantly with all measures of learning outcomes. Type of learning environment (informal workplace learning, reciprocal peer coaching, and collaborative project groups) was significantly associated with learning activities and learning outcomes. Results are discussed with respect to ways of fostering teacher learning.


Bakkenes, I., Vermunt, J.D., & Wubbels, T. (in press). Teacher learning in the context of educational innovation: Learning activities and learning outcomes of experienced teachers. Learning and Instruction.