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Sustaining Teacher Learning

Monaliza Maximo CHIAN


Teacher learning affects students' learning (e.g., Fullan, 2007; Hattie, 2012). Thus, sustaining teacher learning can catalyse the essential professional skills, knowledge, and dispositions designed to keep pace with the rapidly changing world (Goodwin, 2011). Sustainable learning involves learning knowledge and skills that are timeless yet adaptable and permeable to changes. Akin to lifelong learning, sustaining learning involves a set of intentional, interactive, and inquiry-driven practices that positions learners to proactively identify their learning needs and reflexively adapt to contextual changes (Hays & Reinder, 2020). However, sustaining teacher learning remains a work-in-progress, and conceptualising what constitutes teacher learning may be the foundational step.

Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) present three conceptualisations of teacher learning: knowledge-for-practice, knowledge-in-practice, and knowledge-of-practice; all are essential over teachers' career lifespan. These types of teacher learning can be actualised in various approaches to teacher education, professional development (PD), and professional learning (PL). Historically, PD refers to structured collective learning activities (e.g., lectures, seminars, workshops) centred on predefined topics. In contrast, PL refers to ongoing activities that can be collectively and/or individually done (e.g., lesson study, coaching/mentoring, self-study, action research), centred on teachers' learning needs. Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2017) consider that effective PD is organised PL, resulting in pedagogical transformation and student learning progress.

Supporting teacher learning that engenders a continual (re)constructing of knowledge, skills, and dispositions over the span of a career, may reside in ongoing inquiries of the kinds of teacher learning and how to sustain that learning -- with and by whom, and under what conditions leading to what outcomes. The latest professional learning standards suggest that content, transformational processes, and conditions for success are essential elements for quality professional learning (Learning Forward, 2022). Adopting these standards requires a commitment to continually learn contemporary knowledge by all members of professional learning communities at the systemic, community, and individual levels. It needs strategic coordination of all stakeholders to orchestrate alignment of policy and practices related to designing relevant and rigorous teacher education programmes. These programmes foster the learning of enduring knowledge and skills that can thrive and be regenerated to respond to changes and contextual circumstances. These types of learning must be job-embedded, student-needs-driven, culturally-relevant and contextually-responsive. Sustaining these kinds of learning involves the cooperation of professional communities to uphold a culture of collaboration to maintain a viable, supportive, and adaptive learning environment to foster continuous professional development and learning of classroom practitioners. It means encouraging all teachers across school levels (i.e., kindergarten, primary, secondary, and tertiary) to become active partners in their learning and vested contributors to the local and global issues in education through individual reflections and collective conversations.

Below are relevant and timely resources that raise issues, considerations, and challenges as we develop strategies to sustain teacher learning to provide quality and just education for all students.


Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. Review of Research in Education, 24, 249-305.

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Learning Policy Institute.

Fullan, M. (2007). Change the terms for teacher learning. Journal of Staff Development, 28(3), 35-36.

Goodwin, A. L. (2011). Teaching as a profession. Routledge International Handbook of Teacher and School Development. Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Hays, J., & Reinders, H. (2020). Sustainable learning and education: A curriculum for the future. International Review of Education, 66, 29-52.

Learning Forward. (2022). Standards for professional learning.

Lifelong Learning

Highly-Cited Academic Articles

Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3-15.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. Review of Research in Education, 24, 249-305.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Richardson, N. (2009). Research review/teacher learning: What matters? Educational Leadership, 66(5), 46-53.

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). Helping novices learn to teach: Lessons from an exemplary support teacher. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(1), 17-30.

Kennedy, M. M. (2016). How does professional development improve teaching? Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 945-980.

Ping, C., Schellings, G., & Beijaard, D. (2018). Teacher educators' professional learning: A literature review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 75, 93-104.


Publications in/about the Region

Gong, Y., MacPhail, A., & Guberman, A. (2021). Professional learning and development needs of Chinese university-based physical education teacher educators. European Journal of Teacher Education.

Goodwin A. L., & Low, E. L. (2021) Rethinking conceptualisations of teacher quality in Singapore and Hong Kong: A comparative analysis. European Journal of Teacher Education, 44(3), 365-382.

Lam, B. H. (2015). Teacher professional development in Hong Kong compared to Anglosphere: The role of Confucian philosophy. Psychology, Society and Education, 7(3), 295-310.

Lee, S. S., Seow, P., & Jang, H. (2020) Teacher learning from a socio-cultural lens: A case of Singapore. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 40(4)533-551.

Ping, C., Schellings, G., Beijaard D., & Ye, J. (2021) Teacher educators’ professional learning: perceptions of Dutch and Chinese teacher educators. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 262-281.

Zhang, S., Zhao, W., & Cao, Y. (2021). Toward sustainable professional development: An investigation of informal interactions among Chinese mathematics teachers. Frontiers in Psychology.


HKU Research and Resources

Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (n.d.). Learning lab. The University of Hong Kong.

Faculty of Education. In-service teacher education programme. (INSTEP). The University of Hong Kong.

Kwo, O., & Fung, D. (2014) Liberated to learn: Teacher education as transformation of relationships. Education as Change, 18(1), 47-61.

Yang, Y., & Rao, N. (2021) Teacher professional development among preschool teachers in rural China. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 42(3), 219-244.


School Examples

British Council. (n.d.) The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust British Council core skills for life programme.

Committee on Professional Development of Teachers and Principals (COTAP). (n.d.). Sabbatical leave scheme for professional development of teachers and principals.

Education Bureau (2020, June 14) Continuing professional development of teachers.

Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research. The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Kowloon True Light School. (n.d.) Professional development.


Internet Resources


Learning Forward. (n.d.). Standards for professional learning.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (n.d.). Teacher professional learning (TPL) study.

UNESCO Office Bangkok and Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific (2016). Teachers in the Asia-Pacific: Career progression and professional development.

YouTube Videos

Dylan Wiliam. (2020, April 21). Leading teacher learning communities.

EduSkills OECD. (2021, July 9). Teachers' professional learning in Wales - OECD Education.

Blog Posts

Cannon, J. (2019, May 30). How to sustain the momentum of professional learning. Scholastic EDU.

Chanter, C. (2021, August 17). To create professional learning that lasts, tap into the power of design and practice. Scholastic EDU.

Kaufman, L., & Rothstein, S. (2021, July 14). Taking control of your professional growth. Edutopia.

Zarrow, J. (n.d.) 5 Strategies for better professional development. Teachthought.


Extended Readings

Borko, H., & Klingner, J. (2013). Supporting teachers in schools to improve their instructional practice. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship of Education, 115(14), 274-297.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher education around the world: What can we learn from international practice? European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(3), 291-309.

Goodwin, A. L., Roegman, R., & Reagan, E. M. (2016). Is experience the best teacher? Extensive clinical practice and mentor teachers’ perspectives on effective teaching. Urban Education, 51(10), 1198-1225.

Kennedy, M. M. (2019). How we learn about teacher learning. Review of Research in Education, 43(1), 138-162.

Loughran, J. (2014). Professionally developing as a teacher educator. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(4), 271-283.

Meirink, J. A., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2007). A closer look at teachers’ individual learning in collaborative settings. Teachers and Teaching, 13(2) 145-164.

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