A Complex Systems Perspective on Policy Standards for Teacher Learning and Development

Joanna K. Garner1  Avi Kaplan2

1 Old Dominion University, USA 2 Temple University, USA

Correspondence: jkgarner@odu.edu

Abstract:  In the United States, the Interstate Teacher Assessment Consortium (InTASC) Standards and Learning Progressions inform pre-service teacher curricula and in-service teacher professional development and evaluation policies (Council of Chief State School Officers, CCSSO, 2013). We apply a complex dynamic systems (CDS) lens to analyze the Standards document’s ontological assumptions about the nature of teaching and teachers’ professional learning. Our inductive and model-guided content analysis revealed that the Standards’ representation of effective teaching highlights the contextual and iterative, feedback-driven nature of teacher learning and change. Teachers’ learning is described as non-linear and as requiring qualitative reconfigurations of expertise. The development of critical teaching dispositions reflects processes typically associated with identity system exploration. These ideas are congruent with complex dynamic systems theories of teachers’ learning and identity formation such as the Dynamic Systems Model of Role Identity (DSMRI). We derive two conceptual behavioral landscapes for teachers’ practices and for their means of learning. We close by proposing that the findings underscore the importance of partnerships among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in the use, application, and revision of policy.

 Keywords: teacher learning, teacher evaluation, complex systems, learning progressions