This study investigates how policies associated with the provision of teacher learning, for educational reform, were interpreted and mediated by teachers and administrators, within a collaborative cross-school cluster involving six schools, in a small rural centre in south-east Queensland, Australia. The study argues that while teachers and administrators' responses were influenced by policy pressures advocating particular reforms, such policy interventions were mediated by teachers and administrators' interpretations of these policies, as they engaged with the reforms as part of their work. In this way, policies associated with the provision of teacher learning, for educational reform, were mediated by how such provision is typically practised as part of teachers' work. The study also reveals how policies associated with the provision of reform-oriented teacher learning were sometimes informed by relevant research.
The study also provides insights into the complexity of engaging in educational reform, in school settings, in general. Research informing the study was undertaken during a period of substantial educational reform in the state of Queensland, Australia. During this time, Education Queensland, the educational authority responsible for public education in Queensland, instigated educational reforms which were designed to influence the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy being enacted in Education Queensland schools. The provision of teacher learning during this time was both influenced by and exerted influence upon the take-up of these reforms.
To better understand the way in which teacher learning was conceptualised, structured and practised, in a specific context, for educational reform, the study applies the concept of "fields," developed by the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu. According to Bourdieu, the social world may be divided into individual social "spaces" or "fields", which are characterised by the interplay between broad social processes and specific circumstances. The study adopts a broad methodological approach, which involves applying the Bourdieuian concept of fields to understand how teacher learning was conceptualised, structured and practised in a school district in south-east Queensland, at a particular point in time.
The concept of fields was also used to inform the literature review. From this review, it was possible to identify three distinct bodies of literature relating to the provision of teacher learning, for educational reform. Within this literature, the provision of teacher learning was expressed as policy, as research, and as part of teachers' work. The empirical data were then interpreted on the basis of these three representations of the provision of teacher learning, for educational reform, within the literature. Thus, the concept of fields was applied in a two-step process - firstly, to generate and organise the literature which informs the empirical research, and then to interpret the nature of the provision of teacher learning within a specific site in south-east Queensland.
A variety of methods of data collection were employed, including participant observation. This involved attending specific teacher learning events and various meetings at which participants organised various activities. Interviews with key organisers of the teacher learning activities were also undertaken. These data sources were collated and broad themes identified.
The study reveals that research-informed policies, associated with the provision of teacher learning for educational reform, exerted considerable influence upon the teacher learning which constituted teachers' work, for some participants across the six schools. However, at the same time, these research-informed policies and policy effects did not have a predictable impact upon the nature of the teacher learning which was supported across the group of schools, as a whole. This was due, in part, to the complexity and, at times, contradictions within relevant policies. It was also due to the dominance of traditional approaches to the provision of teacher learning, as part of teachers' work, and the difficulty of augmenting these traditional approaches in school settings. Furthermore, there was considerable evidence of how teachers mediated the effects of these policies; in this way, the research reveals how teachers exerted considerable agency within broader policy contexts of influence, but that teachers' responses were also heavily influenced by their own experiences of teacher learning activities, (often described by teachers as "PD"), in schools.
The study concludes by highlighting the need for greater understanding about the multiple ways in which reform-oriented teacher learning, may be conceptualised, structured and practised, the complexity of these interactions, and how the provision of such learning is heavily influenced by the specific contexts in which it is undertaken. The conclusion also highlights the need for continued theorising of the provision of teacher learning, and how the concept of field autonomy may contribute to this process; this is in keeping with Bourdieu's insistence upon the recursive relationship between theory and practice and between theory and research. In this way, the study makes a practical and theoretical contribution to understanding the provision of teacher learning for educational reform.