Adult learning in the context of teachers' professional growth

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Elementary|Education, Teacher Training




The regular education mainstream teachers are required to meet the diverse needs of the students in their classrooms, including those identified as special education students, and others who have significant needs. To become effective in meeting students' varied and complex needs, teachers must develop and enhance their skills, strategies, techniques and knowledge to assist their students in achieving academic success. Through teachers' professional development, leading to their professional growth, they endeavor to develop and refine their skills to meet the diverse and challenging needs of students. ^ This qualitative case study explored effective teachers' perceptions of their professional growth that enabled them to become effective in meeting their students' diverse needs. The participants were four regular elementary education teachers recommended by their building principals. Three in-depth interviews and two classroom observations of each teacher provided the data for this study. From the compiled data, thick descriptions of the teachers' endeavors were developed. ^ The data were organized using the frameworks of Sheckley and Keeton's (1997) Principles of Adult Learning and the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL, 2001) Five Phases of Professional Development. The adult learning principles included experience, reflection, problem solving, goal setting and deliberate practice. The phases of professional development included Building a Knowledge Base, Observing Models and Examples, Reflecting on Your Practice, Changing Your Practice, and Gaining and Sharing Expertise. Through an analysis of the data in which teachers described their perceptions of how the adult learning principles had impacted or incorporated the phases of professional development, case studies of each teacher's experience of professional growth was developed. Through the thick descriptions obtained, the case study portrayals featured a unique, personal journey of learning and development for each of the four teachers. Teachers' professional growth was noted to be a continuous endeavor, encompassing their entire career. As a result of this study, insights into the experiences of becoming an effective teacher were revealed. These may be of significance to new and veteran teachers, as well as administrators who are seeking to enhance teachers' professional growth in becoming effective in meeting the needs of all students. ^