Reflecting on professional learning


Professional learning is an umbrella term that includes many different types of activities that support us to develop our practices. Sometimes these are formal opportunities (courses, required training, led events) but we also engage in significant amounts of informal professional learning (using social media, reading press articles, talking to others, surfing webpages) (Lyon et al. 2022). Often in education, we feel the pressure to identify and justify our professional learning activities in terms of direct and explicit impacts on our learners. Sometimes this is easy to do but sometimes it is far less obvious what the direct impact is. Sometimes we can attend events or read something that feels like it has a profound effect on us at the time, but we struggle to bridge the seemingly large gulf between what we would like to achieve and the current situation. This is where an Appreciative Approach (Armstrong et al. 2020, Bushe, 2007&2013, Cooperrider et al. 2008) can support you in identifying what was exciting, interesting, and full of potential, and using that information to generate practical actions that you can make in your context.  

Figure 1: An Appreciative Approach to professional learning

A positive core is circled by immersing/appreciating, imagining/ generating, Innovating/developing and Re-immersing/living.

For the purposes of this course the key features of an Appreciative Approach (figure 1) can be summarised as; 

  • Starting from the positive or generative – what in the professional learning caught your attention? 

  • Telling stories about the positive or generative aspect, to immerse yourself in why it caught your attention, and what you feel is the potential, but also to help you articulate this to others who you may need support from.  

  • Imagining different future practices which build on from these stories. 

  • Creating the conditions for innovating and developing new practices, not by tying yourself to a particular set of linear actions, but by creating a guiding proposition (of what the future looks like) and ensuring you have what you need to work towards that iteratively and in response to the messiness of your context. 

  • Finally, an Appreciative Approach asks us to appreciatively re-immerse ourselves in our newly forming practices to consider the new possibilities that are being opened up further from their creation.  


Last modified: Wednesday, 14 February 2024, 10:38 AM