How teachers learn: the roles of formal, informal, and independent learning

  • W. Monty JonesEmail author
  • Sara Dexter
Development Article


A qualitative study of math and science teachers at two middle schools identifies how their system for learning to integrate technology into their teaching goes beyond what school leaders typically consider when planning for teachers’ learning. In addition to (a) the district-initiated, or formal, system of professional development (PD) and professional learning communities (PLCs), it includes (b) teacher-initiated, or informal, learning with colleagues as well as (c) teachers’ independent learning activities. Analysis of why and how they form their system highlights how by only supporting the formal PD activities and PLCs, the district not only loses the valuable collective knowledge of the districts’ teachers derived from their informal and independent learning activities, but also diminishes the learning teachers derive from the formal PD activities since informal collaborations and independent work after formal PD activities often helps to bring the learning from the training room to the classroom. We present teachers’ insights and then discuss implications for the design of a holistic approach to facilitate teachers’ formal, informal, and independent learning that is tied together and supported by technology. While research on formal, informal and independent teacher learning exists, with technology frequently mentioned as a potential support for each of these three modes, these approaches have not been considered together as interdependent parts of the same holistic system for teacher learning nor has the way technology might knit these modes of teacher learning together been imagined as a part of that system.


Technology related teacher professional development Formal and informal teacher learning Technology integration 


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Curry School of EducationUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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