Change, Challenge, Transformation: A Qualitative Inquiry into Transformative Teacher Learning

  • Helena Kovacs Eötvös Loránd University
Keywords: transformative learning, educational change, teacher collaboration, school development


In its essence, transformative learning is a dynamic and ever-emerging process, according to the core literature that deals with it. As such, when examined from the perspective of teacher professional development, transformative learning ceases being solely related to an individual and becomes a composition within which the individual creates and expands forms that need change. Thus, teacher learning that focuses only on new technology, methodology, and classroom management remains informative and valuable, but without a transformative character. This paper explores the underpinning principles of transformative learning by observing the notions of transformative change from the perspective of two non-traditional schools: one in Hungary and the other in Portugal. As such, the analysis and conclusions are formed using the data collected
through a qualitative inquiry of teachers and principals from the two selected schools. The results suggest that teacher transformative learning in the two specific settings is intimately related to the awareness and need
of change in education provisions, as well as with the challenges that this change brings. The gathered insights pave a way to a better understanding of the intricate and delicate tapestry of teacher learning in occasions in
which it embraces an everlasting reflective and transformative character. 


Download data is not yet available.


Amaro, G. (2000). Curriculum innovation in Portugal: The Área Escola - an arena for cross-curricular activities and curriculum development. Geneva: International Bureau of Education UNESCO. Retrieved from

Bakkenes, I., Vermunt, J. D., & Wubbels, T. (2010). Teacher learning in the context of educational innovation: Learning activities and learning outcomes of experienced teachers. Learning and Instruction, 20(6), 533–548. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.09.001

Cervinkova, H., & Kalman, O. (2016). European doctorate in teacher education. Forum Oświatowe, 28(2), 10. Retrieved from

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. Review of Research in Education, 24, 249–305. doi:10.2307/1167272

Day, C., Sammons, P., Hopkins, D., Harris, A., Leithwood, K., Gu, Q., … Kington, A. (2009). The impact of school leadership on pupil outcomes final report. Nottingham: University of Nottingham. Retrieved from

Echazarra, A., Salinas, D., Méndez, I., Denis, V., & Rech, G. (2016). How teachers teach and students learn: Successful strategies for school. OECD Education Working Papers No. 130. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from

Ellström, P.-E. (2001). Integrating learning and work: Problems and prospects. Human Resource Development Quarterly Winter, 12(4), 421–435. Retrieved fromöm 2001.pdf

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: an activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit. Retrieved from

Giles, C., & Hargreaves, A. (2006). The sustainability of innovative schools as learning organizations and professional learning communities during standardized reform. Educational Administration Quarterly, 42(1), 124–156. doi:10.1177/0013161X05278189

Gregorzewski, M., & Kovacs, H. (2017). A mix that works for school development: School leadership and knowledge shariNG. In L. Rasiński, T. Tóth, & J. Wagner (Eds.), European perspectives in transformative education (pp. 204–215). Wroclaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Dolnośląskiej Szkoły Wyższej we Wrocławiu.

Halász, G. (2003). Educational change and social transition in Hungary. In E. Polyzoi, M. Fullan, & J. P. Anchan (Eds.), Change forces in post-communist eastern Europe: Education in transition (pp. 55–73). London, UK, & New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Halász, G. (2015). Education and social transformation in central and eastern Europe. European Journal of Education, 50(3), 350–371. doi:10.1111/ejed.12130

Hammerness, K., Darling-Hammond, L., Bransford, J., Berliner, D., Cochran-Smith, M., McDonald, M., & Zeicher, K. (2007). How teachers learn and develop. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do (pp. 358–389). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from for a Changing World.pdf

Hargreaves, A., Halász, G., & Pont, B. (2007). School leadership for systemic improvement in Finland: A case study report for the OECD activity Improving school leadership. Retrieved from

Horvath, L., Verderber, E., & Barath, T. (2015). Managing the complex adaptive learning organization. Contemporary Educational Leadership, 2(3), 61–83. Retrieved from

James, C. (2010). The psychodynamics of educational change. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), Second international handbook of educational change (pp. 47–64). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Jarvis, P. (2006). Towards a comprehensive theory of human learning. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Jarvis, P. (2009). Learning to be a person in the society: Learning to be me. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theoriests - In their own words. London, UK, & New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

Kegan, R. (2009). What ‘form’ transfroms? A constructive-developmental approach to transfomrative learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theoriests - In their own words (pp. 35–52). London, UK, & New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

Kovacs, H., & Tinoca, L. (2017). Unfreeze the pedagogies: introduction of a new innovative measure in Portugal. Revista Tempos e Espaços Em Educação, 10(23), 73–86.

McCharen, B., Song, J., & Martens, J. (2011). School innovation: The mutual impacts of organizational learning and creativity. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 39(6), 676–694. doi:10.1177/1741143211416387

Mezirow, J. (2009). An overview on transformative learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theoriests – In their own words (pp. 90–105). London, UK, & New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

Ministry of Education and Culture. (2008). Education in Hungary past, present, future – an overview. Budapest: Department for EU Relations.

Resnick, L. B., Goldman, P., Spillane, J. P., & Rangel, E. S. (2010). Implementing innovation: From visionary models to everyday practice. In H. Dumont, D. Istance, F. Benavides (Eds.), The Nature of learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice (pp. 285–315). Paris: OECD. doi:10.1787/9789264086487-14-en

Roldão, M. C. (2003). Strategies to promote good practice and innovation in schools – The Portuguese case. In OECD (Ed.), Networks of innovation: Towards new models for managing schools and systems (pp. 87–97). Paris: OECD Publishing.

Schleicher, A. (2015). Schools for 21st-century learners. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Snyder, J., Bolin, F., & Zumwait, K. (1992). Curriculum implementation. In P. W. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of research on curriculum (pp. 402–435). New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Talbert, J. E. (2010). Professional learning communities at the crossroads: How systems hinder or engender change. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), Second international handbook of educational change (pp. 555–571). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme. Wellington: Ministry of Education. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7984.2007.00116.x