Skip to main content
Situativity theory and emerging trends in teacher professional development
Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) (2004)
  • Susanne Owen, University of South Australia
The current focus on teacher quality in Australian education has highlighted the importance of ongoing professional development (PD), with research indicating the effectiveness of school-based PD and other longer term programs. These examples of PD approaches link to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), situativity theory and communities of practice research. In particular, Vygotsky's ZPD focuses on potential performance and uses social and environmental artefacts to deliberately accelerate learning and the internalisation process beyond competence. In applying ZPD to teacher learning, situativity theory rather than an individually-based cognitive learning approach is emphasised. Therefore, the most effective PD is situated in a particular school, team or community of shared understanding. It involves social interaction and includes learning from observing individuals, sharing ideas through oral and written language, and engaging in practical tasks such as analysing student work. Situativity theory may be further expanded beyond situated authentic practice activities to encompass Communities of Practice, which emphasises an anthropological perspective. While Communities of Practice highlight learning within the social context, a significant focus is that the individual identity becomes intertwined and inseparable from the community. A key aspect is that reproduction of the community occurs through a process of legitimate peripheral participation of newcomers. This involves gradual negotiation of meanings, with the learner progressively moving towards a more central position in the community. This paper examines the concepts of ZPD, situativity theory and Communities of Practice in relation to emerging trends in teacher PD. Coaching, mentoring, study groups and other PD examples are discussed. [Author abstract]
  • Learning communities,
  • Learning theories,
  • Professional development,
  • Situated learning,
  • Teacher effectiveness,
  • Vygotskyan theory,
  • Case studies,
  • Interviews,
  • Primary secondary education,
  • Teacher quality
Publication Date
December, 2004
Citation Information
Susanne Owen. "Situativity theory and emerging trends in teacher professional development" Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) (2004)
Available at: