Doubt, Skepticism, and Controversy in Professional Development Scholarship: Advancing a Critical Research Agenda

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter focuses on the epistemic development of the professional development research field. Through comparison with the closely related field of educational leadership research, it is argued that the professional development research field is ripe for epistemic development – indeed, that its epistemic worthiness is dependent upon it. While valuable contributions to critical scholarship have been made by individual researchers of professional development, the field lacks a coherent and co-ordinated critical discourse that parallels critical educational leadership research; moreover, mainstream assumptions that remain unchallenged impoverish professional development research. Three key, contentious, issues are highlighted as needing to be placed at the top of a critical research agenda for professional development: the search for causality; conceptualisation; and the professional development process. Calling for greater conceptual clarity and definitional precision that should go hand-in-hand with a sharper focus on what the professional development process involves, the chapter problematises not only the search for the ‘holy grail’ of, and claims of a ‘consensus’ about, what makes professional development effective, but also the narrow conceptualisation of professional development that these imply. There is a need, it is argued, for more rigorous research and scholarship that confront what have been called ‘inconvenient truths’ about professional development. The chapter concludes with a call for critical researchers of professional development to harness their combined efforts towards advancing a recognisable critical discourse that, by challenging weakly supported mainstream beliefs and assumptions, will unsettle the field’s ‘epistemic state’ and advance its epistemic development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Teacher Education Research
EditorsIan Menter
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783031161933
ISBN (Print)9783031161926
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023

Publication series

NameThe Palgrave Handbook of Teacher Education Research


  • Teacher education
  • pre-service teachers
  • professional development
  • Comparative education
  • Education policy
  • Teacher identity


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