Professional Learning

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Professional learning of teachers and student teachers

Focus and scope

Key focus is on teacher professional learning at various stages of preparation of student teachers and of ongoing learning in practice environments. Focus is also on professional development of school counsellors and educational psychologists.

Specific topics include Conceptual change [how concepts are learned and developed]; Collaborative learning//study teams [processes of peer learning]; Learning in mentoring settings.


Apart from the number of Masters and Doctoral students, research is being done by staff of the Department: Prof. Gert van der Westhuizen, Dr. Martyn van der Merwe, Dr. Dinah Magano, Dr. Elzette Fritz.

International participation: Dr. Harm Tillema – Leiden University

Theoretical importance

Our research contributes to socio-cultural perspectives of learning, notably interactional learning, knowledge productive learning, and communities of practice.

Progress and publications

Tillema, H. and Van der Westhuizen, G.J. 2003. Knowledge productive Teams – Professionals Learn Collaboratively. Life Long Learning in Europe, 3/2003: 19-25.

Tillema, H. and Van der Westhuizen, G.J. 2006. Knowledge Construction in Collaborative Enquiry of Teachers, Teachers and Teaching, Theory and Practice, 12(1): 51-67.

Van der Westhuizen, G. J. 2009. Writing as an instrument for learning. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 27(4): 471–482.

Van der Westhuizen, G. J. & Van der Merwe, M. 2010. Student-onderwysers se interpretasie en gebruik van leerteoriekonsepte. [Student teachers’ interpretation of learning theory concepts]. Journal for the Humanities, 50(1): 87-103.

Johnston, C., van der Westhuizen, G.J., & Tillema, H.H. (submitted for publication). Teacher knowledge of help-seeking in mathematics problem solving. Submitted to Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice.

Wolfensberger-Le Fevre, C., Fritz, E. & van der Westhuizen, G. (submitted for publication). The community of learning is in the baobab tree – how the branches stay together in professional learning contexts.

Msomi, W. N., Van der Westhuizen, G. J. and Steenekamp, K. (under preparation for publication). Teacher learning in contexts of policy implementation.

Van der Westhuizen, G. J. (under preparation for publication). How talk moves – conversation in a reading lesson.

Van der Westhuizen, G. J. (submitted for publication). Learning Equity in a University Classroom.

Current projects 2011-2012

Mentoring conversations in professional learning – a study in collaboration with University of Leiden and Free Sate.
This project focuses on the role of knowledge in mentoring conversations, and a pilot is planned for 2011.

Interested researchers should contact the coordinator Prof Gert van der Westhuizen