Organisational and Professional Learning
Education and the professionals working in education should constantly develop and innovate in relation to the ever- changing society of today. Factors in the context of teacher professional development, such as the structure and culture of the school organization and the type of leadership are important in understanding the professionalization processes and the professional and innovative behavior of teachers and teacher teams. Up to now however, little is understood about the exact impact of the (school) organization on teachers’ professionalization in the context of recent innovations in education.

Leading research questions

  • Which factors (organizational, team) explain variations in teachers individual and collective learning and innovative behavior, and how do these different levels interact with each other?
  • To what extent and in what way does individual and collective innovative behavior of teachers, in addition to other factors, explain the development and introduction of innovations in educational settings?


The context of innovation and teacher professionalization consists of a diversity of elements, which are crucial for the development of individuals and the organization as a whole.

  • Structural and cultural factors
    Structural and cultural aspects of a school are important factors with regard to innovation. Structural factors are for instance the formal organisation in a school in relation to all kinds of teacher professional behaviour (like curriculum development; innovative methods of assessing learners), and an ICT infrastructure in schools. Cultural factors such as the learning climate and attitude towards innovation, profession or learning are also subjects of interests.
  • Interaction of teachers in groups
    Apart from structural and cultural aspects in schools, teaming of teachers is an important feature of the professional organisation. Informal learning through collaborative working and innovation turns out to be a powerful way of professionalization. Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) are a vehicle for professionalization. Characteristics of PLC’s are: a collective ambition, sufficient differences between the participants and sufficient relatedness to be able to work on the ambition.
  • Role of leadership
    Leadership is not only exercised by the school leader, but is based on expertise, talents and qualities that are necessary in a specific situation. In powerful professional learning communities school leaders and teachers alike have the opportunity to take influence within the school. Forms of distributed leadership are often seen as contributing to PLC’s in school.
    School leaders’ main roles can be seen as to lead learning. This means that school leaders support teachers in a process of learning that is aimed at improving their teaching. Similarly, school leaders can be seen as the ‘gate keepers’ of distributed leadership and should create fruitful conditions for it to flourish. Transformational leadership is a way of leading which fits this point of view; it means that the school leader emphasizes increasing the commitment and skills of employees by personal attention, intellectual stimulation and inspiring employees based on a vision. Transformational leadership promotes the autonomy to develop that teachers experience and, in turn, this autonomy is related to innovative behavior of teachers.
  • Innovative school practices
    An important aspect in a school organisation is the position, autonomy, or agency that teachers are given (amongst others by the school leader) with respect to their professional development and collective learning in PLC’s and innovations that take place.
    Specific attention will be given on innovative contexts, such as schools and educational institutes with more ‘ground breaking’ educational designs, versus traditional schools. This perspective is interesting, because the context of innovative designs trigger new (informal) learning needs of teachers and can show completely different structures and cultures in schools.
  • Outcomes of learning
    We will focus on three levels of outcome: the individual, team and the school level. Especially at the team and school level little research is done. It would be very interesting to study a concept as collective self-efficacy or collective innovative behaviour. In addition, the interaction between variables at these levels is an interesting point for further research.


  • Stichting Onderwijs Midden Limburg (SOML): Teachers’ professional development and the role of distributed leadership in developing Heyy (a regional learning centre for teachers). Project is also part of the Educatieve Agenda Limburg.
  • Algemene Vereniging van Schoolleiders (AVS): Distributed leadership and Professional Learning Communities. Also in collaboration with the European School Heads Association.
  • Synergie (innovative school in primary education): Synergy in educational innovation.
  • Collaboration between the Faculty of Educational Sciences and A&O Psychology: Investigating Teacher Autonomy, it’s conditions (individual, organisational, policy) and outcomes.
  • Collaboration between the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Iselinge (teacher education): (Prospective) teachers’ professional development and their inquiry-based attitude in academic workplaces


Key publications:

  • Brouwer, P., Brekelmans, J.M.G., Nieuwenhuis, A.F.M., & Simons, P.R.J. (2012). Fostering teacher community development: a review of design principles and a case study of an innovative interdisciplinary team. Learning Environments Research, 15, 3, pp. 319-344.
  • Brouwer, P., Brekelmans, J.M.G., Nieuwenhuis, A.F.M., & Simons, P.R.J. (2012). Community development in the school workplace, In: International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 26; 4, pp. 403 - 418
  • Evers, A. T., Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M., Kreijns, K., & Vermeulen, M. (2016). Job demands, resources and flexible competence: The mediating role of teachers’ professional development at work. Journal of Career Development, 43(3), 227-243. 
  • Evers, A. T., Kreijns, K., Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M., & Gerrichhauzen, J. T. G. (2011). An Organizational and Task Perspective Model Aimed at Enhancing Teachers’ Professional Development and Occupational Expertise. Human Resource Development Review, 10(2), 151-179.
  • Hulsbos, A. F., Evers, A. T., & Kessels, J. W. M. (2016). Learn to Lead. Mapping Workplace Learning of School leaders. Vocations and Learning, 9(1), 21-42. 
  • Meijer, M-J, Geijsel, F., Kuijpers, M., Boei, F., & Vrieling, E. (2016). Exploring teachers’ inquiry-based attitude. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(1), 64-78.
  • Thurlings, M., Evers, A. T., & Vermeulen, M. (2015). Toward a Model of Explaining Teachers’ Innovative Behavior: A Literature Review. Review of Educational Research, 85(3), 430–471. doi:10.3102/0034654314557949.
  • Vermeulen, M. (2016) Leren organiseren, een rijke leeromgeving voor leraren en scholen. Oratie. Open Universiteit Heerlen 20 mei 2016.
  • Vermeulen, M., Kreijns, K., van Buuren, H., & Van Acker, F. (2016). The role of transformative leadership, ICT‐infrastructure and learning climate in teachers' use of digital learning materials during their classes. British Journal of Educational Technology.
  • Vrieling, E. M., Bastiaens, Th. J., & Stijnen, P. J. J. (2012). Effects of increased self-regulated learning opportunities on student teachers’ metacognitive and motivational development. International Journal of Educational Research, 53, 251-263.

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