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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Professional Development in Education

For a Special Issue on
Leading Professional Learning to Navigate Complexity

Abstract deadline
30 September 2022

Manuscript deadline
01 February 2023

Cover image - Professional Development in Education

Special Issue Editor(s)

Fiona King, Dublin City University, Ireland
[email protected]

Phil Poekert, University of Florida, USA
[email protected]

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Leading Professional Learning to Navigate Complexity

We invite you to submit an article for a Special Issue of Professional Development in Education (PDiE) on leading professional learning within complexity. While this complexity has always existed within the nuanced and multifaceted influences on teaching and learning, it has seemingly increased in recent years as schools emerge from and grapple with the lasting effects of a global pandemic.

This special issue will build on three recent special issues published by PDiE: Leadership for Professional Learning (46.4, 2020); The place of professional growth and professional learning in leading socially just schools (47.1, 2021) and Non-linear perspectives on teacher development:  complexity in professional learning and practice (47:2-3, 2021). All three issues are being published as books in 2023. It is further intended that this special issue will build off the preparations, presentations, conversations, and subsequent collaborations fostered by two recent symposia sponsored by PDiE that focused on Leadership for Professional Learning: Leadership within Technology-Enhanced Professional Learning Spaces (Online, June 2021) and Leadership for Professional Learning in Complex Times (Dublin City University, June 2022). We intend to publish the special issue in October 2023.

The literature that emerged from these special issues and the dialogues catalysed by the symposia speak to a few key points. First, leadership should be understood as a shared practice or activity rather than as a role or position (MacBeath et al., 2018; King & Holland, 2022), which can be enacted by many stakeholders within and beyond schools including students and teachers as well as school and system leaders. Second, the leadership of professional learning is more than the management of professional development (Swaffield & Poekert, 2020). Third, there is a broader acknowledgment and understanding of the highly complex network of influences within schools and systems that affect how professional learning translates to teaching and learning (e.g., Strom, Mills, & Abrams, 2021). Fourth, there is a call for a revisitation of how we both research these influences to optimise the impact on student learning (e.g., Daly, Milton, & Langdon, 2020) and design for them in order to advance educational equity (e.g., Poekert et al., 2020). As Ira Bogotch (2021) noted in the afterword of the special issue on leading socially just schools, “awareness needs to be shared and then a new plan of action
needs to be implemented” (p. 193), and further, “what we can’t do is continue to underestimate the difficulties involved in implementation” (p. 195). If we truly acknowledge the complexity of the influences on teaching and learning, then we acknowledge that implementation is itself a complex experiment. Therefore, further work is necessary to advance the field from acknowledgment to actionable guidance on how to operationalise this understanding of
complexity in both research and practice.

A special issue focused at this intersection of leadership, professional learning, and complexity is then timely. From a theoretical perspective, our understanding of professional learning has become more nuanced. From a sociopolitical perspective, as school systems move from pandemic response to endemic management, they take stock of the residual effects on teaching, learning, and leadership as well as the social inequities highlighted and exacerbated by the events of recent years.

In line with the mission of the PDiE journal, it is our hope that the papers of the special issue will collectively advance the reflective dialogue and practice with all education stakeholders and respond to the charge set by Bogotch (2021) to engage in and lead collaborative professional learning to facilitate societal changes.

Structure of the Special Issue
The papers included within the special issue will be aligned with the 2022 symposium strands and/or questions that emerged from the symposium proceedings. We anticipate a total of approximately 12 papers. We offer the following to spark thinking toward paper proposals.

Symposium Strands
1. Leadership for critical collaborative conversations
2. Scaling up sustainable collaborative approaches to professional learning
3. Professional learning, shared leadership, and agency related to equity, inclusivity, and student voice
4. Leadership learning to bridge the knowledge-practice and values-practice gaps

Questions that Emerged from the Symposium
We offer these questions as thematic headings, rather than anticipated research questions.

  • How can complexity be reframed as a birthplace for innovation and purpose renewal?

Often, complexity is simplified in an attempt to advance educational efforts. How do we acknowledge all of the inherent challenges of implementation, including physical exhaustion and emotional overload? How do we also embrace complexity as a blessing that calls for leadership toward collaborative problem solving and as a catalyst for planning new professional learning approaches?

  • How do we create brave spaces that catalyse education systems to promote equity for all learners?

Recognising that there are tools and processes that facilitate change at a local level (e.g., schools), they are also required at a systems level to navigate complexity and to facilitate organisation and strategy toward more equitable outcomes. How can we reimagine the future state of education systems such that multiple stakeholders are motivated to contribute and provide their perspectives and to enact leadership? What are the strategic approaches to professional learning we need to create to get us there?

  • How do we advance professional learning approaches that account for complexity, enhance teaching and learning, and strengthen educator empowerment?

Moving from an understanding of complexity to action that accounts for it can be challenging. Professional learning is often operationalised as a burdensome task on a tick list, instead of a reflective dialogue among educational leaders, inclusive of school and system leaders, teachers, and students. How can leaders promote professional learning cultures and structures - along with the time, space, and financial resources - for educators to engage in reflection, professional learning and innovation? How can such cultures and structures advance the field from acknowledgment and awareness to
strengthen educator empowerment and moral purpose towards implementation and enactment?

  • How do we know if professional learning is effectively bridging the gaps between knowledge and values, on one hand, and educational practice and outcomes, on the other?

The relationship among students, educators, schools, and professional learning is increasingly understood by many stakeholders, including system leaders, as highly complex and nuanced rather than a linear process from educator learning to educator practice to student learning. How do we operationalise this more nuanced understanding of these multidimensional interactions by employing new research methodologies and/or identifying, measuring, and analysing the relationships among new constructs beyond the traditional focus on teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and standardized
student learning assessments?

These questions should not be considered exhaustive nor prescriptive, and we invite all proposals that align with the focus of the special issue. In short, we are looking for:

  • Papers that offer actionable guidance to researchers and practitioners in navigating complexity. This may be a toolkit or framework for practitioners seeking to implement research-based practices, or it may be an attempt to operationalise an understanding of complexity in research.
  • Comparative papers that look at how complexity and actionable guidance play out in multiple contexts, especially across national boundaries.
  • Contributions that include and look critically at empirical evidence. We are NOT interested in ‘victory narratives.’ We have equal interest in terms of what worked and what did not and why.

We invite you to submit an initial proposal (see below), which will be reviewed by the Special Issue editors.

  • Only articles with a clear focus on leading professional learning within complexity with relevance to an international audience will be considered
  • A number of proposals will be selected, and the authors invited to submit full manuscripts through the ScholarOne system for full blind peer review.
  • Feedback will be made to authors of full manuscripts following peer review as per PDiE normal practice.

Outline of proposal
Please provide an overview indicating:

  • The proposed title of the article
  • The name(s) and institution(s) of all contributing authors with the contact author clearly indicated
  • The email address of the lead/corresponding author
  • An abstract of maximum 200 words, summarising the scope of the article including the ways in which the article will explore leading professional learning within complexity to facilitate societal change

Further details (maximum 500 words) setting out:

  • The type of paper (e.g., empirical study, conceptual framework, comparative analysis, practical tool, research methods, etc.) and its significance for the theory, policy or practice of leading professional learning in complex times.
  • Connections with the overall theme, symposium strands and/or questions that emerged from the symposium
  • Relevant information regarding the geographical context of the paper and any issues relating to this (national education policy etc).

Submission Instructions


Early submissions are welcome in all cases.

30 September 2022: Paper proposals due (including abstracts and further details)
Proposals and any questions should be submitted by email to Fiona King ([email protected]) and Phil Poekert ([email protected]). Please do not submit them to PDiE at this stage. Please indicate clearly that the proposal relates to the PDiE Special Issue on Leading Professional Learning to Navigate Complex Times.
14 October 2022: Special issue editors provide feedback to authors and select proposals to proceed to the next stage.
15 October 2022 - 31 January 2023: Authors/writing teams write full papers. Editorial team available for formative feedback.
1 February 2023: Deadline for submission of full papers for peer review
Papers should be formally submitted to PDiE. Please refer to the instructions for authors on the journal website for detailed information. Submissions for the special issue should include a word count and be a maximum of 8,000 words, including references.
31 March 2023: Feedback to the authors
3 April 2023 - 12 May 2023: First round of review and revision, as necessary. Authors/writing teams revise papers according to feedback from the peer review process.
15 May 2023- 30 June 2023: Second round of review and revision, as necessary.
30 June 2023: Deadline for final papers to have been accepted for publication and submitted to PDiE
October 2023: Anticipated publication of special issue

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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