In this paper we reflect on data from two research projects in which inclusive practice in schools is at issue, in the light of wider field experience (our own and others’) of school and teacher development. We question what we understand to be relatively common, implicit policy assumptions about how teachers develop, by examining the way in which teachers are portrayed and located in these projects. The examples discussed in this paper draw on experience in Lao PDR and Bangladesh, critically exploring teachers’ roles, position and agency in practice. Similarities and differences rooted in cultural, political and institutional contexts highlight in a very productive way the significance and potential dangers of policy assumptions about teachers within the process of development. \ud In Bangladesh, a success story is presented: the case of a group of schools in which an institutional context for learning appears to sustain teachers’ commitment and motivation, with the effect of creating meaningful outcomes for young people who were previously outside the education system. These data raise questions about the significance of institutional context to teachers’ practices, and questions about approaches to teacher development which omit consideration of that context by, for example, focusing inadvertently on features of individual teachers. \ud We then consider teachers’ responses to the movement for inclusive education in a school in the Lao PDR since 2004. Inclusion here was understood to require a significant shift in teacher identity and a movement away from authoritative pedagogy towards the facilitation of a pedagogy which aimed to encourage the active participation of all students. Through a longitudinal study of teachers in one school, the conditions for such change were identified and again cast doubt on some of the assumptions behind large-scale attempts at teacher development. Reflecting on these experiences and the evidence they provide, we suggest that teacher development programmes are more likely to be effective where teachers are considered not as individuals subject to training but as agents located in an influential institutional context
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