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Learning on the job – making opportunities

Released this summer, the Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development is a concise breakdown of what constitutes great on-the-job learning for teachers – the circumstances, the nature of the learning, and the roles played by all involved.

The document states that: ‘Effective professional development relies upon teachers, headteachers and leadership teams in schools and organisations providing professional development, being clear about their respective roles and working together effectively.’

A place for scholarship

While initial teacher education always has, to my knowledge, placed high value on scholarship, professional learning once in post hasn’t always followed through to a high enough standard to make a real difference to teaching and learning. The Standard makes it clear that: ‘High-quality professional development requires workplaces to be steeped in rigorous scholarship, with professionals continually developing and supporting each other so that pupils benefit from the best possible teaching.’

Sir John Holman, Chair of the Teacher Development Trust, described the Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development as a ‘benchmark for good practice’ but offers a gentle warning that, ‘whilst this Standard provides sound guidelines, it is in itself not enough to ensure we are able to raise the importance and quality of professional development in our schools.’

Ensuring great practice

We know from research and from people involved in projects like the creation of a Standard for Professional Development, that too many teachers don’t yet have access to the kind of professional learning that will help them to make real and constructive progress in teaching and learning. All teachers are entitled to access top quality professional learning, but how many actually do?

There have been calls to ‘raise the game’ in CPD for many years and while there is some excellent practice out there (let us know if you have experienced any), there are also some sorry stories being told of professional learning that fails to address the breadth of research and knowledge we have in the field of teaching and learning. CPD cannot be about pushing individual agendas.

The key themes to emerge from the Standard are what we would expect, but enshrining them allows us to place excellent CPD right at the heart of what schools do and to prioritise it ruthlessly. Evidence, expertise, collaboration, sustainability, and evaluation all feature – and all need our attention.

Moving on

As Sir John Holman explained, ‘the real challenge is how we introduce and embed these standards in schools across the UK. We face a real risk that these Standards will be treated as a superficial tick box exercise rather than empowering schools to truly understand and implement the substance within them.’

The message is clear. This is about taking on board, fully, the importance of CPD and devising ways in which each school can improve what it offers teachers. The Teacher Development Trust is there to help schools to achieve this through the advice and guidance it offers so it’s well worth getting to know the organisation.

Making it work

It seems the clear message for teachers is to have high expectations of professional learning. This is no longer about being sent to a training day, if you’re lucky, once a year, but about real partnership in deciding courses of action, sources of learning and creating sustainable ways for professional learning to be pursued, fruitfully, over time.

Expect to be supported and challenged, expect full engagement from your school, and expect to share your learning in collaborative projects with colleagues. The Standard is an excellent focus for schools and us, as individual teachers. With the reminders if offers, combined with the necessary commitments from schools and the government in terms of funding and time, the strides in scholarship made just might lead to strong gains in progress for children.

Finding out more…

The Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development can be found here. The supporting guidance is also worth reading.

The Teacher Development Trust is here.

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