Towards the Learning Profession

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Transcript Towards the Learning Profession


Towards the Learning Profession

An Escalate Project ange/CPD/contact.php3#case David Wood (Oxford Brookes) and Julie Anderson (Bristol) Towards the Learning Profession


Why investigate professional learning communities?

• An element of the DfES CPD Strategy (2001): • ‘to identify characteristics and conditions of schools which function as professional learning communities (para. 4) Towards the Learning Profession


Why investigate professional learning communities?

• The GTCE Teacher Learning Academy phase 1 begins in Sept. 2003. Objectives include the promotion of ‘enquiry-based practice, peer mentoring and local flexibility • The Scottish Chartered Teacher Scheme Towards the Learning Profession


Why investigate professional learning communities?

• Despite these initiatives to develop a learning profession, the workload agreement reached between the DfES and many teacher unions and due for introduction in September 2003, points to an overloaded profession, with little time for CPD, Towards the Learning Profession



• E – Education • S – Subject • C – Centre • A – Advancing • L – Learning • A – And • T – Teaching in • E – Education Towards the Learning Profession


What it is

• One of 24 Subject Centres working for staff in Education and Continuing Education in Higher Education • Based at Bristol, it has partners at Oxford Brookes, Nottingham and Stirling Universities Towards the Learning Profession

What’s in it for you?

• The leaflet in your pack gives further details but activities include: – Offering resources of all kinds – Small grants – Supporting events – Briefings and bulletins



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The Project

• Aimed to write up 6-8 case studies of schools identified as ‘hotspots’ of CPD or meeting the definition of ‘professional learning communities’; • to interview members of the leadership teams in schools nominated by university or college CPD staff.

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The Project

• We aimed to interview leaders on the basis of the pivotal role they play in catalyzing CPD activity (NFER: 2001); • the semi-structured interviews were designed to illuminate key factors in promoting professional learning communities.

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The questions



Briefly, how would you describe the context of the school? What does the term ‘professional learning community’ mean to you? 3.

How does the school context affect the conditions for a professional learning community? 4.


What type of Continual Professional Development (CPD) takes place in a professional learning community?

Why is such CPD undertaken? 6. How would you describe the balance between formal and informal CPD activities. Do you think some are valued more than others? Which?

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The questions (cont)







Who does the research?

How does CPD relate to everyday processes in the maintenance of learning, teaching and the curriculum?

How does the CPD undertaken relate SDP and the EDP?

What characterises staff who initiate their own projects? What do teachers report about the benefits or otherwise of participating in such a learning community?

Do we live in a climate where initiative in CPD is encouraged? Towards the Learning Profession


The questions (cont)


What have been the constraints or otherwise on the creation and maintenance of this CPD climate / culture?



Who has ownership and control of the work? Who sustains the learning community how is momentum maintained?


What do you feel about the time needed to do CPD yourself, including time necessary for follow up? 17.

How has work relating to CPD impacted on you in terms of how you feel about yourself, your role and your career overall?

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The Project

• One object was to reflect practice in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales;


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Oxfordshire Case Study

• Marlborough School is a successful comprehensive in a semi-rural part of the county. The Deputy Head approached Oxford Brookes in 2002 to design a leadership programme for staff as part of a strategy for succession planning & retention. Towards the Learning Profession


Oxfordshire Case Study

• He saw this as a means of incentivising & retaining the well trained teachers of recent years: ‘45% of teachers are now 1-3 years into their careers and we have a generation..coming through now who want to develop themselves as practitioners.’ Towards the Learning Profession


The learning culture

• He described the process of ‘scanning the horizon’ looking for every opportunity for CPD; • refreshing subject knowledge; • reflective teams (eg on behaviour) • updating (eg child protection); • govt. strategy (eg KS3).

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An agile process

• By this the school takes a creative approach to needs as they arise. Eg, after a racist incident a governor, parents from ethnic minority groups and pupils devised an INSET. This contrasts with the sense that, had this problem so they sent us on a course.’ ‘we Towards the Learning Profession



• The school identifies of CPD. ‘segments’ (Corkindale and Trorey: 2002) of the staff and offers CPD opportunities judged appropriate for each group; eg experienced female staff undertake ITT mentoring as a form Towards the Learning Profession


Peer observation

• Whilst this is a formal system the school encourages a culture’ ‘no blame (see Senge: 1990). The senior management nurture receptive dispositions so staff do not regard classroom observation or evaluation as a threat. Towards the Learning Profession



• The Deputy Head acknowledges that the school gathers insufficient data to demonstrate impact. But his impression is that CPD has propagated diversity in learning activity: ‘this is related to our lesson observation programme, to all forms of CPD and to the high quality now of ITT.’ Towards the Learning Profession



• So the energetic professional learning community is achieved through a ‘contingency’ management (Law & Glover:2000) by avoiding simple ‘off the shelf’ CPD solutions in favour of constantly matching staff and school needs with a range of CPD. approach to Towards the Learning Profession


The South West case study


A consortium of 6 LEAs and 2 HEIs • one of teachers.

the country’s largest providers of award-bearing CPD for • traditional twilight / evening CPD courses in HEIs unsuitable in area.

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The SWIfT Approach

• discuss with schools re: what SWIfT can offer; • 80% of programmes tailor made; • initial contact - leads to 10-15 minutes follow up at staff meeting; • sessions 1.5 – 2 hrs at monthly intervals - after school on school premises.

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Reasons for success

• Credibility and a good team; • suitable location; • groups develop their own momentum; • supportive colleagues and HEI staff; • course reflects teacher concerns and interests.

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Honiton College

• Interviewees - new entrants / nearing retirement; • programme negotiated; • centred on contemporary issues; • dominant learning and teaching style of interaction and debate; • increasingly focus on individual assignments


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Recruitment most effective if

• SWIfT find that direct approach then a visit - is most effective; • it helps where the CPD Co-ordinator is on the SMT, is enthusiastic and works well with the SWIfT staff; • NfER (2001:34) identifies school leaders as the ‘fundamental’ determinants of maintaining the professional learning community.

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Further reasons for



• SWIfT ensures regular review of any programme – leads to maintaining interest by remaining relevant to the • agendas for individual sessions are also constantly reviewed; • each session ends with agreement about content/topic for the next + agreement re:date etc.

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Potential problems

• OFSTED disrupted programmes; • dominant voices can dissuade possible interested parties; • constraint of time; • no clear agreement in the SMT about what a programme could or should include; • CPD not a very high priority in the school.

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Bedfordshire case study

• Beds. School Improvement Partnership formed by heads esp. heads in GM schools to undertake CPD independently of the LEA.

• Has 180 schools including 24 in a Networked Learning Community. Co ordinates a wide range of activity, esp. collaborative working.

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Pupils as researchers

• This is a distinctive aspect of BSIP’s work - pupils are supported so that they can offer opinions and research findings on learning & teaching; • eg at the BSIP annual conference pupils themselves contributed to staff training on inclusion. Towards the Learning Profession


The Student Voice

• For the Partnership Director a key objective is to develop pupil articulacy in support of their role in improving learning & teaching, so that their opinions can be seen as more legitimate and informed. Towards the Learning Profession


The Student Voice

• BSIP emphasises the importance of maintaining structures which give pupils a role in improving learning. • The student voice ‘can be scary and intimidate staff’ so schools need to provide formal opportunities for pupils to respond and staff to get used to their input. Towards the Learning Profession

Collaborative learning

• BSIP has promoted professional study groups across schools and phases (eg thinking skills in maths and PE); • for the Partnership Director every classroom is unique but this is not incompatible with experiments in the transfer of practice.

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The University of Glamorgan case study

• Janet Todd Jones funded by NOF; • bought in Janet - a practising teacher -for ICT Training Co-ordinator role; • based at the university; • Janet – already a member of the ICT steering committee for the region; • Centre for Lifelong Learning ( CELL) focuses on inclusion and widening access to communities.

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The School

• supportive of CPD for its staff; • benefits from Janet returning there regularly; • technical support and advice etc.

• Janet’s work dovetails closely with School Development Plan; • HEI and school in close proximity.

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Teacher research - Time

• Re: teachers returning from CPD courses: ‘most .. were unable to exploit their newly acquired skills .. on returning to schools because of the competing demands and pressures of time’ (HMI report 410 p25, paragraph 53). Towards the Learning Profession



Teacher research Enthusiasm

• The issue of the importance of ‘personal enthusiasm’ was a finding in the LGA research report 23 which stated that it is ‘crucial’( page 96).

• Janet has found that enthusiasm can be generated! Towards the Learning Profession


New entrants V experienced teachers

• As an older teacher herself, Janet couldn’t have taken on her current role earlier - so takes view that flexibility in CPD is crucial something we will return to later Towards the Learning Profession


Possible constraints and Reasons for success

Nervous of change; financial constraints; attitude of key members of staff; commitment, drive and courage!

subject area genuinely of interest. Towards the Learning Profession


Kent Case Study

• Angley School has a long-standing relationship with Canterbury Christ Church. A group of staff are undertaking enquiry-based development work leading to a masters degree in School Development.

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• This is supported by the Centre for Educational Leadership and School Improvement at Canterbury Christ Church, which exists to provide ‘critical friendship..and to raise levels of criticality and professional discourse.’ (Durrant: 2003) Towards the Learning Profession


Kent Case Study

• In the view of the case study author, Judy Durrant, ‘relationships and contacts are often more important than structures, systems and marketing’ in maintaining this school-based activity. Key support is seen to come from the head.

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• 2 members of the Angley group were appointed to leadership posts elsewhere and established similar groups in their new schools number of overlapping communities of practice’ (Wenger:1998); ‘a Towards the Learning Profession


Process framework

• For staff this involves: • Clarifying values & concerns; • personal development planning; • strategic action planning; • leading development work; • transforming professional knowledge (Frost & Durrant: 2003).

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The staff response

• At interview the group reported: • that they participate to affect learning and school development more than to gain qualifications; • that they value cross-hierarchical, inter-departmental debate; • that the work transcends national policy imperatives. Towards the Learning Profession


Issues for staff

• Time and prioritising; • continuing the practice of ITT - one teacher said she joined the group to continue the reflective habits she developed in her recent initial training; • profiling this work in the wider staff group: Towards the Learning Profession


Northern Ireland case study

• LEAs provide a curriculum and assessment support service (CASS) focusing on what are perceived as relevant issues; • two large universities provide a wide choice of award bearing courses, diplomas, masters and doctoral programmes.

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The school

• Special attention given to learning and teaching; • creation of a post for learning and teaching for a senior teacher; • the SMT saw learning and teaching as integral to their development plan.

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• The teacher appointed began by engaging with people who wanted to work in learning and teaching - and building a small team - with the aim that it would become infectious - and so engage other staff. Towards the Learning Profession


She said:

‘As a learning community our priority is the pupils, but we also realise they cannot really benefit unless we work on staff development, so in a way we enhance the pupil learning experience through enhancing the skills of the staff which in turn enhances the teaching experience and is a learning experience in itself for them…Learning and Teaching are central to our SDP and the work we do as a result of the SDP results, without a doubt, in improvement.’ Towards the Learning Profession


One of the team

Perceptions: • about 75% of the staff now initiate and develop aspects CPD - but there are those who aren’t interested; • 100% of the younger members of staff are involved while the percentage is smaller for those nearing the end of their careers. Towards the Learning Profession



• The establishment of a learning and teaching group created opportunities for teachers to address the interface between their expectations and the pupils’ experience of being in a classroom; • done through giving status to teaching and learning by the appointment of a senior teacher whose personal qualities motivate other members of staff; • a bottom-up model attracting the interest of almost all the younger members of staff. Towards the Learning Profession


Lack of schools nominated

• Although nominating schools was not a time consuming task for higher education staff, we found it difficult to find 6-8 case studies, and had as many people declining the invitations as agreeing to take part. Why was this?

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The nominations problem

• Higher ed staff were too busy to respond - workload?

• There is an ongoing DfES commissioned study.

• One response was that the university offer was too inflexible to stimulate schools Towards the Learning Profession


The nominations problem

• Finally the fact that several Scottish institutions did not respond may reflect the unique position in Scotland which is introducing the Chartered Teacher Scheme this September. Some Scottish staff may feel that the conditions in other counties are not relevant.

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The research methodology ‘deflected’

• Contacts resisted nominating single schools; instead they suggested we talk to: • a regional LEA, HEI partnership; • an entire school group; • a school partnership; • a seconded teacher.

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Why ‘deflection?’

• Nominating best practice schools is divisive and threatens ‘green shoots’ of CPD activity?

• CPD activity is diverse & chaotic, resisting rigid structures, interference and influence?

• Advocates of CPD are opportunistic in propagating CPD where it is found?

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Common issues - 1: years of experience

• Interviewees generalised about teachers’ experience being a factor in how enthusiastic they are about CPD - interviewees in 3 case studies mentioned that more recently trained teachers are more receptive to CPD activity.

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The recently trained teacher

• Why might this impression be formed?

• Strong view that ITT has improved through the 1990s; • newer teachers more aligned to evidence-based practice; • knowledge about teaching more provisional in modern ITT.

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The experienced teacher

• More jaundiced?

• Perceives methods and trends in education to be cyclical?

• Mature graduate teachers formed an elite educated minority - may percieve QTS as the destination, rather than a starting point for developing as a teacher?

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The contrasting view of this

• However, one interviewee suggested that the point of resistance to CPD is among teachers with 8-15 years of experience; • another interviewee approaching retirement said that she was undertaking CPD because she didn’t want to stagnate.

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2 - independence

• There was a strong allegiance to ‘grass roots’ self-determination in designing CPD, except among career minded teachers. • 3 case studies emphasised the importance of schools designing CPD to meet their needs, & resisted ‘off the peg’ courses.

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Implications of this

• LEA menus, inflexible universities and college programmes & government determination can be a turn off. • Agendas and CPD content should be negotiated before and during the process. Towards the Learning Profession


Implications of this

• Universities and colleges must consider their role in: • facilitating networks; • badging and accrediting locally created courses; • responding to commissions; • providing geographically convenient CPD in schools.

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3 - the open culture

• 3 case studies saw an open forgiving culture as critical (see Senge:1991); • teachers should not feel judged or criticised; • students can be trained to offer useful feedback; Towards the Learning Profession


4 - how practice is described

• 2 Case studies in particular suggested that teachers resisted and were intimidated by research, but highly valued sharing and learning about other practice. There is probably insufficient recognition of the similarities. Towards the Learning Profession


Implications of this

• The sequencing of CPD is possibly a crucial factor. It is likely to be perceived as useful if the starting point is school-based issues, followed by examples of practice elsewhere, followed by how practice is illuminated in research. • But what price ‘M’ level?

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5 the flexible career

• One case study centred on an individual teacher moving from role to role in schools and in support of schools. GTCE members strongly support this model, which refreshes teachers, and ensures that those going contributing to CPD are credible practitioners with recent and relevant experience.

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Summary points: resistance

• Broad assumption that there is resistance to professional development, either to CPD, or accreditation or to particular subject content, or to govt. training initiatives.

• A common tactical assumption is that you ‘sweeten the pill.’ Towards the Learning Profession


Summary points: further enquiry

• The limits of these case studies necessitate caution: • speculation only on the reasons behind certain common statements; • our suggestions are very provisional; • we should gather more case studies in order to understand how better to promote CPD.

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