6. Lifelong Teaching
IDEA 5: Career-long teacher education which is currently too fragmented and often haphazard should be at the heart of this process with implications for its philosophy, quality, coherence, efficiency and impact.
Colleges regard CPD as a cornerstone of their ability to respond flexibly and positively to the changing needs of learners, employers, society and government. They are recognised in a range of publications as having strengths in effective staff review and in arrangements for CPD. (Learning Together improving teaching, improving learning, HMIE (2009); Improving Scottish Education 2005-2008, HMIE (2009); Review for Scotland’s Colleges: Transforming Lives, Transforming Scotland, Scottish Executive (2007); Review of Scotland’s Colleges: Promoting Excellence, Scottish Government (2007). Few would argue that the idea would apply in the college sector.
It is from that position of considerable strength that we can move forward. We need to ensure these arrangements continue to be fit for purpose.
At any one time, a number of staff development needs require to be met. There will be those derived from changes in institutional processes or statutory requirements. These are often straightforward to address. There will be those deriving from the need to maintain vocational and subject-based skills and experience. These are often seen as the responsibility of the individual and there is much good practice around. Finally, there will be those deriving from the need to take forward teaching practice.
Research recognises that teaching skills are not static skills and require a continuous development process. This should be acknowledged as career development as much as preparation for a promoted post. Seen as a process of career development, there is a responsibility on individuals to be aware of their own skills and talents and how these can be managed and developed to the benefit of learners. This is best undertaken within an ethos which values professional learning and an environment which supports personal development planning processes.
In terms of an initial teaching qualification, satisfaction with the current arrangements and output of TQ(FE) is variable, individuals have inconsistent experiences and support from their colleges varies. Current arrangements are under review; however we might want to be cautious of our expectations of an initial teaching qualification. As Donaldson states … initial education cannot provide teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary for a life-time of teaching. The education and professional development of every teacher needs to be seen as a lifelong task, and be structured and resourced accordingly’.
The TQ(FE) and associated awards are underpinned by the “Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges”. These are used as a framework on which the Universities responsible for delivery build and develop their courses. We can expect successful learners to have met those standards. We might also expect that studying for the qualification instills a passion for teaching which is sustainable throughout their career. The experience should be transformational in the sense of build the habits of leadership and of embedding processes of reflection and managing consequent change.
Induction of teachers into colleges sets the scene on a range of issues including understanding college culture and values, standards and expectations. There is no such thing as a standard induction as each individual has unique needs and requires to lay the foundations for future career development, the promotion and development of excellence in teaching and to develop the professional skills which will impact positively on learners. At present each College puts into place its own arrangements. These range from:
- no access to classrooms for a number of weeks, whilst undertaking the Professional Development Award (PDA), approved by the Professional Learning and Development Forum (PLDF), to
- immediate access to classrooms with professional development provided adhoc.
Our expectations of induction should be no less than that for the initial teaching award. As with all formative assessment the need to recognise what is known, what is accepted, and what is required to be learned and facilitated are critical elements of an induction programme that equips new staff to fully commit and take on board collective ownership of the requirements of teaching, not just the administrative requirements of the role. To be successful this requires to be part of an action planned programme of professional learning that ensures a continuous commitment to development of skills, values and attitudes on both an individual and institutional level.
The college sector is recognised as being good at setting strategic aims and objectives however, there is little evidence that the arrangements, although comprehensive, for strategic development of professional learning is effective. Staff in colleges generally feel that arrangements to identify their needs work well and they are involved in the opportunities made available to them for their staff development needs; however, there is no overview at a national level that this is coherent and rigorously implemented across the sector.
For professional learning is to be implemented appropriately and effectively, colleges need to plan, fully develop and implement opportunities based on relevant educational theory and practice for all staff and measure its impact on the student outcome for all areas of learning. Furthermore it should be fully supported by all leaders of learning. There is a danger that if this becomes a process driven mechanism and staff do not embrace the culture of professional learning for which they need to take personal ownership in investing in their own professional development but will see it as a transactional process through whose hoops they need to jump.