Evaluation of the Impact of the Implementation of Teaching Scotland's Future

The evaluation offers an overview of the current landscape of teacher education, highlighting what progress has been made in key areas since TSF was published and where further progress and improvements are still needed.

13 Conclusions

The context

13.1 Graham Donaldson's 2010 review of teacher education took place at a time when governments across the world were reforming their education systems to address challenges arising from globalisation, societal change and technological development. The immediate context in Scotland was, and remains, Curriculum for Excellence. The opportunity offered - and the challenge posed - by CfE is that curriculum development, and transformational change at school and system level, will be driven by the professional capacity of teachers rather than through the central development of guidance and resources and external accountability.

13.2 The recommendations contained in Teaching Scotland's Future were designed to build the capacity of the teaching profession to deliver this ambitious reform:

…long-term and sustained improvement which has a real impact on the quality of children's learning will be better achieved through determined efforts to build the capacity of teachers themselves to take responsibility for their own professional development, building their pedagogical expertise, engaging with the need for change, undertaking well-thought through development and always evaluating impact in relation to improvement in the quality of children's learning. That is the message from successful education systems across the world and that is the explicit philosophy upon which Curriculum for Excellence is based. Its ultimate success will depend partly on the extent to which teachers receive the kind of external support and encouragement which they need to build their professional capacity and, crucially, on how far the teaching profession itself rises to the challenge[33].

13.3 In the five years since TSF was published, there has been no let-up in the pace of change and implementation of the recommendations has taken place against a challenging background. In addition to CfE, teachers are adapting to, and implementing, significant new policies and initiatives including the new National Qualifications, GIRFEC and Raising Attainment for All. At the same time, resources (particularly LA resources) have been constrained; there are widespread problems obtaining supply cover; and recruitment of teachers in some geographic areas and subjects has become increasingly difficult. All of these issues have impacted on workloads.

A significant cultural shift

13.4 The teaching profession has risen to the challenge set out in TSF. The evaluation found evidence of real progress in many areas of teacher education and, above all, there has been a significant shift in the culture of professional learning. This shift in culture was demonstrated in four key areas of improvement described below.

13.5 Teachers are more engaged with professional learning. Several inter-related aspects to this increased engagement: heightened awareness of the importance of professional learning; a move away from a conception of professional learning as 'going on a course' and a broader understanding of the range of professional learning activities; increased ownership by individual teachers' of their CLPL; and an increased focus on learning relevant to a teacher's own particular development needs.

13.6 There is a greater focus on the impact of professional learning on pupils. Decisions about what professional learning to undertake are now more likely to involve a consideration of the needs of the individual pupils that a teacher is working with.

13.7 There is a consensus that teachers are engaging in professional dialogue more often and that there has been a cultural shift towards more openness, sharing of experience and willingness to talk about pedagogy.

13.8 There is a greater willingness to try new approaches. One important marker of the change in culture is that a sizeable minority of teachers (41%) say that they try new teaching practices and strategies more often than they did five years ago (40% say they try them the same amount and 18% say they try them less often).

13.9 In addition to this cultural shift, there have been a number of specific improvements to teacher education at all stages.

13.10 At the ITE and early career stage, partnerships between LAs and universities have developed further, and support for students on placement and probationary teachers has improved.

13.11 In relation to CLPL, the proportion of teachers reporting that they face barriers in accessing professional learning has greatly decreased in the last five years, from 68% in 2010 to 42% in 2015. This is, in part, due to their increased participation in a wider range of different professional learning activities and, in particular, an increase in collaborative working and in-school activity.

13.12 There has also been a substantial increase in the number of teachers participating in mentoring/coaching and indications of an increased interest in, and increased provision of, professional learning opportunities to develop mentoring and coaching skills.

13.13 Although there was already a considerable focus on leadership prior to TSF, it has increased further and teachers (at all career stages) are more aware of opportunities to develop their leadership skills. The new GTCS Standard for Leadership and Management has helped clarify the pathway for formal leadership positions. Leadership skills are the main focus for head teachers' CLPL and they reported that both the range and the number of high quality CLPL opportunities available to them have increased over the past five years.

On the path - but not there yet

13.14 However, there was widespread acknowledgement - across the teaching profession and among LA and national stakeholders - that there is a considerable way to go before the vision set out in TSF is fully realised. As one participant put it 'the profession is on the path, but not there yet'.

13.15 The evaluation has identified a number of areas where further progress is required.

13.16 At the ITE and early career stage, the development of teachers would be enhanced by: further clarification and agreement of the respective roles of the school and the university in relation to joint assessment; improved communication between the university and the school on aspects of student placements; and the provision of additional support for probationers to further develop key pedagogical skills.

13.17 CLPL for class teachers could be improved by: increasing their awareness and involvement in LA/university partnerships; raising awareness of different options for SCQF level 11 learning; better PRD support for supply teachers; develop a shared understanding of what mentoring and coaching involve; increasing coaching and mentoring skills; and by encouraging teachers to reflect more on experiences of leading initiatives and more actively using the experiences to develop leadership skills.

13.18 CLPL for all teachers could be enhanced by better signposting to high quality resources and by the development of more professional networks. With so much creativity happening at a school level, networks could help share good practice more effectively and they would be particularly beneficial for those with relatively specialist expertise, interests or needs.

13.19 There are also two system-wide challenges that should be addressed. Firstly, the difficulties in obtaining supply cover due to a lack of available supply teachers: this is one of the main barriers to CLPL.

13.20 Secondly, the number of national 'priorities'. One of the concerns most commonly raised was that there are currently too many priorities in education. This has a perceived impact on ITE (because of the need to cover all the different, emerging priorities which leaves less time for core pedagogical skills) and on CLPL more generally (because the impact on workloads reduced the time available for CLPL and some of the remaining CLPL time was spent 'getting to grips' with the priorities).

13.21 Some of these improvements will be easier to achieve than others and most will require the teaching profession, universities providing teacher education, LAs and national bodies to continue to work together. However, the significant progress that has already been made and the teaching profession's engagement with professional learning provide a strong base. With the continued commitment and support of all stakeholders, the next five years should see the teaching profession move further along the path and 'strengthen further its vital role in building Scotland's future'[34].


Email: James Niven

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