Professional learning for teachers: minutes April 2018

A sub group of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education.

Attendees and apologies

  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland (chair)
  • Ellen Doherty, GTCS
  • Clare Furze, Scottish Government
  • Yvonne McCracken, Consultant
  • Susan Quinn, EIS
  • Zoe Robertson, SCoDE
  • David Roy, Scottish Government
  • Scott Brand, Scottish Government (secretary)

Apologies were received from Robert Hair, Seamus Searson and Michael Wood.

Items and actions

Professional Learning Scoping Study

Yvonne McCracken outlined the findings from her scoping study which she had undertaken on behalf of SCEL.
She said that she had met with a number of groups of teachers to get teachers’ own experiences of professional learning (PL). She wanted to get information on what does it look like, feel like, where/when does it happen and who is involved.

Generally, teachers were not in favour of a top down approach to professional learning. They want PL that will motivate, increase confidence and professional satisfaction and make a difference to young people. Teachers have a willingness to work collaboratively in this area and describe themselves as self-critical. They are not anti-intellectual and value directed learning and formal programmes. Teachers said that they wanted to be more involved in their PL and felt more trust could be placed in them and more emphasis placed on their feedback.

Teachers were critical of one size fits all learning, non-interactive events and hints and tips for PL. Also cascade briefings were not viewed positively. Other barriers were lack of engagement with the SQA, perpetual policy changes and expectations around attending twilight sessions. Another view was that SQA guidance was often driving PL, this was not always recognised as being of high quality but was necessary to ensure attainment and progress can be made with pupil exam results.

Teachers’ expectations in PL had grown and needed to be met. They also said that the twilight delivery model was effective but should not be mandatory and alternative models should be available. The working time agreement should be used as a collective measure to encourage teachers across a school to participate. Also some teachers would welcome support to undertake challenging/accredited PL.

The Group agreed that more use should be made of teacher capital and the system should trust them as professionals. There is a need to ensure high quality professional learning for teachers to maintain trust and positive impact in the classroom. They also thought teachers needed to view themselves as learners and that this would be an important message in the review of the Professional Standards.

Propositions on Effective Professional Learning

Yvonne summarised the findings of the scoping exercise in seven propositions of effective PL. These are:

  • teachers have a high level of commitment to their own professional learning and expect to work in strong professional learning partnerships with colleagues

  • teachers place highest priority on being the best teacher they can be for their students and seek professional learning that is focused on practical approaches that can be applied ‘next day’ in the classroom

  • teachers want teacher-led professional learning that is differentiated to their needs and embedded in their everyday work

  • teachers seek opportunities to work collaboratively with colleagues, as a norm, including time and space during the school day within healthy working lives

  • teachers believe the system should trust and respect their professionalism, supporting and fostering the development of professional capital and stronger teacher agency

  • teachers seek support and encouragement in engaging in critical reflection and thinking, including accessing professional journals, research and articles

  • teachers value the contribution of formal leaders in school and believe their role needs to be focused on enabling teacher-led professional learning and collaborative professionalism, along with local and national experts and academics

Gillian Hamilton said that once finalised the scoping study would be circulated around the Group. She asked that it not be circulated further at this stage as publication arrangements had not yet been agreed.

Action: Gillian Hamilton

Bringing coherence to the teacher professional learning landscape in Scotland

National Model of Professional Learning

Gillian Hamilton said that a small sub-group had developed this model, building on the work that had already been taken forward by colleagues at GTCS. Its purpose was to provide clarity and simplicity and act as a starting point for teachers. It would also prove useful for educational leaders and PL providers.

The Group made the following points about the model:

  • 'teachers' is too narrow a term and 'educational professionals' should be used. This will help bring a shared responsibility
  • needs more context around enquiry and collaboration
  • avoid jargon
  • use 'children' instead of 'learners'
  • keep 'knowledge and understanding' rather than 'cognitive' as it is not widely understood
  • words in bubble more important than diagram
  • diagram model well tested through GTCS standards
  • strengthen leadership role in framing positive cultures
  • collaboration a theme across the diagram

Gillian Hamilton agreed to circulate a revised model to the Group prior to the next meeting.

Action: Gillian Hamilton

Next steps

The Group would look to meet again within the next few weeks to enable a finalised report to go to the SBTE on 31 May.

Action: Scott Brand

SBTE Secretariat
May 2018

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