Cliff Jones sets out a plan for work-based learning that could be used for MA accreditation.
Coordinators of CPD are becoming leaders of CPD at a time when the job widens to include responsibility for a whole school workforce and when considerable changes are being made to how people work and how they relate to one-another. But if there is one thing that we can be sure of it is that the needs for professional development can no longer be met simply by sending someone on a course, even though there will continue to be times when this remains appropriate. In future we shall see even more school- or work-based CPD.
So what I want to do here is to have a look at how a leader of CPD might set about writing a module for this. I have in mind that your plans for work-based learning might be easily adaptable for accreditation and that many higher education institutions (HEIs) will be looking to collaborate with you. Rather than wait to find out what HE might have on the shelf for you why not draft your own module and then negotiate?
Disparate professional learning experiences
Work in a school is dynamic, tiring and sometimes confusing. Members of the workforce, as individuals and members of groups, have a disparate set of professional learning experiences. There is, therefore, a need for plans that take this into account and yet enable participants to make sense of professional learning in a way that can benefit the individual, the group, other colleagues and the school as a whole.
The experience, expertise and personal motivation of each participant will be a basis for the process of sense-making or professional learning. The module framework set out here is not subject specific because it has to allow for a range of professional experience and expertise. Subject knowledge is very likely, however, to play an important part. This sort of framework is widely referred to as a ‘shell module’ because it can be filled by a variety of content.
It is, however, important to make use of the well-tested device of requiring each participant to examine the overall evidence for professional learning that has been generated in order to see if there is any unexpected evidence for unintended learning outcomes. I have, therefore, tried to design some model learning outcomes that enable that kind of examination and that are not too instrumental. The detail underpinning each intended learning outcome should be subject to agreement with the participant. All I have done below is to illustrate the kinds of things that you might want to write for yourself.
Most HEIs have their own templates, models or programme specifications that they use when they design modules but they have components in common so what follows has been written to be adaptable to any of them.
What needs to be emphasised, however, is that, instead of waiting to find an HEI that provides something that just might suit what you and your colleagues need, it is possible to approach them with a clear notion of how you intend to create a good environment for professional learning. That way it becomes relatively easy to ensure that when an HEI validates a new module or programme it will be responsive to you.
Did you know that HEIs in England only obtain funding from the TDA for postgraduate-level work with teachers if they can show that they involve schools at some stage in the process of planning or designing the programmes? Why wait for other schools to do this? Get in first.
A framework for work-based learning
Under the first three headings below I give an example of the title, purpose and intended outcomes. I then go on to explain what you need to include under each heading.
Work based professional learning
(HE often uses the inadequate word ‘aims’ here.)
To enable professionals working in education to explore and make sense of their professional lives.
Intended professional learning outcomes
(It is normal in HE to give an indication of the time to be allocated to a module and to work out from that the number of credits. I suggest that at the planning stage you work out first what it is you and colleagues wish to demonstrate before allocating hours or credits.)
Participants will be able to demonstrate systematic understanding of relevant knowledge including:
1. essential knowledge relating to role.
They will be able to demonstrate the ability to discover, identify and explain: 2. their personal professional baseline (knowledge, skills, understanding and experience at the beginning of the module) 3. personal professional needs relating to 2 above 4. appropriate personal professional learning intentions and plans relating to 3 above 5. the relationship of their role to others in the school and, where appropriate, the wider community
6. key personal learning points, including any unexpected evidence for unintended outcomes, from sustained professional learning.
They will also be able to demonstrate an understanding of: 7. relevant literature and other sources of information appropriate to personal professional learning intentions 8. factors that affected the personal professional learning process 9. the nature, strength and significance of evidence for professional learning 10. actual and/or potential barriers to effective working and learning
11. how to plan future personal professional learning.
Many templates for modules require what is sometimes called ‘indicative content’. Most of the time, however, this tends to be a rewriting of the intended learning outcomes in narrative form. Do this, by all means, if you feel the need to do so.
Planned professional learning experiences
These are the actions taken to make the professional learning happen. It will be best to build these around the intended learning outcomes. Otherwise, you may be putting your colleagues in the position of being critically examined for something for which you have not prepared them.
Try to ensure that the professional learning experiences you plan with your colleagues relate to their roles. If this module is to be work or school based then there must be a clear relationship between role and the professional learning experiences. It will help also if there is variety because the examples listed in ‘Intended professional learning outcomes’ above are not one-dimensional: they call for a variety of skills, knowledge and understanding and, therefore, a variety of learning experiences.
Literature and sources of information
In order for professional learning to work well at this level it is important that participants make use of a number of perspectives. It will help, therefore, to divide the literature and sources of information so that they represent three major points of view. They are:
1. regulatory and official 2. practical and professional
3. academic and theoretical.
When deciding upon relevant literature and sources of information you will need to ensure that you have a good blend of the general and the specific. You will also need to remember that, although some literature may have long lasting relevance, there are some items that will simply have to be up to date.
Expected evidence (output)
In effect this is an assignment to be presented for examination (which can be a collaborative exercise). It must be sufficiently flexible to allow for a disparate range of learning experiences while ensuring sufficient structure to be assessed fairly for all participants.
The specific form in which evidence for professional learning is to be submitted should be subject to agreement. It is possible that evidence for learning may be submitted in the form of a written assignment, probably with appendices of illustrative evidence. It could be in the form of a Critical Journal for Professional Development accompanied by a Portfolio of Evidence for Impact.
If that suits what you have in mind then either look at back copies of CPD Update or go to: www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/keystage3/downloads/
A written assignment could be accompanied by a presentation of material involving a degree of oral examination. It will, however, be important to provide early support for the assignment, including letting participants agree its structure. They may develop ideas about other methods of presenting evidence. But remember to warn colleagues to be careful about presenting evidence that is entirely dependentupon a 13amp fuse.
Whatever the form, however, the assignment must address all of the intended learning outcomes and, just like any form of course work, it is not sufficient to simply set a piece of work and not ask to see it until it is finished. Interim feedback is a key part of the learning process.
If you are thinking about a piece of straightforward writing consider the following structure.
- Introduction:Here the participant will explain to the reader/listener what is to follow. (It will be important to make clear to the participant that an introduction is not the same as a plan. In fact it should be the last thing to be written because it is telling the reader about the completed work.)
- Analysis of need and personal professional baseline: This is important because a reader/listener needs to be able to see the knowledge, skills and understanding that the participant brought to the start of the learning (part of the process of analysing needs) in order to form a judgement on the personal learning that has taken place.
- Key features of the professional learning experiences: This is necessary because the reader/listener needs to understand the particular nature of the individual professional learning.
- Key factors affecting professional learning: This allows the participant, for example, to analyse the professional learning experience and to point out what might have blocked progress and what enabled progress to be made.
- The literature and, where appropriate, other sources of information: It will be important for the participant to explain what they have learned from this, including the different perspectives of authors and others. It may be that the indicative literature led to other literature and other sources of information led to other sources of information. It is likely that they both generated questions, some of which may have been addressed in the programme and some of which may contribute to ideas for further study.
- Key personal professional learning points: In addition to what has been learned from the above (especially the questions raised) this will reflect the activities undertaken and must relate to evidence. Participants will also find it useful to re-examine or refer back to what they have written for ‘personal baseline’ above.
- Unexpected evidence for unintended learning outcomes: It would be very unusual for a participant to have had a learning experience in which everything happened as expected and the only learning was what was intended. This section will also allow the participant to go through a process of examining all evidence for learning prior to deciding its value or significance.
- The significance of the professional learning: This should be where the participant makes clear what the module has meant for them. It is likely that they will draw out the connections and/or disconnections of their personal professional learning with the intended learning outcomes, point out any other factors affecting the learning process and indicate what further learning might follow from it.
- Bibliography and list of sources of information: It may be necessary to make clear to participants that this is not the same as a booklist but should only contain items referred to in the text.
- Supporting appendices: These should contain illustrative material to which reference has been made in the text.
Rather than produce a long list here I simply want to emphasise that, apart from addressing and demonstrating the intended professional learning outcomes, the key criterion to be looked for is critical reflection. It is often the case that participants on CPD programmes get as far as description but do not manage criticality. So try to help colleagues to use different perspectives, to identify key factors in professional learning and not simply to write the CPD version of the ‘What I did on my holidays’ composition.