The Teacher Learning Academy (TLA), led by the GTCE, is achieving great things in the world of continuing professional development (CPD), according to a recent independent report commissioned by nfer. CPD Week talks to the GTCE’s Sara Morgan, Head of Professional Learning, about the report’s findings

That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.
Doris Lessing

Sara Morgan, Head of Professional Learning at the GTCE gives us the lowdown on the TLA.

What is the TLA?
The TLA was created to help teachers improve their own classroom practice whilst gaining professional recognition for doing so. It provides them with a framework to test out a newly learned approach or skill within the classroom and asks them to report on their findings, which it is hoped will develop them professionally and also lead to higher standards of teaching and a wealth of new ideas that will benefit all schools through shared best practice.

Who is it for?
The TLA is suitable for registered teachers at all levels of experience, helping them and their schools make small changes that can have a significant, lasting impact.

How does it support professional learning?
The GTCE is committed to improving professional learning opportunities for all teachers, and the TLA is part of this commitment. Teachers begin by identifying an area in their classroom or school where they want to bring about a change or improvement. Once a focus has been chosen, the teacher works with their coach (usually a school colleague) to plan their learning journey. It’s then up to that teacher to use the TLA framework to carry out research at their institution that offers them insight into their chosen area, using either their own experience or through observation of other teachers.

What’s unique about it?
The TLA is classroom based, focused on real experiences. It’s not a course and it doesn’t take teachers out of the classroom, but instead helps them to broaden their teaching skills “on the job” by learning from peers and eventually sharing their findings with others within their school and schools in their area. Sharing the results of learning is an integral part of the TLA process.

Teachers are also required to reflect upon the significance of their research, submitting a presentation that documents their findings. By doing this they gain recognition through the TLA at one of four stages, requiring a progressively greater depth of enquiry, reflection and analysis. Stage 1 can be completed within half a term and helps teachers to investigate and enhance an aspect of their practice, while Stage 4 involves research that significantly adds to the existing research base of a chosen subject at a national or international level.

What are the TLA’s greatest successes?
The TLA is still fairly new, but has already made a huge impact with over 15,000 teachers enrolled. There are now over 300 TLA schools and centres up and down the country. These play an integral part in the overall structure of the academy and help to promote the benefits of professional CPD through the TLA to a wider, local audience. TLA schools and centres are responsible for verifying TLA presentations, and have members of staff trained as TLA leaders or verifiers – which are incidentally excellent development roles for teachers themselves.

The recent report commissioned by nfer shows that the TLA’s initiative is achieving:

  • greater enjoyment, motivation and engagement in learning among pupils
  • increased pupil progress and achievement related to their teacher’s TLA topic
  • greater confidence among teachers
  • an enhanced capacity among teachers to reflect on their work
  • improved professional and career development
  • enhanced participation in new learning opportunities, leading to greater knowledge and understanding
  • improvement in the approach and structure for continuing professional development (CPD) among schools
  • the development of a new culture of professional learning in schools
  • greater links with other schools and heightened individual school reputation

Find out more

  • If you want to find out more about the opportunities available through the TLA visit the TLA website or call 0330 1239121.
  • School leaders can also phone or visit the website if they are interested in the benefits of their school becoming a TLA School or Centre.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2009

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.