This issue is about acknowledging that learning can take place at any time (ie not just when the learner is on a formal course), and gives tips on encouraging staff to develop a mindset that allows learning to take place on a daily basispdf-2077390

CPD Week Info Sheet – Embedding the CPD mindset.pdf

Change is the end result of all real learning.
Leo Buscaglia

There’s a state of mind – an attitude – that is essential if schools are to maximise the professional learning that can happen on a day-to-day basis. But is it right to assume that this attitude is automatically in place or should we work to nurture it? This week we explore all this and more…

Embedding the professional learning mindset
Professional learning is arguably a school’s most powerful tool in raising standards of achievement and attainment. Continue to ‘upskill’ staff, the theory goes, and pupils cannot help but be positively impacted. Yet in order to maximise this potential there’s a fundamental pre-condition which has to be in place, and that is an individual and institutional professional learning mindset. Without this, potential for professional learning will be lost.

The briefest definition of the professional learning mindset is simple; it is the mindset that acknowledges that professional learning can happen at any time, under any circumstances. It is about recognising that all through a working day in a school, colleagues can learn from each other and from their own practice. And it is about seeking out learning from any situation; from an article glanced at during break, a book shared among colleagues, reading another’s feedback from a course, observing the way a colleague handles a ‘situation’ – the list of possibilities is endless. The professional learning mindset is what identifies a passionate teacher and what contributes to the creation and maintenance of a truly passionate institution.

So, how can this attitude to professional learning be embedded right across your school, so that it supports the raising of standards? These suggestions will help:

  • The whole point of professional learning is to nurture staff towards being the very best they can be. Let that be an explicit aim of all professional learning in your school.
  • Break down any restricting opinions on what constitutes professional learning. We’re not just talking about conferences and courses!
  • Explore the use of teams in your school for the purpose of furthering professional learning. Of course this can be achieved individually, but if we want to move schools forward as institutions a team approach to professional learning will be invaluable, providing all members of staff are involved.
  • Operate with the expectation that every member of staff buys into the professional learning mindset. This isn’t an optional extra – it’s an imperative.
  • Draw on the commitment to professional learning that neighbouring schools have. Work together in clusters to improve standards in the locality.
  • Make communication a top priority in your school. The more informal professional dialogues that happen between staff members, the better; after all, it’s these conversations that are known to be one of the most effective professional learning tools.
  • One size does not fit all, so encourage staff to be mindful of the type of, and approach to, CPD that works best for them. This isn’t about reducing flexibility, rather it’s about helping staff to be alert to what helps them to learn best. Facilitating this kind of self-reflection is a powerful dimension of the role of professional learning leader.

Being a teacher means being a learner. We cannot teach effectively if we are not also engaged, actively, in learning. In an ideal world this will mean being enrolled on a course and therefore experiencing formal education from all angles. This isn’t always practical, but a commitment to lifelong learning is an absolute must for anyone seeking to facilitate learning in others. When we’re committed to learning as professionals, we continue to meet the needs of our students a little more effectively each day.

Find out more

  • This info sheet provides a handy summary of how schools might embed the professional learning mindset firmly at the heart of all it does.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

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.