Flexibility in postgraduate professional development is allowing increasing numbers of teachers to take a masters in teaching and learning, raising the status of the profession as a whole. This CPD Week looks at some of the current themes in M level study and ways in which schools can encourage staff to find out more

There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. That little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.
W Clement Stone

M level study – what’s it all about?
Getting an award for your postgraduate professional development is surely a goal worth aiming for. There’s nothing quite like formal engagement in focused study, with meaning and purpose, to refine our goals in the profession and our work in the classroom. And there is something distinctive about studying to Masters level; the contribution that teachers can make to the profession when they have travelled this route is potentially great. But it’s not to be taken lightly. Masters level study is demanding, can be costly and is always time consuming. So perhaps we need to focus on the many positive reasons to promote M level learning in your school. These ideas will help:

  • The feedback we have from Ofsted regarding postgraduate study is very positive. It seems that it leads to better teaching and better learning and the all-important positive impact on the standards agenda.
  • It helps to develop confidence in the teacher, and crucial critical thinking skills.
  • Many of the features of great and effective CPD tend to be present in M level CPD, simply because of its rigorous nature and the way in which it can be applied to life in the classroom.
  • It can help teachers to specialise while remaining classroom teachers. This can then feed very positively into their contribution to school life.
  • It can lead to an enhanced sense of pride and achievement.
  • M level study is widely recognised by others in a way that other CPD may not be. Importantly, it demonstrates a particular commitment to CPD.

An interesting question for all schools to consider might be: What value do we place on Masters level CPD? And, digging deeper, we might ask: What do we actively do to support teachers’ ambitions for gaining Masters qualifications? Now just might be the perfect time to develop positive attitudes to raising the professional development stakes because the CPD times are changing!

The Masters in Teaching and Learning
An exciting development in the world of M level professional development for teachers is the new Masters degree in Teaching and Learning (MTL). One of the main thrusts behind this development is the drive to make teaching a higher status profession and ultimately more attractive as a career. It is also hoped that it will lead to greater structure for teachers in the first few years of teaching, as well as higher standards. This is certainly a ‘step change’ in the world of professional learning for teachers. According to the TDA, which is leading on developing the national framework for MTL, over the next ten years it’s going to affect every one of the 440,000 teachers in this country!

The plan is that the MTL will be rolled out from September 2009. In the first instance it will be offered to all NQTs in the North West as well as some teachers in ‘national challenge’ schools. The national framework for MTL developed by the TDA will be used by schools and higher education institutions as the basis for their MTL programmes. The main features of the degree are:

  • It is practice-based, unlike other M level study for teachers.
  • Among other aspects, it will cover teaching and learning; assessment for learning; how children learn and develop; inclusion; curriculum and curriculum development; subject knowledge for teaching; leadership and management; and working with others in the children’s workforce.
  • Teachers studying for the MTL will have the support of a tutor from a higher education institution and an in-school coach.
  • NQTs are being targeted first to build on initial teacher training and induction, providing a more structured approach to their early professional development.

If staff are looking for clear and guaranteed career progression, the MTL won’t offer that in itself, but the integration of the professional standards for teachers means that it will prove useful in performance management reviews, and increasingly over time. It is the intention that every teacher will have the chance to do an MTL and, the TDA hopes, become a better teacher because of it.

Find out more

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2008

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.