With closer cooperation between schools and FE colleges in 14-19 education on the horizon, Lee Davies provides an overview of recent changes to CPD for teachers in further education

The post-compulsory education and training (PCET) sector is rightly celebrated for its richness in diversity. Teachers, trainers and tutors working in further education (FE) colleges, work-based learning (WBL) providers and organisations supporting community learning and development (CLD) come from a variety of backgrounds, often entering teaching through non-traditional routes. Some will be graduates, many will have followed vocational pathways in developing their subject expertise, all are working in the sector primarily because they have expertise, skills and knowledge in specialist vocational and/or academic disciplines.

Teaching practitioners in the post-compulsory education and training sector play a critical role in meeting the professional development needs of the workforce in all other fields. From the design and delivery of entry level qualifications, intermediate and advanced awards, and tailored post-qualification programmes, teaching practitioners are central to the academic and skills development agenda.

The majority of teaching practitioners in post-compulsory education and training operate within the context of dual professionalism. Having excelled in their vocational or academic specialism in business, industry and commerce, they chose to pass on their skills and expertise to learners in their field. To do this effectively they have undertaken teacher training and have been awarded qualifications in recognition of their skills and abilities as a teacher.

From September 2007 Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status, conferred by the Institute for Learning (IfL), has reinforced the professional identity of teachers in post-compulsory education and training. All new teachers will be required to achieve an initial Level 3 teaching qualification pre-service or very early in their employment. Following this, they will have a window of five years to achieve a minimum Level 5 teaching qualification leading to the conferral of QTLS status.

QTLS status is, however, about more than the achievement of a recognised teaching qualification. In working towards a new professional identity for teaching practitioners, the Institute has due regard for the importance of continuing professional development (CPD) in ensuring teaching practitioners remain at the forefront of their vocational and/or academic specialism, whilst developing their skills in teaching and supporting learning.

With a leading role in the training and development of others, teaching practitioners in post-compulsory education and training recognise the importance of their own CPD. They are committed to continually updating their expertise in their vocational or academic subject specialism and developing their skills and knowledge in teaching and supporting learning. Throughout their careers, for a variety of individual and external reasons, teaching practitioners reflect on their professional practice and plan their CPD in order to improve and enhance the learning experience.

In developing any model for supporting teaching practitioners throughout their teaching careers, it is important to consider the dynamic interface of subject specialism with teaching and supporting learning. The diagram on the opposite page illustrates how dual professionalism in the post-compulsory sector affects the professional identity of teaching practitioners. It identifies, though not exhaustively, key drivers in the external environment relating to subject specialism and teaching and learning and incorporates critical conduits for feedback on personal performance. It is the combination of these elements that drive CPD, placing the teaching practitioner at the heart of the process, with individual autonomy and accountability for their professionalism.

The Institute for Learning champions the key principles of CPD, promoting these with policymakers, sector stakeholders, teacher trainers, employers and teaching practitioners. These principles underpin the Institute’s model for professional development and resonate with the requirements of comparable professional bodies. The key principles are:

  • Professional development is a continuous process that adds value throughout a teaching practitioner’s career.
  • Professional development is most effective when conducted through reflective practice, with the teaching practitioner judging the value of a training and development activity in terms of its impact on teaching and supporting learning, not in the time taken to complete the activity.
  • The teaching practitioner is at the centre of the CPD process, and responsible for reflecting on practice and identifying personal development needs.
  • Professional development plans should clearly articulate the needs of the teaching practitioner, setting measurable objectives that reflect the teaching context and synthesise with the needs of the employer.
  • There should be a balance between formal and informal CPD activities, relative to the needs of the teaching practitioner at that point in their career.
  • Professional development is most successful when undertaken as an integral element of all work activity, rather than viewed as an additional requirement or burden.

The ‘reflective practitioner’

Underpinning the Institute’s model for professional development is the centrality of the teaching practitioner to the process and the importance of measuring the impact of CPD through reflective practice. Reflective practice is a key feature of initial teacher training that is often lost once a teaching practitioner qualifies. Effective reflection takes place in action, whilst engaged in an activity, and on action, after the activity is complete and the learning embedded in professional practice. It is often argued that effective reflective practice requires the support of a mentor, asking those otherwise-overlooked questions that ensure that the reflection is productive, rather than lost in the desire to self-justify or self-indulge.

Whilst in training, teaching practitioners receive this support from teacher trainers and, importantly, their peers. Once in employment, the pressures of the ‘day job’ and a lack of formalised mentoring support throughout a teaching career mean that both the need and the ability to practise reflection take a lower priority. If a professional body is to add any great value to the sector it serves, it must support professionals in planning their individual development needs and provide the tools for proving the effectiveness of professional development.

The Institute for Learning is in the process of developing a database to support the registration of teaching practitioners and full membership relationship management. Whilst for legislative reasons and future workforce data analysis the registration element is an important aspect of the database, for supporting teaching practitioners throughout their careers the online CPD portal is perhaps the most significant feature.

Based on the principles of effective reflective practice, the CPD portal will provide those holding QTLS status with a single vehicle for planning their professional development, determining its impact on teaching and supporting learning and demonstrating that they remain in ‘good standing’.

The requirement to provide evidence of CPD activity to maintain ‘good standing’  should not place additional workload on teaching practitioners. Research conducted on behalf of the Institute concluded that teaching practitioners engage in various forms of professional development throughout their careers, but that often this goes unrecorded. In providing an online CPD portal for recording and reflecting on the value of professional development, the Institute aims to create an environment in which teaching practitioners can optimise their personal value, both to the organisations that employ them and to the learners and communities for whom they work.

For further information, please contact:
Lee Davies, development manager, Institute for Learning, 0207 936 5724