Professional Development for Learners

One of the very few topics educationalists totally agree upon is the importance of continuing professional development for teaching and support staff. This may seem so obvious as to need no further explanation but this would be to underestimate the why, when and how this necessity can be delivered.

There is a view that any teacher’s subject knowledge is two generations behind the times, as they received the information their teachers learned from the generation before them. Certainly when the present writer began his career in 1979, professional development consisted of a few kindly words on intermittent occasions from his Head of Department. It had probably been thus for most teachers since anyone can remember.

The fundamental change in emphasis came about for two main reasons; rapid and continuous curriculum change beginning in the mid 1980’s in the UK and increased concern in the pastoral care of students from the 1990s. Some may wish to add increasingly rapid technological change and the bugbear of heightened and stifling regulation but these two also relate to a world wider than education, which is the issue at hand.

In today’s world continuous professional development has become a major strand of the educational industry. The need to constantly refresh the practitioners’ skills and knowledge is part of a teacher’s life and career development. Although it is largely self-development, it is important to remember it is also fundamental to the opportunity of progress for each individual child in the learning context. It is not simply a vehicle for teacher self- fulfilment, important as that may be for confidence and growth; it is part of that vocational goal to create better learners.

To an extent and this may be a provocative statement, whether professional development is provided or not, each teacher should have a certain auto-didactic drive to read the latest professional literature both with in their specialist areas and across the wider educational debate. There are currently a whole series of multi-media formats that are challenging, engaging and I’m delighted to say humorous, as to how a teacher of any age can and must benefit from professional development.

The old saying ‘physician heal thyself’ has any number of interpretations in the modern world of teaching when it comes to professional development. The educational world is awash with often contradictory theory. One of my favourites, is the success of the Finnish education system in PISA testing when, ironically the Finns have little predisposition to believe in the standardized testing this is based upon. There are many other examples. This is why all professional development should be ‘learning focused’ because at the end of the day it is every child’s right to be supported and be as successful as they can be within the classroom. Wrestling with all these professional issues is also why teaching remains both exciting and fulfilling.

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