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Professional development in the spotlight

Professional Development Today Editor, Graham Handscomb, outlines the content in issue 3.3 which is set against the context of two significant developments for CPD.

This issue of Professional Development Today, (No. 3.3, 2000), is set against the context of two significant developments for CPD. One is the continuing implementation of the Government’s performance management and threshold assessment arrangements. The other is the publication of the DfEE consultation paper on professional development. In many respects these can be seen as a set of intriguing counterpoints to which the range of articles in the issue connect.

As ever, our aim is provide our readers with a stimulating combination of updates on recent major movements in the CPD world, in-depth analysis of current thinking, and practical guidance and sharing of good practice. So, for example, in each of these areas we have in this issue, an authoritative report from Dame Pat Collarbone on the development of the new NPQH she has led, a scholarly challenge to ‘our mechanical ways of thinking’ about CPD – to be replaced by a ‘learning centred’ model – provided by Eileen Carnell, and seminal advice given by Pat Reynolds, in my interview with her, as to how teachers can use research to enhance and improve their practice. We also continue to address the needs of the wider educational community in Michael Creese’s article on governors. We hope you will find these varied contributions a rich and potent combination.

Relentless Attack

Meryl Thompson begins by casting fundamental doubt on the Government’s claims for its new Performance Management (PM) arrangements. At the heart of her challenge is the view that there is a lack of enthusiasm in teachers for individual pay initiatives and a lack of confidence in those managing the process within and beyond the school. Instead, she argues that both issues will be positively addressed by an alternative focus on ‘what motivates teachers, which is fundamentally as sense of engagement with the school, students and especially teaching itself.’

Thompson powerfully questions the quality of the ‘new wine’ the Government’s arrangements represent. She argues that, although intended to raise morale, motivate and raise the status of teachers, and enhance recruitment and retention, this dubious vintage is being merely packaged in the old familiar bottles of teacher appraisal. Essentially, she sees an endemic lack of clarity about performance management and its linkage with the better leadership and professional development elements of the ‘Teachers’ Green Paper. By contrast, she finds greater clarification elsewhere, such as in the latest report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). Indeed this report is significant in that, for the first time that I can remember, the STRB chose to critically comment, somewhat ‘off message’, that ‘change was being attempted too quickly and across too broad a front’ and ‘many teachers feel under pressure and the object of excessive criticism.’

Thompson’s attack is relentless in citing the consultation responses, and research commissioned by the professional associations, as revealing a fundamental lack of support from teachers and a suspicion of a ‘hidden agenda of minimising the costs of uprating teacher salaries.’ In any case, it is argued that it is quality of ‘work-life factors’ which motivates teachers rather than crude monetary rewards.

As with Lynn Maidment later, Thompson juxtaposes the positive messages of the DfEE Professional Development Consultation Document with the PM arrangements. She quotes the document’s emphasis on ‘teacher development’ being central to the PM process and applauds its alternative emphasis on professional development initiatives like research scholarships and training schools. ‘The new wine’, she says, ‘only sours and clouds the new professionalism and is in danger of being a very expensive distraction of heads and governors from other important school improvement work.’

This article is an important contribution to the PM debate and will no doubt provoke reactions; we would welcome response articles, and alternative viewpoints.

Radical CPD models

The rest of the Policy and Practice section is devoted to two thoughtful pieces which radically challenge assumptions underpinning current views of professional development. Eileen Carnell paints a fascinating picture of professional development as a highly complex territory. She examines contrasting paradigms of professional development in ‘functionalist’ and ‘professional’ perspectives and finds both wanting and inadequate. Neither make learning explicit or sufficiently acknowledge its complexity. Instead, she proposes a ‘learning-centred model of professional development’ which ‘requires a completely different way of seeing learning organisations’. The essential ingredients are a focus on the learner, the learning process, learning context and on ‘meta-learning’. The last element is seen as pivotal for it creates a setting in which teachers understand their learning, its context and the disposition needed. So, through being constantly engaged in a process of reflecting, learning and change, teachers and young people become meta learners. In this respect, an integral link is made between teachers’ awareness of their own learning and what helps or hinders it, and children’s learning – ‘young people will become more effective learners if their teachers are.’

In explication of her learning-centred model, Carnell rigorously challenges the notion of a uniform organisational approach to learning and argues that an explicit ‘work-embedded learning’ is most effective. She then powerfully articulates the implications for school leaders in terms of building a commitment to learning and adopting management styles which are conducive to learning. Readers will particularly find useful her concluding aide-mémoire for staff development coordinators.

So in questioning many of our assumptions about CPD, Carnell thus strives to make imaginative ‘connections across different aspects of learning’ and promotes a ‘collaborative learning commitment for all learners – managers, teachers and young people.’ This powerfully integrated model is ‘based on the assumption that teachers cannot separate what they know from who they are, and what and how they teach,’ and this tenet is also reflected in Barry Seward-Thompson’s article. He maintains that the emotional, affective dimension of CPD has been sadly neglected.

In this forthright piece, Barry Seward-Thompson launches uncompromising broadsides against what he regards as CPD influenced by an outdated model of learning. He claims that amongst other things, it ignores self-awareness fails to recognise the ‘rich tapestry of individual learning styles’ and provides a poor role model for children. The case for the development of teacher self-awareness is then made in the context of the teacher as traditional provider of information, and as facilitator of learning. The overarching argument is that the more teachers are aware of their personal learning styles, the more they will be able to adopt alternative styles to provide rich, challenging experiences for children. It will also equip them better to handle change. ‘Self-aware people have a more enduring reference point… able to find constancy in themselves, their behaviours and their being.’

Increasing effectiveness

The research section begins with Carol McLeod’s investigation of whether the Career Entry Profile (CEP) has helped to improve the transition between initial teacher training and CPD, and in particular positively helped to develop induction action planning. Her research involved three schools and use of interviews an questionnaires with Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs), induction tutors and headteachers. The findings identified a variety of issues. Particularly significant were the lack of meaningful training for induction tutors, CEP targets being of little use in planning effective induction programmes, and the sheer lack of status afforded the CEP by both colleges and schools. This sits ill with the recent pronouncement of Ralph Tabberer, the new Chief Executive of the TTA, that ‘new entrants to the profession have a incredibly strong voice; … we need to listen to people coming in, try to understand them and look at obstacles that exist’ (Tabberer, 2000).

Michael Creese’s research account focuses on how governing bodies can become more effective and the professional development that can support this. Drawing on research with 23 governing bodies, he gives examples of case studies where there had been significant change in working practices. The common factors contributing to increased effectiveness that Creese identifies range from the catalyst for change brought about by a change of head, or chair of governors, and by Ofsted inspection, to team building and whole governing body training. The importance of promoting good staff/governor relationships through regular governor classroom visiting was also key. Intriguingly, Creese concludes that making governors more aware of the potential they have to increase the effectiveness of the school will in itself encourage them to seek out and make use of training and development opportunities.

On the job training

The use of non-contact days as a vehicle for CPD is the subject of major NFER research reported in the article by Karen Halsey and John Harland. After a provocative reflection on the origin of the days and teachers’ changing reaction to them, they give details of the outcome of the research involving 300 non-contact days in 66 schools, covering every phase of education. Key findings relate to problems in planning, and o the format and content of the days. Interesting differences between primary and secondary are identified, such as there being a greater diversity of presentation and practical activity in primary schools. Halsey and Harland then identify the intrinsic value of the days (i.e. staff attitude to the days themselves) and the extrinsic value they have on classroom and management practices. It appears that whilst the days have been more appreciated and rigorously planned in recent years, there are few signs that they are resulting in major gains in professional knowledge, skills, values or beliefs. Perhaps of greatest concern is that ‘significant changes in classroom practices were in short supply’, and the writers ironically observe that the lack of contact with pupils on these days may be counterproductive. As with Seward-Thompson, they conclude that support and training ‘on the job’ in the classroom is essential to effective CPD.

The last issue of PDT (No. 3.2, 2000), included an account of the area of managing underperforming staff. A team from Exeter University has also been researching teacher competence, exploring headteacher and teacher perspectives. In this issue, Caroline Wragg reports on headteadchers’ views. She defines incompetence as ‘teachers not having the necessary skills, ability or will to carry out duties effectively’, but is keen to acknowledge that judgements in this area are ‘invariably subjective and determined by a number of different factors.’ Headteachers found dealing with incompetent staff a traumatic experience. The research identified a number of implications for their professional development, including the need for objective advice and support from outside the school. By contrast, the main factor in the teacher’s improvement was through organised in-house CPD, in which there was a fine-tuned fitting of the CPD solution to the problem. Wragg concludes that this in turn required of the head ‘a high degree of competence in professional development’.

New movements in CPD

We are delighted to include Pat Collarbone’s article on the outcome of her recent review of the National Professional Qualification for Headship. NPQH is part of the Government’s triumvirate of headship training programmes and Pat describes the process of the review, the issues and criteria that have steered it, and the revised model produced. She charts a movement away from the present NPQH based on a competence model, which places emphasis on minimum standards outputs, to a competency-based approach. Competency is holistically described as what ‘a successful person characteristically brings to a specified task or role’.

Amongst the changes in the new NPQH that are welcomed are the provision of an ‘access’ facility to develop readiness for NPQH, in situ assessment and development within the school (a successful feature of the accelerated route), and a fuller involvement of the headteacher as part of the process instead of, in some cases, a potential obstacle. There are some issues and reservations that remain. Principally, whilst candidates will, no doubt, welcome the shortening of NPQH to a year, the many colleagues who have told me that they have found it to be one of the most professionally enhancing experiences of their career would strongly regret the shortened NPQH resulting in an increased emphasis on assessment to the detriment of development. Views and response articles on this major national development in future issues of PDT are welcome.

Another major development we cover in this issue is the publication of the DfEE consultation document on professional development. Lynn Maidment, along with the rest of the PDT Editorial Board, sees this as an important recognition of the vital role of CPD in school improvement. Lynn suspects that many schools would be found exposed regarding the promotion and provision of CPD ‘as a high status issue’. She says the DfEE paper has the potential to change this, providing ‘a national framework of standards to which teachers can aspire.’ She applauds the principles and ‘joined-up thinking of the paper’, but is nonplussed by the claim that CPD is a priority, when many teachers, for instance, are feeling exposed in CPD terms when making threshold assessment applications. Above all, she regrets that it is unlikely that teachers will have been sufficiently aware of , or have time to respond to, the consultation.

This key DfEE document is helpful in putting professional development in the spotlight. It might have done more, as Bob Moon cogently argued in a recent TES article. He regrets the lack of modelling of what professional development might look like; the fact that the issue of entitlement and resources is ducked; and above all the paper’s weakness on values. He states ‘references to standards and quality are no substitute for setting out the fundamental reasons why professional development is so important’. This significant consultation document has clearly whetted the appetite for further debate on the contribution CPD has to make.

Our issue finishes with the second of our occasional interviews with people involved in significant CPD developments. Pat Reynolds has combined her professional life as a headteacher with personal research activity and leadership of national initiatives such as chairing the TTA Teacher Research Panel. In my interview with her, Pat speaks about the work of the Teacher Panel, and National Educational Research Forum, of which she is a member. She also reflects in depth on the attitudes teachers have to research, and on why some research is taken up by classroom practitioners and other research fails to connect. Her analysis is forthright and compelling. In it we see reflected the optimism of a new era of professional development opportunity that we hope is heralded by the DfEE consultation paper. It is perhaps only through such a renaissance of CPD policy and practice that the management of teacher performance can be soundly established and gain wide professional acceptance.

References

  • DfEE (2000), Professional Development. Support for Teaching and Learning. DfEE consultation paper, February 2000.
  • Moon, B (2000), ‘A debate we can’t dodge’ in the Times Educational Supplement, 17 March 2000 (page 17).
  • STRB (2000) Ninth Report, DfEE.
  • Tabberer, R (2000), Launch of the Teacher Training Agency Strategic Plan, TTA. 6 June 2000.

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