The Institute for Learning (IfL) started as a regulatory and professional body in 2007. Membership of the IfL is for all teachers in the post-16 sector who teach on publicly funded courses. This includes Further Education, Adult Education, the Armed Forces, Work-Based Learning and Offender Learning, and includes an estimated 200,000 teachers.
This report looks at how the IfL regulates Continuing Professional Development (CPD) including its intentions for CPD, recording evidence and what counts as CPD. In addition there is a short review of how it is working in practice and a consideration of any evidence that might inform a similar scheme in other educational sectors.
The IfL requires members to commit to record their CPD. This is to ensure that the teachers demonstrate that they are improving relevant knowledge and skills in their subject area and teaching or training. They expect teachers to be able to answer ‘yes’ to these questions:
- Have you undertaken professional development activities this year?
- Have you reflected on the learning you have gained from these activities?
- Have the activities and the reflections made a difference to how you teach or train?
- Can you show evidence of this difference and the impact it has made to learners, colleagues or the organisation in which you work?
Teachers need to show that they have spent at least 30 hours each year (or pro rata for part-time teachers, with a minimum of 6 hours per year) on professional development. Teachers must send their evidence to the IfL by 31 August each year. It can be recorded in any format that suits the individual teacher and their circumstances but there is a recommendation that teachers use the on-line personalised learning space, REFLECT.
Activities that count as CPD are wide and varied and include:
- reading relevant journal articles or reviewing books
- training courses or formal development or study
- peer review, mentoring or shadowing
- online learning including engagement in discussion forums and blogs
- viewing and reviewing television programmes, documentaries and the internet
- and much more.
Once teachers have submitted their evidence of CPD on 31 August, a sample is taken. For the year ended 31 August 2009, the sample size was 500 records. These were chosen randomly from across the sector but with such a diverse sector this does not ensure that all subjects are represented. Generally teachers had submitted their evidence and complied with the requirements outlined above. The selected samples are reviewed by the IfL and feedback is given to the teachers. A question for consideration is if a similar approach were to be adopted by other sectors is how should the sample be chosen? Does it need to reflect all subjects in all sectors?
The fact that only 500 records were reviewed, as outlined above, indicates that the vast majority remain unseen by anyone other than the author. Although much of the learning for the teachers is done through the compilation of the record, there would be significant advantages in sharing this information with colleagues, managers and/or employers.
Evidence from the 2009 sample showed that only 46 percent had shared their record with their managers or employers. This raises the question about the value managers and employers attach to CPD. Thus a major consideration for any scheme adopted by other sectors would indicate who needs to see or review ~CPD records other than the regulatory body and what would be the purpose of this review?
Content of CPD
There are no specific requirements from the IfL over what CPD should contain. There are recommendations that there should be a balance between generic ‘staff development’ that is designed for the smooth running of the establishment and of ‘professional development’ which is subject specific and includes both subject knowledge and pedagogy. As indicated above this is more than taking part in ‘staff development’ or ‘professional development’. Teachers must also reflect on their experience and record how the activities or reflection have made a difference to how they teach. In addition they must provide evidence on the impact any difference has made to learners.
CPD activity over the year should include a balance of:
- Staff development designed to support the institutional requirements
- Professional development including both subject knowledge and subject pedagogy.
Evidence from analysis of records by the IfL indicates that where teachers have chosen their own CPD activities, these are more effective than activities or courses that have been imposed or prescribed by managers and employers. This is an aspect that other sectors might take into account if they adopt a similar regulatory aspect to CPD.
There is evidence from the IfL that teachers find it difficult to obtain agreement from managers to leave teaching commitments to undertake professional development, so this has an impact on the activities they undertake. Through the analysis at the IfL it has also been revealed that a significant number of teachers do not (or cannot) use ICT to further their CPD.
These further factors are to be considered in any recommendation to extend the requirement to record CPD to other sectors within education.
Some examples of professional development from the IfL sample (2009) from teachers of mathematics (including numeracy)
Teacher A from a sixth form college recorded 220 hours of CPD. He was involved in a range of activities but his main focus was on updating subject specific knowledge and pedagogy in his department to improve teaching and learning.
Mathematics teacher B concentrated on mentoring others in her own subject. This was underpinned by classroom observation and reflections leading to change and development of practices.
Teacher C took the Level 3 Skills for Life course Adult Numeracy Subject Support. He acknowledged it had changed his practice but it was a year later when he was able to record that it had an impact on his learners.
Teacher D attended a course on Specific Learning Difficulties in mathematics. The response from this teacher was that 70 percent of the time was allocated to looking at the difficulties learners encountered while only 30 percent of the time was spent reviewing strategies to overcome the difficulties. This teacher reflected that the course would have been more useful if the proportion of times allocated had been reversed.
This same teacher also attended a course on Assessment for Learning (AfL). Her reflections indicated that she came to realise that her previous approach to assessment had been very traditional, much as they had been when she was taught. As a result of the course she started to use some of the AfL techniques and reported that it was making a difference to the way she taught and the learners learned.
A reflective learning journal was kept by teacher E. The journal was written in a very personal way over a number of months, while she studied in the Lifelong Learning Sector, Additional Diploma in Teaching Mathematics (Numeracy). It gave a clear indication of a spiral of on-going professional development, reflection, change and impact. The journal itself provided both the evidence of CPD and a tool for supporting ongoing CPD.
Another teacher following the Additional Diploma in Teaching Mathematics (Numeracy) used a reflective learning journal to record how he was embedding numeracy in other subjects. Again the reflective learning journal provided a forum for the teacher to enter a spiral of professional development with a requirement to record activities, reflection, change and impact.
The requirement for CPD and these examples highlight some positive models of CPD for teachers of mathematics from the Further Education and Skills sector. They provide some useful evidence of the type of CPD that is effective, what constitutes CPD, how it can be recorded as well as some issues and some evidence of impact on learners.
It is recommended that any move towards an adoption of a requirement of CPD in other education sectors makes a deeper and wider review of findings from the IfL. The post-16 publicly funded sector may differ from the compulsory sector but there are still lessons to be learned by both sectors from information on the IfL website.