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Professional Learning Journeys - Introduction

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 17 May 2011 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 22 July 2011 by ncetm_administrator


Professional Learning Journeys


This report has been written to assist head teachers, principals and other school and college leaders who have a duty of care for the professional wellbeing of their mathematics staff and will be of interest to all those involved in, or who have an influence on, the subject specific professional development of those teaching mathematics.

The report presents evidence to support professional learning journeys which will develop, retain and sustain teachers of mathematics.
It considers how the provision of a rich professional learning journey can enhance the quality of teaching and learning in mathematics and increase the retention rates of teachers of mathematics.


The overarching aim of this report is to provide advice, guidance and recommendations in order to ensure that all teachers travel a coherent, supportive and inspiring ‘professional learning journey’ in their first five years of teaching mathematics and the rest of their careers.

There are three aims.

  • To explore the professional development opportunities which should be available to mathematics teachers in the first few years of their careers that will enable schools and colleges to retain teachers
  • To investigate the role of stakeholders such as Local Authorities, IT/HE establishments, subject associations, CPD providers, schools/colleges, mentors and mathematics teachers themselves in providing, supporting, publicising and ensuring take up of such opportunities.
  • To suggest ways in which those concerned might work together to ensure that each mathematics teacher travels a coherent, supportive and inspiring professional learning journey

What is an effective ‘professional learning journey’?

A professional learning journey describes the development across a career; it encompasses subject knowledge and pedagogy. There is no intention to suggest that one pathway suits all teachers; each individual will have a unique starting point. Even two Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) or Qualified Teachers Learning and Skills (QTLS) in the FE sector embarking on their first year of teaching will have different prior experience, skills and knowledge. They may be offered similar packages of support but will need to focus on different elements. Similarly, after a few years of teaching experience, one teacher may require professional development that expands his/her subject pedagogy while another is ready to take on the managerial responsibilities of a department.

A professional learning journey can be seen as having a number of aspects including subject knowledge, subject pedagogy and management skills. These need to be nurtured and developed during a teacher’s career. As with all developmental functions it is unlikely that all teachers will progress at the same rate, in the same order or with the same goal in mind. What this does mean is that it is important to identify the aspects that need to be supported through professional development and how this can be done within a framework that ensures each teacher travels a coherent, supportive and inspiring professional learning journey.

The emerging learning journey themes form part of this report. They include elements of practice, experience, research, collaboration with colleagues (internally and externally), and membership of mathematics communities supported by agencies such as subject associations, local authorities and networks. These mechanisms provide development in mathematics subject knowledge and pedagogy.

The impact on teachers and learners

NCETM projects strive to ensure where possible that impact on learners and achievement is evidenced. In this case the focus for the report is on the teachers. Participants were asked to provide feedback on the impact of the CPD projects on them, more than their learners. Although some of the projects did last for a year, others were short term. With short timescales (and even over one year) it is difficult to judge long term effects on learner achievement.

However the OfSTED report (2006) provides a national perspective on the outcomes of effective CPD.

‘CPD was found to be most efficient in schools where the senior managers fully understood the connections between each link in the chain. They recognised the potential for CPD for raising standards and therefore gave it a central role in planning for improvement. The teachers and support staff in these schools enjoyed high-quality CPD, which had been well chosen from a wide range of possible activities to meet their school’s and their own needs. Schools which had designed their CPD effectively and integrated it with their improvement plan found that teaching and learning improved and that standards rose.’ (p. 5)

The European perspective on professional development is recorded in the OECD document Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments (2009). It emphasises that in-service professional development is essential to maintain both a high standard of teaching and high-quality teachers.

‘No matter how good pre-service training for teachers is, it cannot be expected to prepare teachers for all the challenges they will face throughout their careers. Education systems therefore seek to provide teachers with opportunities for in-service professional development in order to maintain a high standard of teaching and to retain a high-quality teacher workforce.’ (p49).

This report set out to specifically investigate the aims above, in line with this research evidence which highlights the need for effective continuing professional development (OECD, 2009) together with the evidence from Ofsted (2006) which indicates that effective CPD leads to improved teaching and learning and a rise in standards.


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