Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is widely acknowledged to be of great importance in the life of schools, contributing to professional and personal development for staff and to improvement in teaching and learning. CPD is defined as:
“Professional development consists of all natural learning experiences and those conscious and planned activities which are intended to be of direct or indirect benefit to the individual, group or school, which constitute, through these, to the quality of education in the classroom”. (Day 1999b)
Benefits of action research to CPD
- To create a research community, which models the collaboration and co-operation desirable in all educational learning communities.
‣To enhance the personalised learning of individuals through each person creating and implementing individualised action research plans for improving their values-based practice.
‣To support participants in presenting on the web an evidence-based account of their educational influence on improving the life-chances and well-being of children, young people and others.
‣To enable participants to enhance their effectiveness by creating a learning story of their educational influences, which offers the knowledge they create as educational gifts to themselves and others.
‣To influence policy-making at local and national levels as a result of the outcomes of the values-based educational research.
CPD in practitioner enquiry promotes a ‘research-engaged learning community’.
Teachers should as part of their ongoing CPD engage with research.
Methods of research included in CPD:
- Reading journals, articles, blogs and books about teaching and learning, and leadership.
- Practitioner enquiry
Practitioner enquiry is most beneficial form of CPD as it encourages teachers to engage in research – to contribute to developing our collective understanding of how to maximise the richness and depth of our students’ educational experience. It is a valuable process of reflection whereby teachers adapt their practice based on new findings, ideas or feedback.
Practitioner enquiry achieves this due to:
- Rigour of the approach
- Level of commitment secured as teachers select a topic of special interest to them;
- Affords a high level of autonomy which inspires teachers.
Methods to implement Practitioner Enquiry
- Attending a teaching and learning workshop of a theme chosen by teachers or school.
- Framework of exploration, evaluation and reporting-back.
- Cross-curricular or subject departments.
Sharing relevant and informed practice is key to the success of Practitioner enquiry as CPD. Each department/cross departments could present their findings and colleagues spend a couple of hours engaged in dialogue and discussion or staff publication or Learning Lessons could be conducted in collaboration. This provides an excellent outlet for sharing ideas.
Working in partnership with cluster schools, colleges, universities could add rigour and depth to all aspects of the Practitioner Enquiry process. This would involve formulating questions, developing an effective methodology (surveys, video capture, test data, interviews), conducting an impact analysis and reporting findings for a peer audience.
Developing the practice of teachers through Practitioner Enquiry will also benefit student enquiry and learning. Understanding of video capture and e-folio is a form of CPD which documents work to improve self and peer assessment of all practitioners and students. Cloud-based ‘exercise books’ could be uploaded by students and their research and recorded footage could be shared with selected peers and students for evaluation. The public critique is already showing signs of improving the quality of the research produced.
Practitioner enquiry motivates teachers; it is voluntary, self-directed and unpaid, yet we engage with it because of the rewards that this level of rigour brings. The high quality support from Universities, colleges, industry are invaluable although the gains are mutual to improve the standard of learning and teaching by adding to existing knowledge. That is what research is all about.
Practitioner enquiry has the capacity to improve teaching and learning, advance school improvement, build capacity for reform, and develop strategic alliances with key members of the region’s education and policy making community.
Day, C. (1999a). Developing Teachers: The challenge of lifelong learning. Hargreaves, A. and Goodson, I. F.Eds. Educational change and development series. London, RoutledgeFalmer.
Day, C. (1999b). “Professional development and reflective practice: purposes, processes and partnerships.” Pedagogy, Culture and Society 7(2): 221 – 233.
Galloway, S. (2000). Issues and challenges in continuing professional development. Continuous professional development: Looking ahead Proceedings of a symposium by the Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organsiational Performance. Galloway, S. Oxford.
General Teaching Council (2003). A guide to peer observation. The teachers’ professional learning framework. London, General Teaching Council for England