Underpinning Principles: Professional growth

Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.
Williams, 2012

Professional growth within our Trust is characterised by:

A Focus on Outcomes

Professional growth is considered as a “key driver not only of staff development , but also of recruitment and retention, well-being and school improvement.” (DfE, 2016, p3) All professional learning activity is linked to identified school development priorities, outcomes for children and is prioritised by leaders. It has explicit relevance to participants, building on an identified need. It is relevant to theory and practice, sustained over time and collaborative in nature. It is recognised that professional learning is the most effective form of school improvement (Buck, 2016) and when it is sustained and iterative.

Leadership of Learning

Leaders model and champion effective professional learning, “effective leaders do not leave the learning to their teachers – they become involved themselves.” (Cordingley et al., 2015, p29) They ensure that sufficient time and resources are available, balancing Trust, school, subject and individual teachers’ priorities. Leaders encourage professional curiosities and the investigation of new pedagogical approaches to address improvement priorities and specific needs of children. Research engagement is embedded at all levels and is modelled by leaders promoting an ethos of empowerment, disciplined innovation and risk taking.

Robust Evidence and Expertise

Professional learning is informed by robust qualitative and quantitative evidence, including high quality academic research, and rigorously evaluated approaches and resources. It recognises that theory and practice are inextricably linked and values pedagogical knowledge and subject/specialist knowledge in equal measure. Professional growth activity is supported by expert knowledge, both internal and external, in order to strengthen understanding of available evidence and challenge beliefs and expectations (DfE, 2016).

Collaboration and Challenge

Professional growth is characterised by “a pervasive culture of scholarship with a shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop.”  (DfE, 2016, p3) Collaboration is valued and all staff recognise the significant impact it can have on their own practice, the practice of others and consequently outcomes for children. Professional growth values peer support, professional debate and discussion, challenges to existing practice and modelling, coaching and mentoring. Collaborative practices give rise to a stronger articulation of practice and generate rich professional dialogue, instilling confidence and cementing professional relationships. (Palmer and Theobald, 2016, p28)

Research Engagement

Research engagement is an essential element of professional learning, which relies more on ‘explicit rational discovery’, rather than ‘tacit rational discovery’. “To be at their most effective, teachers need to be engaged with and need to be equipped to engage  in enquiry-oriented practice.” (BERA, 2014) Within a supportive professional culture, teachers are motivated and empowered to pursue lines of enquiry relating to improvement priorities and their own professional curiosities. Research engagement promotes a regard for evidence which can be used to embed disciplined innovation and risk taking in order to develop practice and improve outcomes for children.

Risk Taking and Innovation

Professional learning is undertaken within a culture of empowerment, risk taking and innovation. Leaders recognise that making mistakes is part of learning and improving (Buck, 2016) and is integral to a process of moving from ‘best practice’ to ‘next practice’. Professional autonomy is supported and leaders create a climate in which staff are motivated and trusted to take risks and innovate in ways that are right for the children (Ofsted, 2015) leading them to review, reflect and improve.  Evidence based models and approaches are utilised as frameworks for exploring innovative practice, for example Lesson Study and Teacher Research Groups.

Reviewing and Reflecting Over Time

Professional growth is sustained over time. It is iterative and activities create a rhythm of on-going support and follow up. Learning may include one off activities as part of sustained coherent programme and incorporate opportunities for experimentation, reflection, feedback and evaluation. Professional learning is designed such that underpinning strategies can be collaboratively explored, reviewed and refined, in order to refine ideas and embed approaches to improve practice. (DfE, 2016)

BERA, (2014) Research and the Teaching Profession. Building capacity for a self-improving education system. Final report of the BERA-RSA inquiry into the role of teacher research in teacher education, BERA: London
Buck, A.,  (2016) Leadership Matters. How all Leaders at all levels can create great schools. John Catt: Woodbridge
Cordingley, P., Higgins, S., Greany, T. and Coe, R. (2015) Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. Summary report.  Teacher Development Trust: London
DfE (2016) Standard for teachers’ professional development. Implementation guidance for school leaders, teachers, and organisations that offer professional development for teachers.  Crown Copyright: London
OFSTED (2015), The Common Inspection Framework: Education Skills and Early Years. Crown Copyright: London
Palmer, L. and Theobald, N. (2016) “How to … establish a culture of teacher research and development”, Professional Development Today 18 (3) pp 26 – 32
Wiliams, D. (2012) ‘How do we prepare our students for a world we cannot possibly imagine?’, keynote session, Schools, Students and Teachers (SSAT) National Conference, Liverpool, published 5 December 2012, video available online