Sunday, 4 December 2016

Teacher professionalism and teacher identity through professional learning


This week I have been engaged in re-reading learning theories with the intention of underpinning my thinking about professional learning to help me co-create a resource to support teachers gather evidence of impact. This is where my thinking has got to so far.

Engaging with teacher professionalism and teacher identity will require a commitment to professional learning which will involve new learning or a revisiting of previous learning. This involves teachers developing new knowledge, skills, abilities and developing dispositions, while using literature to underpin their thinking.

Within learning for teachers, we have to consider how adults learn and how to support this learning. This raises questions about whether adult learning is different from children’s learning, and as such, should be structured differently. Knowles in his discussion of adult learning offers his principles of andragogy, which are based on various assumptions and are contested. Hartees’ (1984) critique of Knowles work discusses that adults are essentially self-directing, characterised by their experiences, and have a readiness to learn through a problem solving approach. This is added to by Mezirow’s (1997) research on adult learning, which shows that for adults to experience transformative learning, they must experience something different from children’s learning and become critically reflective of their own and others practice.
This begs the question of national bodies such as GTCS as to how can they support adult learning that is required to move the teaching profession to a research enriched profession? The answer will involve providing teachers with a range of opportunities in a variety of formats that offer rich, creative learning experiences that lead to mastery, which also challenges dispositional stances. This has to be accompanied by effective leadership that promotes teacher agency and can be defined as “the capacity of teachers to act purposefully and constructively to direct their professional growth and contribute to the growth of their colleagues” Calvert (1026:4). This supports the notion of practitioner enquiry being a professional learning activity where practitioners individually or collaboratively engage in enquiry into their own practice and then share findings locally or nationally. This has to be supported with structures of intelligent accountabilities within a positive professional learning environment that promotes a culture of continuous learning – life long learning.
Teacher professionalism and teacher identity is underpinned by the work of Dewey who argues for a scholarly approach to teacher education. This incorporates reflective practice where each learning experience is connected and reflected on holistically. Professional learning which is invoked by intrinsic motivation is more powerful than professional learning which is fostered upon teachers as it supports intellectual stimulation and growth and supports the teachers learning journey. Teachers as learners, like children, need to feel secure in their environment and feel confident in supporting the life-long learner within them. Teachers need to be guided by their thirst for knowledge and desire to learn, but take cognisance of their moral responsibility and the social justice agenda within the accountability framework of the learning community.

Each teacher should be supported to engage in appropriate, for them, professional learning in an environment and with the resources that supports their teacher journey. Sometimes that professional learning can be uncomfortable as we are programmed to ‘make sense of the world’ and sometimes professional learning disrupts our thinking. Teacher learning should be an active experience, typified by professional discussions and activities which involves gaining professional skills, knowledge, abilities through practitioner enquiry and professional learning.

Schools should try to create opportunities for professional learning in an environment that stimulates professional dialogue and encourages practitioner enquiry. Professional dialogue is an intensely social activity and through the internalisation of dialogue connections to ideas and thoughts ‘contributes to ‘sense making’ for each individual. So, sharing through verbalising is powerful as teachers make sense of their internal monologue and supports others to build on their knowledge and understanding.
For teachers, this means participatory modes of professional learning, creating a collaborative community of learners which involves all teachers within the community contributing what they can to building knowledge for the shared benefit for all, in an environment which celebrated difference.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Teacher Education and Retention


In ‘Teaching Scotland’ this week there is an article based on this post about teacher retention, here is the full post.
Teacher education and retention rates give an indication of the ‘health’ of the education system. If the number of students choosing teaching as a career is high and the attrition rates are low, then this shows a system which values its teachers as professionals and supports their career long professional learning.
From a study of Australian student teachers, those entering the profession are typically female, young, from less than affluent families’ backgrounds, with postgraduate career changers tending to be moving from a career with a similar occupational status as teaching. This is very similar to Scotland. For those student teachers in the study, teaching was not considered a fall-back career but a planned career choice even when there was strong social dissuasion as teaching. It was stated that teaching offers rewards that are not inherent in other occupations. These are linked to personal and social values which leads to higher job satisfaction.
The Australian study discusses that student teachers are motivated to choose teaching as a career based on motivators and values. The motivators being their ‘teaching ability’ related beliefs, personal utility values and positive prior experiences of teaching and learning. This is based on the intrinsic values of teaching, social utility values (making a difference) and personal utility values (job security). The values in the Professional Standards reflect the values of teaching and social utility values.
The Teacher Induction scheme is supported by research as support for early career teachers (ECT) is deemed essential as ECT develop a sense of ‘Who am I as a teacher?’ and ‘Who do I want to become?’ In education systems that support teacher professionalism, like Scotland, ECT are supported by a mentor, who can be both formal and informal. There is evidence that both are vital, as ETC need to develop a social network and have a social connectedness in order to ‘find themselves as teachers’. ECT need space to ask both instructional questions but also share thoughts and concerns with colleagues to develop as sense of belonging. School leaders should offer opportunities for all teachers to be connected through TLC’s and invest in staffrooms as social spaces to support the formation of casual networks. 
More market driven education systems of countries such as the USA and England, which invests little in teachers and PL show higher attrition rates.  The recently published report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, England (2016) states that the retention rate for primary trainees was between 58-68%. For secondary trainees, the retention rate was on average 37-44% for Teach First graduates and 59-62% for other routes. When the cost is also compared with other methods of teacher education in England, the Teach First model cost an average of £38,000 compared to other routes which are broadly on par with each other costing between £18, 000 - £23, 500 for secondary graduates. This market driven approach does not appear to be best value for public money.
In these market driven education systems, the way teachers are prepared for the classroom also shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of learning and teaching, and instead develops teachers who have a narrow concept of teaching. This narrow view is enacted as the ability to raise test scores and does not embody successful teaching as the ability to incite curiosity, develop a love of learning or cultivate empathy and compassion for others. This narrow view also undermines the deeper and broader view of building human capital. As teachers in these systems are more about being in competition with each other than learning together, it creates a culture of individualism and does not support collaborative practice or building social capital. This is counterpoint to the aspiration of the Scottish education system which understands that partnership working and collaboration is the best way forward. However, partnership working and collaboration is not without its issues.
Scotland suffers not as much from teacher attrition or poor workforce planning but there is an issue with teacher geographical distribution across the country, leading to real problems with teacher numbers in some areas and some subjects in secondary schools. Typically, of the student teachers who start on an ITE course, 85% will graduate and then proceed into the Teacher Inductions Scheme. The retention rates of teachers from the Teacher Induction scheme has varied from the lowest of 73% in 2005 to the highest of 94% in 2015, the average retention rate over that last three years for the Teacher Induction Scheme is 89.6%. This is very good value for the public purse.  The investment made in our new teachers results in very high rates of retention, as the government representative from Saudi Arabia said after the Scottish system was explained “Ah.  I see now.  You grow your teachers.”
Recruitment campaigns to boost teacher numbers need to focus on a variety of factors and not settle for the easy option of promoting the social contribution and the opportunity to work with children. We have to be more explicit about the personal utility (job security/satisfaction) and intrinsic values that make teaching an option for a wide pool of graduates and career changers. Scotland provides access to high quality and teacher driven professional learning, reinforcing the view of teaching as a career, of teachers as professionals, and of teachers as life-long learners.
References
Allan, R. Bellfield, C. Greaves, E. Sharp, C. Walker, M. (2016) Long term costs and benefits of Different Initial Teaching Training Routes; Institute of Fiscal Studies; London
Richarson, P.W. & Watt, H.M.G. (2006) who chooses teaching and Why? Profiling characteristics and Motivations across three Australian Universities, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 34:1, 27-56
Struyve, C. Daly, A. Van de Candelaere, M. Bieke De Fraine, Meredith, C. Hannes, K. De Fraine, B. (2016) ‘more than a mentor’, journal of professional capital and community, Vol 1 Issue 3, pp.198-218
Zeichner, K.7 Hollar, J (2016) “developing professional capital in teaching through initial teacher education”. Journal of Professional capital and community, Vol 1, Issue 2 pp.110-123

Sunday, 20 November 2016

SCEL- enquire-connect-engage

Here are some reflections on the first SCEL enquire-connect-engage event which took place at Shawlands Academy. I was welcomed by a very bright, lovely and chatty S1 pupil who introduced herself and then escorted me to the area of the school where the event was taking place.

On entering the space, I met in very quick succession Lynne Jones (the organiser,@MissJOnes), Fearghal Kelly (of pedagoo fame and SCEL, @fearghal_SCEL), David Cameron (@realdavidcameron) and Dr Aileen Kennedy,(Edinburgh Univesity, @DrAileenK), with these people in the room you know there are going to be great conversations around professional learning and practitioner enquiry.

David Cameron was chairing the event and in his usual charismatic style welcomed us all. In setting the premise for the day, David stated that perhaps “we should stop talking about good or best practice but start talking about sustainable practice”. Fenwick (2016:81) states “quality improvement has now become an expectation of professional responsibility” and I think that David is calling for a change in emphasis in Scottish Education to a more ‘meaningful and manageable’ model of practice that can be maintained, sustained and enhanced day in and day out.

Dr Aileen Kennedy gave the keynote which, as usual when I hear Aileen speak, both resonates and challenges my thinking in equal measures. Aileen discussed the following four key questions:

·         What is/might be transformed in ‘transformative professional learning?

·         How can we better understand the potential impact of different forms of professional learning?

·         What about issues of motivation and accountability in relation to practitioner enquiry?

·         Practitioner enquiry – individual or collaborative?

For some teachers, enquiry may promote levels of critical reflection that are ‘transformative’. Transformative learning occurs when individuals have the opportunity and skills to really question and consider their underpinning beliefs, assumptions, values and practices. This goes beyond developing content knowledge and requires a criticality and questioning approach, and as such the process of transformative learning can be challenging and 'uncomfortable'. The gains from transformative learning however are worth the effort as it can lead to meaningful changes in practice which impact positively on pupil learning. Kennedy (2011) talks about professional learning as needing to be “both personally and contextually relevant” so situated in the teachers practice and something that is relevant to them and their learners. This professional learning may be formal, as in part of an agreed action of learning through the PRD process or informal as it occurs through the year. Thus, the PRD action plan can be considered a live document that can be added to and altered in line with the needs of the teacher and their learners. In fact, Kennedy (2011) cites Rhodes, Nevill & Allan (2005) who suggest that informal and unplanned collaborative CPD [professional learning] is a key part of the development of professional identity.

Through Aileen’s research, she produced a 3 stage continuum of professional learning moved from transmissive to transformative. Within the tranmissive mode Aileen suggests that the models of learning include training models, deficit models and cascade models. At the other end of the continuum is the transmissive mode which has only one model of learning in Aileen's model, which is collaborative professional inquiry models. The middle section of the continuum is entitled  ‘malleable’. This malleable section contains professional learning activities that have the capacity to be either transmissive or transformative depending on why, how and what of the activity. This stage contains activities such as award bearing models, standards based models, coaching/mentoring models, community of practice models. The malleability within these professional learning activities is desired outcome. Is it about “negotiating identity, managing transitions effectively, producing innovations or even critically questioning norms of practice” Fenwick (2106), so about my autonomy as a professional or is it about institutionalised discipline? For example, is coaching and mentoring for my own personal growth or is it aligned to produce externally derived desired behaviours?

I was pleased to hear Aileen say that “practice is shaped by values and beliefs” as I am a strong advocate for the premise that professional values underpin teacher professionalism and teacher identity. At the moment, I am working with partner organisations to produce a learning resource which support teachers to explore professional values in their local context and how this informs their practice and professional actions.

The final question discussed by Aileen was about practitioner enquiry and an individual pursuit or a collaborative endeavour. Practitioner enquiry is usually undertaken within the practitioners own practice or in collaboration with others. Evaluation and reflective teaching are fundamental to practitioner enquiry and within collaborative enquiry the group shares a common research question which can then be ‘investigated’ through different lenses to enhance knowledge creation and dissemination within the group and beyond.  When a community becomes an enquiring community it opens up the possibility to challenge assumptions, to articulate values, to make their practice problematic and to form partnerships with academics to engage in theory and research to further enhance the life chances of their students. However, collaboration is almost seen as a power of good without any critical examination of whether it does lead to enhanced practice and shared learning. Fenwick (2016) states that “‘collaboration’ tends to be over-simplified in practice as a romanticised ideal of communication, and in policy as a universal governing imperative for professional work in public service”, this is augmented by Kennedy (2011) who states that “‘co-operation is not necessarily collaboration”.

In concluding, Aileen asked in undertaking practitioner enquiry, what would be your motivation? who do you share with? and who benefits? I think for teachers, regular engagement in practitioner enquiry supports professional growth by challenging or disrupting thinking. It helps to create a space to stop and look again at existing ways of working.

Having an enquiry as stance disposition is a powerful force in developing teachers’ agency and the enquiring professional demonstrates their commitment to engaging young people, their parents and the community in the education process. Through this, teachers recognize their accountability to learners and the collective responsibility of the profession, working together for the common purpose of improving outcomes for all and contributing in informed ways to “closing the attainment gap”. 



Fenwick, T. (2106) Professional Responsibility and Professionalism: A sociomaterial examination; Routledge

Kennedy, A. (2011) 'Collaborative continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers in Scotland: aspirations, opportunities and barriers' European Journal of Teacher Education, vol 34, no. 1, pp. 25-41.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Understanding Early Years


Early Years provision is an area I am interested in and have some personal but no professional experience of. I want to have a better understanding of the complexity of being a GTCS registered teacher in the Early Years especially in the current climate of austerity and the policy drivers of ‘closing the gap’. My thinking is moving to a position of prevention rather than cure, what can we do to prevent the ‘gap’ from forming? rather than trying to ‘close the gap’ once it is established. This week I was reading the EIS report ‘Sustain the Ambition’ which highlights some of the key messages from research commissioned by the EIS, on teachers in the Early Years and the final report which was published in January 2016, entitled “Sustaining the Ambition: the Contribution of GTCS Registered Teachers In Early Years”.

The report suggests, at present, that there is an inequality of provision for young children. The statutory position of Schools Scotland Code (2002), where a ratio of one teacher to twenty children per nursery class was laid out, has been replaced with legislation in which the local authority have to provide ‘access to a teacher’ for nursery children. This research states that only 12 out of 32 local authorities continues to employ full time teachers in each of their establishments. This reduces the impact teachers can have in helping to close the attainment gap at the earliest stage.

Children come into nursery from a wide range of family life experiences, there will be the most advantaged children who have had “language-rich and experience-rich environments”, to the most disadvantaged children from a background of poverty and vulnerability, who have parents who are themselves in need of support, encouragement and structure. The role of the nursery teacher and team then becomes crucial in the ‘closing the gap’ agenda because as the report states “for children to succeed, the family must have some success too”. So, teachers within the nursery sector have a “unique position to engage families and support” and they often work both formally and informally in educative ways to supporting parents as well as teaching the children.

Children now encounter many transition points in their lives, and their experience of the earliest transition points can have a considerable impact upon how they cope with change in the future. Nursery schools can make a strong contribution to transitions, from home to nursery and from nursery to primary school. The nursery teacher has a unique role to play in supporting this transition to support the children to develop skills to manage change and continue their learning journey.

While these pastoral transitions are important for children and families, the focus on learning and development is central. For the children, the learning that takes place in nursery establishments occur across many domains such as emotional, social, physical, creative, linguistic, spiritual and intellectual. These are the educational experiences on which future learning is based to build learning capacity, learning dispositions and build knowledge. Early levels cover the 3 to 6 years age range and provides the architecture for support, for children’s well-being and learning in a continuous way across the nursery and Early Years and early primary school settings. Nursery teachers work is informed by understanding the importance of, and undertaking ongoing professional learning to keep abreast of current educational thinking, understanding children’s thinking and holistic development, which enables them to provide appropriate educational challenges and individual support.

Curriculum for Excellence builds on Pre-birth to Three Guidance and aligns with ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’. Nursery teachers are responsible for observation, peer discussion, reading and self-reflection about teaching practice, and they bring a valuable knowledge of relevant learning and teaching theories and research to their work with children. Their pedagogy is informed by understanding that children need to explore, experiment, ponder and enquire, through play, and they have a critical role in observing, evaluating, recording, interpreting and then acting upon all they recognise to be significant to children’s learning, well-being and development.

The education system alone will not close the gap in attainment and outcomes that exist in too many of our children. Investing in high quality GTCS registered teachers in Early years is one solution to aligning the desire of CfE that learning through doing, like in nursery, should percolate into early primary, as this is perceived to be effective and produces independence and self-reliant learners.

So what now? For me, more reading to continue to improve my understanding, and more thinking and professional dialogue to find other solutions to help ‘close the attainment gap’.


Saturday, 5 November 2016

Digital Literacy


Digital literacy is a term that is being used frequently across education, but what does this mean? To be digitally literate changes over time and across contexts as technology and situations vary, therefore digital literacies can be seen, as a set of teaching practices that are supported by changing technology. In a world where technology is readily available to most, being digitally literate also means being both a creator and consumer of digital content by having skills, knowledge, understanding, values and attitudes, which supports both of these roles. However, in the education system, there is not equity in availability of digital access which creates a social divide. To address this, digital access needs to focus both on the technology and the capability of people to interact with technology, and teachers need to recognise that different experiences of children in terms of digital access and competencies are key components to becoming a digital citizen. Being a digital citizen has been described as someone who uses the internet every day.

There are many writers who have coined terms to describe children who have grown up with technology, Prensky (2001) uses the term digital native, while Tapscott (2009) called them the ‘net generation’ and ‘screenagers’. Brown and Czerniewicz (2010) used the terms generation X, Y and Z, other writers talk about the ‘app generation’. Regardless of the collective term used these children have grown up in a world where technology plays a large and important role in their lives. Children of this age are less ‘stuck’ and freely learn through the clever designs of devices that are intuitive and leads to learning without instruction. A good example of this is illustrated by The Hole in the Wall project (Mitra, 2007).

Teachers therefore, have to adapt and learn new pedagogies to support learning with technology. Teachers need to have a repertoire of communication strategies to engage children and support their learning. Literacy across the curriculum which is a responsibility for all, should include different types of literacies including digital literacy, indeed it is recommended that digital literacy should be included as an aspect in all subjects and not just in computer science.

Learning and teaching are complex, both tacit knowledge and practical wisdom are needed alongside a range of knowledges which Shulman (1986) outlines as;

·         Subject knowledge

·         Curriculum subject knowledge

·         General pedagogical knowledge

·         Pedagogical content knowledge

·         Knowledge related to learners and their characteristics

·         Knowledge of educational contexts

·         Educational philosophy including aims and values
The teacher’s technical pedagogical knowledge relates to the teacher’s general knowledge of how to use the affordance of the technology to a make the learning more effective. Simply having technology available does not mean it is having an impact on pupils’ achievement, where installed software is inappropriate or where teachers lack confidence and the IT capability to use it, technology may be of limited value. Teachers also need to recognise that not all initial attempts in teaching with technology will be a success, but reflection on the experience will ensure that digital literacy evolves along with a growing understanding to its pedagogical power.
The concept of digital citizenship suggests the boundaries are not physical but digital. Therefore, understanding digital citizenship involves understanding the nature of digital technology, within the broader context of the technological world and networked society of the digital age. The education of digital citizens involves developing confidence and capability with digital technology and the digital world.  This includes a focus on e-safety, ethical behaviour and digital rights, as well as responsibilities as part of developing good digital citizens, click here for a fuller explanation.

The use of technology has the ability to enable teachers to increase the value of the learning and increase the authenticity of the learning experience. One thing is true about learning with technology is that technology is constantly changing and as such should be seen as a tool to support learning if it is used well and thoughtfully.




Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thoughts on equality inspired by Dr Arshad


This week I was lucky enough to attend The Stanley Nisbet Educational Colloquium Lecture which was delivered by Dr Rowena Arshad OBE, of the University of Edinburgh. The title of the lecture was “‘Race’ equality and Scottish School Education: Lessons from Research”.
In my new role, I am looking at creating a Professional Learning Package to support teachers to contribute to the equalities agenda, as equalities is an area that I think we (as teachers) often take for granted and assume that we are inclusive. Each time I have heard Dr Arshad speak, the same key point she makes disrupts my thinking. She says that
"to be truly inclusive we first must work out who and what we exclude, because only then can have complete inclusion"
We have Equalities legislation in place relating to race, gender, age, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation. The Additional Support for Learning legislation states that there is a duty to provide additional support for learning when any child or young person needs support for whatever reason. This should promote equality and challenges all teachers and the education system to embrace and respond to the diversity of our learners, but is this truly working in practice? Dr Arshad uses her research into ‘race’ to discuss how equality is working in Scottish education.
The idea of ‘race’ is a contested term that doesn’t really have meaning, it could mean culture, it could mean ethnicity, it could mean skin colour, it could mean religion, it could mean so many things that in fact in this context, it has no agreed meaning. In Scotland, we view ourselves as being inclusive and not ‘racists’ and view racism as ‘elsewhere’ but that doesn’t mean it does not exist. Since in Scotland ‘race’ has never been an identifier of social organisation, we are uncomfortable and lack knowledge and confidence in discussing with young people issues of racism. However, as Dr Arshad says “by not acknowledging discrimination you are discriminating”. Is this attitude of ‘it’s not really a problem’ an appropriate way to deal with such a complex issue that does exist? Are we not letting down our young people if we don’t give them opportunities to talk about racism in school as a ‘safe places’ because teachers are fearful and anxious not to offend? If we are to support our young people to develop the skills to be global citizens and thrive in a global economy, do we not have a duty to discuss issues such as racism?
All of the Standards for teachers in Scotland begin with a section on professional values and personal commitment and the following statements can be found under the heading of social justice;  
I am committed to the principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable policies and practices in relation to; age, disability, gender and gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion and belief and sexual orientation.

I demonstrate a commitment to engaging learners in real world issues to enhance learning experiences and outcomes and to encourage learning our way to a better future.

These statements should be lived and breathed and evidenced in practice not platitudes on a page. Equality should be ubiquitous in the curriculum, in teachers practice, in the structures and frameworks in the education system.  In HGIOS 4, Inclusion and equality is a separate subsection of the Success and Achievements: QI: Ensuring well-being and equality and inclusion, should equality not pervade all of the indicators? The education system needs to challenge and surface inequalities by not adopting a ‘happy families’ approach where it is perceived that everything is alright, but seeking opportunities to challenge and discuss inequality in its many guises.
It would be accurate to say that most teachers are not confident in discussing ‘race’ issues as the somewhat homogenous nature of the teaching profession means that many have never encountered being the victim of racism. Teachers “need space for deep meaningful discussions” to develop their thoughts and abilities in structuring conversation with young people to facilitate discussions. We have to be braver and have conversations which move beyond discussing racism in terms of artefacts and beliefs, and move these conversations into the reality of being. For example, for a person with a particular religious belief, how does their religious identity complement or conflict with the ‘social norm’ and what may lead to them being excluded? How does this impact on their confidence, their self-esteem, their own perceived abilities?

To promote equality all young people, need to see themselves in the curriculum, in the education system and in society, to support the development of their own identity and support their aspiration whatever that may be. It is incumbent on the whole education system to address the needs of all, to promote and support equality for all.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Professionalism and Professional Learning

This week I have been doing some thinking about professional learning and how this is underpinned by teacher identity and values, and how these contribute to the professionalism of teachers, here are some thoughts;
First of all, I think we can all agree with Chapman who asserts that “the quality of teaching is a critical factor influencing students learning” (2012:387). So how do we as an education system, support teachers professional learning and provide a quality learning experience which influences both teachers as professionals and teachers daily practice?
Gewirtz (2009) discusses teacher learning occurring in three modes which are “participation, construction (social learning) and acquisition (deficit model), so teachers professional learning is complex as it is a mixture of pedagogy, subject knowledge and practice, and is also strongly influenced by values.
A teacher’s professionalism reflects professional learning and values, and can be considered an individual perspective. However, Mitchell (2013:388) argues that there is a tension in this concept of teacher professionalism being individual as it is also “consensually derived”. Thus, if an individual is being unprofessional then they are acting in ways that does not comply with the consensus.
There is an argument that professional learning focuses mainly on aspects of behaviours and rarely considers either the ‘lived experience’ or ‘meaning making’ and as it influences only surface level practice and does not help teachers to get underneath and deepen their knowledge and skills, it is ‘more new learning’ rather than ‘deepening learning’. Various authors have contributed to these differing ideas of professional learning, Guskey asserts that the goals of professional learning are defined by “change in the classroom practice of teachers, change in their attitudes and beliefs, and change in the learning outcomes of students”, and Mitchell (2013) discusses professional learning as “the process whereby an individual acquires or enhances the skills, knowledge and or attitudes for improved practice”, both contributing to the idea that professional learning is about ‘more new learning’. Day and Fraser are more aligned the deepening of learning through reflection and moral purpose, Day’s definition talks about “the process by which teachers review, renew and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of teaching” and Fraser (2007) contends that professional learning is about “broader changes that may take place over a longer period of time”.
Research can influence how teachers think about and engage in professional learning. Research can help to underpin practice but also challenge ideas and assumptions about practice and values. Engaging in and with research can supporting teachers to become agents of their own learning and help increase teacher professionalism, promoting professional autonomy to create and decide ‘my leaning needs’ and ‘my learning journey’. Therefore, professional learning undertaken by teachers should involve opportunities to work together and to ask questions of their own practice and indeed the practice of others, which needs to be promoted and supported. This is high on the agenda for Scottish education and must remain so, if we are to be true to the aspiration of being enquiring professionals.
Practitioner enquiry is a vehicle to support teachers to engage with theory, policy and practice within their own local environment and is congruent with the act of ‘becoming’. It should lead to deep transformative learning, which significantly informs and influences a professionals’ understanding, practice and impact on pupil experiences. Engaging in enquiry helps teachers to “‘let go’, unlearn, innovate and re-skill in cycles of professional learning throughout their career in response to changing circumstances”, Menter et al (2011) and Sachs (2003) argues that undertaking practitioner enquiry can “act as an important source of teacher and academic professional renewal and development”.
Engaging in research may take the form of a simple enquiry based on a few questions or may involve a more structured and systematic professional learning opportunity where the enquiry is more in-depth and rigorous in methodology, evidence of impact and analysis.
Other forms of professional learning can also support teachers to deepen their knowledge and improve their practice, and although attending a one-off event can be enjoyable and beneficial, unless this has impact on practice it is not the best use of a teacher’s precious time. Professional learning needs to challenge the ‘going on a course’ mentality and move to finding the learning and research that meet the professional learning needs of teachers and support their learning journeys.
Teacher professionalism and professional learning, asks teachers examine their own beliefs, assumptions and behaviours so they can contribute to equality and social justice for all learners. It asks teachers to continue to improve and deepen their knowledge, skills and abilities in ways that keeps their practice relevant, fresh and alive, and to balance accountability with professional autonomy. All of this is expected and more, from teachers who are in the main intrinsically motivated, dedicated, have an altruistic disposition and drive to make a difference to the young people of Scotland.

References
Menter, I Elliott, D Hulme, M. Lewin, J Lowden K. (2011) A Guide to Practitioner research in Education. SAGE publishing
Sachs (2003) The Activist Teaching profession: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice

Volume 9, Issue 2, 2003

Mitchel, R. (2013) What is professional development, how does it occur in individuals and how may it be used by educational leaders and managers for the purpose of school improvement? Professional development in Education, 39:3, 387-400