Money to help lecturers improve their teaching is being used by colleges to pay for courses on inspection and targets, a new report says.
Delegates at the Sunderland Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training (Suncett) annual conference said cash for continuing professional development (CPD) was being directed at colleges' regulatory priorities rather than the training that lecturers feel they need to improve their teaching and careers.
A report on the conference, published this week, recommends that college staff should spend half their CPD time on priorities set by the college and the remainder on personal development.
Steven Fletcher, teaching fellow at Suncett, said several delegates from colleges and training providers had complained that their institution directed training towards institutional issues.
"Staff would prefer to have some say in what the money is spent on. But the college has to meet targets, so money gets spent on training for them rather than training for teaching and learning."
College lecturers also value opportunities to meet and learn from each other, the report says, but are rarely able to do so. And they feel they do not get much chance to find out about the latest research into teaching.
The Suncett report suggests students should be asked how their classes could be improved as a guide to where more staff development is needed. It also recommends that CPD funding should be used to highlight academic research into pedagogy and that it should be made accessible to all lecturers.
The report says colleges should have a mission statement that mentions their commitment to CPD, and that the definition of professional development should be wide enough to include reading, peer tutoring and work shadowing, as well as more traditional pursuits such as conferences and courses.
Mr Fletcher added that mentioning CPD in the college's mission statement was a way to make staff feel valued. "It shows people high up in the college know staff learning is key to the progress of colleges or schools," he said.
Staff should have the time and space to share their ideas on how to do their jobs with each other, and the opportunity to discuss ideas with management, the report says.
It cites the car manufacturer Nissan in Sunderland, where research and development staff work alongside production colleagues in "islands of innovation" to learn about each other's jobs.
Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute for Learning, said a survey of 6,500 members found that some were not getting the career development they wanted.
"It is a mixed picture, but over the sector as a whole we have a distance to travel," she said.