How you can fill those 30 training hours

25th January 2008 at 00:00

A new website will enable lecturers to compare courses and take a more individual approach.

Lecturers will be encouraged to share ideas with colleagues nationwide about how they meet their obligation to do 30 hours' continuing professional development a year.

Reflect, an internet portal to be launched on April 1, will enable lecturers to find out about each other's CPD activities so they can judge how best to use the time.

The site is being set up by the Institute for Learning, which already has a limited version of the portal serving 22 colleges, work-based training outfits and community education providers in England.

Lee Davies, acting chief executive of the institute, staged 80 roadshows last year which revealed that, for many lecturers, professional development has meant following such courses as health and safety or equality awareness which many staff feel are imposed upon them by officialdom. But many others choose to spend the time working under their own initiative to hone their teaching skills.

Mr Davies said it should not be assumed that accredited professional development courses are better than non-accredited activities. He is anxious that colleges make provision, including access to computers, to enable this more individualised approach.

Mr Davies said that the effectiveness of CPD could be measured by how it improved teaching and the student experience.

Non-accredited activities could include a lecturer spending time in the workplace to learn more about a particular aspect of a vocational subject. It could simply involve taking time out to read up on the subject. Or it could involve communicating with colleagues around the country to discuss teaching styles.

Mr Davies said lecturers needed to be encouraged to see themselves as autonomous professionals who are trusted by employers to reflect on their own performance and make decisions about their own professional development.

The institute believes unstructured activities will truly earn their keep if the experience gained is passed on to colleagues.

It is very much a vision of FE whereby the improvement of teaching quality is driven by lecturers rather than "top-down" solutions from institutions or Government.

Mr Davies said: "In any model of trust there is going to be a degree of abuse, but we want to have a sophisticated and mature dialogue.

"There is no new money available for CPD, which comes out of core funding of colleges, and there will be demands on resources.

"Colleges will need to make sure there are resources for non-accredited as well as accredited activities.

"We have been raising awareness of the importance of CPD and are launching a suite of online tools to help lecturers manage it and share their activity records with peers, mentors and managers."

All lecturers whose work is paid for by the Learning and Skills Council are now required to be members of the institute, which will have a disciplinary role as well as representing the interests of teachers in colleges and other parts of the lifelong learning sector, including work- based and community education providers.

The institute is supported by the University and College Union, which hopes its influence and the introduction of compulsory teaching qualifications will boost lecturers' case for a pay rise. At present, their wages still lag behind those of their counterparts in schools.

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