Open letters turn the page

11th January 2013 at 00:00

I have enjoyed Iain Smith's open letters to the cabinet secretary and have found myself in agreement with many of the key messages he has given. This is particularly true of "Final words on a boost for professional development" (4 January), where he described the relevance of the work of Professor Richard Elmore of Harvard University.

He will remember, I am sure, Elmore's visit to Scotland in March 2007, which was part of the government-funded International Thought Leaders Programme and hosted by the national CPD team. During this visit, Professor Elmore spoke to a range of Scottish educators. He met the then cabinet secretary, spoke to HMI and Learning and Teaching Scotland senior officers, addressed the national CPD network group, visited two different authorities and led a one-day seminar for about 150 colleagues in Glasgow.

The legacy from this visit is still evident, not least in the very successful Learning Rounds programme, which has developed from the medical rounds model that Professor Elmore described and demonstrated in one of our secondary schools. Subsequently, the national CPD network relied significantly on the work of Elmore as it developed and grew the model of professional development, which in turn informed and shaped much of the thinking behind the Teaching Scotland's Future report.

Also, there are still a number of colleagues around who had the privilege of visiting Harvard and hearing about and experiencing Elmore's work directly. Many of them said their understanding was transformed by the visit. These educators offer a rich resource that could be helpful in the next few years as we take account of the clear need to strengthen professional development on new and different kinds of teaching and learning as "the main link connecting policy to practice" as Elmore suggests.

Iain Smith's questions to the cabinet secretary are valid and relevant, and I believe can be helpful in informing the next phase of the implementation of the TSF report.

I don't know whether the cabinet secretary has enjoyed reading them, but I have found them interesting and stimulating. Thank you.

Margaret Alcorn, national CPD coordinator from 2004-12, writes in a personal capacity.

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