In step with personal progress
The Professional Development of Teachers: practice and theory By Philip Adey with Gwen Hewitt, John Hewitt and Nicolette Landau Kluwer Academic Publishers pound;27
These two contrasting and complementary books arrived for review just as I had returned from the second of two successive Fridays addressing residential conferences for staff in big south-east London secondary schools. Like the books, the conferences were impressive in subtly different ways. In one, the scheduled workshops - all redolent with some advanced thinking on some aspect of curriculum, behaviour, assessment, learning and teaching - were to be taken by the school's own staff. In the other, the headteacher told the story of the school so far in her introduction and involved members of staff as prompting witnesses to "the MA group", those who had been studying "transactional analysis" and the team that had studied and were implementing the "opening minds" project in Year 7.
Both schools were emphasising learning and had realised that one of their most important spending priorities had to be professional development to keep their staff sufficiently fed and watered with the intellectual curiosity that ensures they are learning role models to their challenging council-estate pupils. So I reckon both schools will buy these two books.
The first, by Sara Bubb and Peter Earley, is a practical guide to all aspects of professional development which ought to be in the possession of every professional development co-ordinator in every primary and secondary school in the land - and their colleagues in leadership teams. The other is by Philip Adey of King's College London, who with Michael Shayer is associated in most minds with the impressive cognitive acceleration programmes in science and mathematics education - Case and Came.
Professor Adey has spent his working life promoting and improving science education. After a fascinating account of his formative years as an advisory leader, island-hopping in a small plane in the West Indies and Indonesia, he expands on, first, the extraordinary gains in attainment outcomes shown by students who encounter Case and Came, and, second, on the models of professional development that make the programmes more or less effective. With disarming honesty he analyses the few failures as well as the many successes and their causes.
So there's an illuminating passage about various forms of coaching, which is now, rightly, seen as crucial to professional development. But he also illustrates the inevitability of failure when science (or maths) departments engage in development only because it has been externally imposed on them, with insufficient consultation by the LEA, the leadership of the school or the departmental head. He reveals the crucial need for continued coaching support during the months after the introduction of a new way of teaching, and of the key obligation on leaders to continue to show interest.
The introduction of the national curriculum put a sudden and unwelcome break on the development of "thinking skills", a less subject-specific movement generated by Reuven Feuerstein's "instrumental enrichment" practices. Having wasted a decade, therefore, we are getting back to both, although only just after the introduction of the literacy, numeracy and key stage 3 strategies, none of which is sufficiently influenced by the work of the cognitive accelerators. The book also contains a fascinating review of the key stage 2 and 3 strategies. Philip Adey's is a book to put on the reading lists of all would-be headteachers and every policy-maker.
The title of Peter Earley and Sara Bubb's book Leading and Managing Continuing Professional Development illustrates its intended wider audience. Its most delightful feature - and there are many - is its inclusion of vivid case studies, any one of which will provide good ideas for immediate action to school leaders and to co-ordinators of professional development. But there's also an easily understood description and evaluation of various forms of professional development, and enough leads for those who want to pursue the research and teaching of what works and what doesn't. It's not a book you'll read at a sitting; more a practical guide practitioners will dip into to replenish ideas.
I've always believed good professional development is that sort of food for teachers that nectar is fabled to be for the gods. If you believe that too, you'll find the books provide the recipe for the best sort of nectar.
TIM BRIGHOUSE Tim Brighouse is commissioner for London schools