'Teachers need a personalised touch, too'

28th March 2008 at 00:00

Individual attention to development must apply to classroom practitioners as well as pupils

Personalised learning should apply to teachers as much as pupils, according to academics.

Sara Bubb and Peter Earley of London University's Institute of Education told the American Educational Research Association conference in New York this week that teachers need the same individual attention in their professional development as pupils receive in lesson time.

They observed 38 primary and secondary schools over 20 months. In many, they found that "professional development" was synonymous with "a day off".

Teachers felt courses were devised purely for the benefit of Ofsted inspectors, and professional development was regarded as an imposed burden.

But the researchers said these attitudes were not inevitable. "We must not underestimate the importance of how engaged or motivated staff are in the learning process," they said.

"In the same way that there is talk of personalising learning for pupils, there must be the equivalent notion for the school workforce. Professional development does not just happen. It has to be managed and led, and done so effectively, ensuring it has a positive impact."

But teachers also want to feel they can influence their training. One school leader said she often doubted the usefulness of courses that teachers asked to attend: "But I agree, to keep them happy, which is an important consideration."

Many teachers want to be certain that any training will ultimately benefit pupils. Whole-school courses only work if staff believe they are genuinely useful. One primary school asked pupils to complete a questionnaire about various elements of school life. It showed that fewer than half thought their classmates behaved well, leading to a staff training day on behaviour management.

Teachers also want to feel that their learning and development is as important as pupils'. The most effective schools provide shelves to store resources, links to useful websites, and even dedicated rooms for staff learning.

Equally, staff resent being corralled into whole-day training sessions. Professional development was most effective when it took place in the early morning, after school, and in half-day sessions.

The researchers said: "Hearts and minds had to be won if everyone - students and staff alike - was to work towards their own and collective goals leading to school improvement."

- s.bubb@ioe.ac.uk

ENSURE EFFECTIVE STAFF DEVELOPMENT

- The leadership and management of professional development need to be effective.

- Staff must understand the purpose of any training.

- Schools need to develop a learning-centred culture.

- Individuals' professional development should be linked to their career needs, as well as the needs of the school.

- It should be clear how training sessions will make a difference to pupils.

- Sessions should be quick, effective and value for money.

- Mentoring and coaching other teachers is a highly effective form of professional development.

- Sufficient time needs to be made for professional development.

- Training should be closely monitored, and its impact evaluated.

- Learning and development should be acknowledged and celebrated in school.

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