Teachers set to get a classroom coach

19th May 2006 at 01:00
A new drive to install continuing professional development as a central feature of school life has been signalled in the past week by the officer in charge.

Margaret Alcorn, national co-ordinator for CPD, told a conference in Aberdeen last Friday that not all teachers have access to the kind of experience that "excites, refreshes and energises" them.

Mrs Alcorn called for "a more active model" of CPD rather than the passive approach of the past. She queried the use which was being made of the requirement on teachers to undertake their 35 hours of CPD a year.

"Is professional review and development a quality experience?" she asked.

"Is it a coaching intervention, or is it just a monitoring exercise designed to find out how teachers have used their 35 hours? If it's the latter, it will have failed."

The issue of coaching and mentoring is now likely to move smartly up the CPD agenda, and Mrs Alcorn confirmed that this is "a key theme for us".

Her message was reinforced during the past week with a visit to Scotland by two influential teacher educators from the United States who believe that mentoring can also make the staff as a whole "an adult learning community", and has a significant CPD spin-off throughout the school.

That will not have been lost on the Scottish Executive and the Hunter Foundation, which brought over Ellen Moir and Susan Gless from the University of California, and there may have to be a rethink over the approach of relieving probationers from a quarter of a full teaching timetable but giving their mentors only 10 per cent of their time off.

Under, the Californian initiative, novice teachers teach full-time and mentor teachers mentor full-time. The aim is that "teachers teach teachers how to teach".

Mrs Alcorn indicated that some of this thinking is beginning to seep into Scotland. She plans to extend the induction programme for new teachers to CPD for teachers in their first six years. This was so they become "the dominant force in staffrooms and don't get infected by the cynicism which often prevails".

Another message from the US project underlined the importance of an extended incubation period: the number of teachers dropping out in their first few years in the profession fell from 50 per cent in some cases to 12 per cent.

Other CPD plans unveiled at the conference included an online initiative which would be "a one-stop shop for every Scottish teacher", Mrs Alcorn said, and should be operational by August next year. It would enable teachers to build their own online portfolio of CPD work.

Mrs Alcorn also urged the extension of the induction scheme for probationer teachers to prepare other staff to take on new roles, such as principal teachers, heads of faculty and headteachers. "CPD is for everyone," she commented, "from headteachers to classroom assistants".

Good CPD, she said, should not assume there was any gap between the needs of teachers, the school and the education authority: there must be a shared understanding. The aim should be "to build capacity within the school so teachers don't have to rely on bringing in outside 'experts' to come in and solve problems".

Mrs Alcorn also hoped CPD could lead to more "collegiate conversations".

She added: "I am shocked when I recall that I had been teaching for 26 years before I saw anyone else teach, or anyone saw me teach. I had no idea how good a teacher I was because I got no feedback."

The increasing use of ICT to power CPD was underlined at the conference by Stuart Robertson, the senior official from the executive who advises Learning and Teaching Scotland. The schools intranet would allow teachers to join in "online communities", Mr Robertson said, such as the Heads Together and Masterclass forums.

news 3; Leader 22 CPD supplement 4

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