Will the Tories open doors to teachers' professional know-how?

9th October 2009 at 01:00

Last week, Michael Gove answered teachers' questions about education in The TES ("So where do we go from here, Mr Gove?", October 2), but mentioned nothing about professional development.

Will he support the "licence to teach"? Will new models of professional development help teachers in keeping their "licence"? Will online support and knowledge-sharing with colleagues around the country count?

Will our sector at last be enabled to use the interactive web 2.0 technologies used in business to support problem-solving? Teachers in a recent research project we undertook for Becta, the schools technology agency, on ICT tools for future teachers said how useful they found their Twitter network for getting immediate answers to the day's problems. They asked why there wasn't a Facebook-type environment for teachers like the one for local government (www.communities.idea.gov.uk).

Traditional models of teacher training will never reach the mass of teachers. Face-to-face models reach few, even if schools and local authorities can find genuine "experts": teacher numbers are high, so the cost of face-to-face updating for all is out of the question - teachers' lives are too busy and much of the kind of knowledge they need to improve their practice is fine-grained and focused on concerns of the moment. Yet regular updating of teacher knowledge and skills is essential.

An online community built around practice would provide a backbone for national connections between specialist interest groups supporting knowledge-sharing and peer challenge in specialist communities. We invest in motorways to provide a backbone for connections between communities, so what about a national virtual infrastructure for teachers?

Mr Gove, can you take a risk and support innovative 21st-century models of ongoing professional development for teachers?

Editor's note: an online social networking and lesson-sharing site designed for teachers can be found at www.tes.co.uk

Marilyn Leask, Professor of education, Brunel University, (West London), Uxbridge, Middlesex.

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