Research has shown that professional learning can make a significant and positive impact on learners. As a result, it has become a priority for the Welsh Government, and on 10 June, 2014, Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills made a statement on a ‘professional learning model (PLM)’ (external link). His statement made reference to the recent OECD report entitled Improving Schools in Wales [.pdf] (external link), and he explained the vital role of teachers in constructing a world-class education system in Wales. He also emphasised the need for a continuum of professional development for practitioners not just to develop and enrich their classroom practice in line with professional standards, but to ensure that learners are at the heart of all we do, and their learning is continuously enhanced and improved. As part of this, we need to build their literacy and numeracy, and ensure they are able to achieve irrespective of their social class and economic background.
You can watch Huw Lewis, Welsh Government Minister for Education and Skills, making his initial statement on the professional learning model (external link) on Senedd TV. You can also watch him announce the launch of the ‘New Deal’ (external link).
The new professional learning model forms part of the Welsh Government’s Qualified for life: an education improvement plan for 3 to 19-year olds in Wales (external link), and helps to address strategic objective 1: ‘An excellent professional workforce with strong pedagogy based on an understanding of what works’. The professional learning model is a model for all, covering all phases and all practitioners as they make progress on their professional journeys.
In this video, Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills outlines the professional learning model, and explains how it ties in with the ‘Qualified for life’ plan, and why it is so important for practitioners in Wales.
While watching the video, bear in mind the following questions.
- How do Huw Lewis’ comments relate to your school or institution?
- Do you agree with the comments about inequality and the need for improvement?
- How could the professional learning model support your own professional development?
Key aspects of the new professional learning model, and of this online resource, are shown in Figure 1.1.2 below.
In line with many models of reflective practice (see Topic 2: Teachers as researchers), the new model encourages a cyclical approach to planning, implementing, reviewing and evaluating, as indicated in Figure 1.1.3. It is supported by online learning packs, complementary information booklets, and many other resources which can be found on the Learning Wales website.
As well as linking to the ‘Qualified for life’ education improvement plan, the professional learning model will also work hand-in-hand with school development plans (external link) and the national model for regional working (external link).
These are important documents for you and your school, and you should aim to spend some time reading them. However, you will be able to see very quickly the similarities in models for professional learning, regional working and school development just by comparing Figure 1.1.3 above with Figure 1 in both of the documents linked to in this section. Note, for example, the emphasis on evaluation: how does that relate to you as a practitioner and also your institution? How does it relate to data such as PISA outcomes? (We will be returning to this use of data within Topic 2: Teachers as researchers.) Note also the importance of a regional approach: how might that relate to your practice?
One of the key objectives of both the professional learning model and the national model for regional working is to improve schools in Wales and the outcomes of our learners. This is also the main focus of the OECD’s 2014 report entitled Improving Schools in Wales [.pdf] (external link), and we will use this report in Activity 1.1.2 to explore different approaches to professional learning around the world.
In this activity, you will need to download the 2014 OECD report entitled ‘Improving Schools in Wales [.pdf]’ (external link). You would find it worthwhile to read all of this report, but in this activity we will focus on four small sections which will take us to four different corners of the globe.
In each case, you will need to turn to the part of the report indicated, read the brief section and respond to the points for reflection below.
- Singapore: see Box 4.2 (p.97): Do you think that the ‘Thinking Schools’ curriculum in Singapore has aspects that would be useful in Wales? What might be the implications of such an approach on the development needs of practitioners?
- Alberta, Canada: see Box 3.3 (p.76): What are the key focal points for professional learning in Alberta? Have any of your own professional development activities to date had a similar focus?
- The Netherlands: see Box 4.4 (p.106): How could the Netherlands’ approach to evidence-based education research help their practitioners? How could we use this approach in Wales?
- Finland: see Box 3.1 (p.68): The OECD deem Finland to be a country where the quality of teaching is high. How does this appear to affect outcomes for practitioners and learners in Finland?
In Activity 1.1.3, we’ll move closer to home, and look at some of the excellent practice in professional learning that occurs throughout Wales.
Download the Estyn case study about the successful model of professional development employed by High Cross Primary School, Bassaleg (external link). Read the case study with the following questions in mind.
- How does the High Cross Primary model of ‘Introduce, develop, embed’ compare to the key steps depicted in Figure 1.1.3?
- Has your professional development to date been highly active, as in the case of High Cross Primary, or more passive?
- To what extent have you introduced new ideas into your classroom practice? What sort of impact did your ideas have?
- Are there any specific ideas on page 2 of the case study that you could adapt for your school?
In his announcement of the new professional learning model on 10 June 2014, Huw Lewis made reference to his visit to St Joseph’s RC High School in Newport, and the evidence he saw of colleagues coming together to support both their own development and ‘growth’, and that of the school. You can read more about this example of professional development (external link) and we will return to this case study in Topic 5: The professional learning journey.