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Professional Learning: A Tale of Two Meetings 1/2

Earlier this week I attended two professional development events, and had two different experiences. As someone who believes every experience is a learning experience, I certainly achieved some new learning at both these events, but perhaps not as I expected. The event that I thought would provide me with the most new learning was not the one I predicted. I never cease to be surprised by events such as these and how they can move your thinking and practice on in unexpected ways. But like all these events, some are better than others.

Both this week's events took place in Edinburgh. The first was scheduled as a meeting at the HQ of the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS). This was the first meeting of a new Research Education Group (REG) that had been put together by the GTCS, and by Dr Zoe Robertson in particular. Zoe is currently the Acting Head of Education Services at GTCS following the departure of Gillian Hamilton to take up the post of Chief Executive of the Scottish College For Educational Leadership (SCEL). She comes very much from a research background but one which is steeped in schools and teacher professional development. The GTCS have just launched a new research tool, EBSCO, which has been made available to all registered teachers in Scotland. This is seen as a key component in a box of tools and supports which have been developed and made available to teachers and schools, with the aim of supporting them to become reflective and active enquirers into their own professional practice. The recognition that teachers need to embrace enquiry based approaches to support their professional development is seen as a key element of Teaching Scotland's Future, written by Graham Donaldson, and accepted in its entirety by the Scottish Government. In addition enquiry as an approach to professional development is reflected in the new professional standards published by the GTCS in 2012 for teachers and school leaders.

The inaugural meeting of this REG group consisted of some sixteen individuals, who were all interested, and had taken part in, the use of research for professional development of themselves and others. They included teachers, senior managers, headteachers, university academics, local authority managers, SCEL, Education Scotland and a representative from Learning for Sustainability Scotland. We had all been invited by Zoe with an initial remit to try and scope out how we might as individuals, and as a group, support the EBSCO resource site and how we could further promote the use of enquiry approaches to professional development.

It is fair to say that everyone sat round the table was a supporter of what the GTCS was endeavouring to do, but we were also conscious of the fact that we were a small sample group and that there were others who would feel just as interested and as supportive, and who we would  hope would become more involved as we found our feet. We needed to start our journey somewhere and this was ours.

After an introduction from Zoe, we each spoke about our backgrounds and why we thought we had been invited to sit round the table. Some of us were known to each other, either personally or professionally and through Twitter, Pedagoo or other blogs, or projects. Once introductions were out of the way we then got into a professional discussion around EBSCO and what the role of the REG might be initially, and how this might develop in the future. This was fascinating as each person round the table brought their own perspectives and experiences to help us consider the issues. This was no pointless chatter because at the end of it we had identified some ways forward.
These were:
  • As individuals we would promote access to the EBSCO resource across our own networks
  • We would continue to promote enquiry as the most effective approach to professional development
  • We would contribute to the 'MyGTCS' research area to support engagement-including support and advice for those using it
  • We would share research recommendations and produce summaries, and perhaps key questions, to help others engage with the research
  • We would share current research for publication on the GTCS webpage and help with quality assurance of this in the future
  • We would assume a quality assurance role for research submissions
In addition we all agreed to provide Zoe with more information how we could support the wider agenda now and in the future. There were no shortage of volunteers to step in immediately to take on roles and get the agenda moving. Not a bad effort for the first meeting of two hours duration!

If you haven't already done so, I would recommend you check out the Practitioner Enquiry section on the GTCS website. If you are a registered teacher you should also check out the EBSCO resource under the 'MyGTCS' section. This is full of thousands of academic and educational-journal articles that are a gold mine of research on education from around the world. There are also a large number of e-books available and all are free to down load. Each article has an abstract detailing what it is about and it is relatively easy to search for particular subjects you might be interested in, and which will certainly help you on your own professional learning journey.

The time had flown by, which is always a good sign, and I, and I am sure others, left feeling excited by the opportunities we saw for all ahead, and also by the new thinking and understandings we had been exposed to.

A few of us were heading off to our next event, which was with Carol Dweck. But more of her and my thoughts on that event in my next post. for website

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