Professional Learning during the holidays ...... not a call to action - just what we do...

This was first published online by Times Educational Supplement on 20 June 2019

A few weeks ago, H Hepburn of TESS asked about CPD for teachers during the summer.  It caused a wee on twitter storm.   It caused me to reflect on areas which need further explanation and exploration.

Firstly, teachers deserve their holidays, teachers need them and all pupils benefit from their teachers having them.

We also need to unpack what we mean by CPD.  There is still a residue of opinion that sees CPD as going to a course, or an event i.e. CPD is something done to you/for you’. 

Since the publication of Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson) we have moved away from this to a focus on Continuous Professional Development as a process.  I wrote earlier this year, on retiring by formal education after 40 years, that the focus on the professionalism of the teacher and on career long professional learning is one of the main positive changes I have witnessed in the system.

This shift away from CPD as something done to you to the idea that professional learning as a process comes in many guises is to be welcomed and allows me to say, without fear of contradiction, that I do not know any teacher who doesn’t engage is some professional development during the summer holidays. 

Education Scotland Professional Learning framework is captured in: Learning by enquiring; Learning that deepens knowledge and understanding and Learning as collaborative. So, what does this professional learning look like during the holidays? 

Learning by enquiring for teachers during the summer holidays can be evidenced by those undertaking online courses either thorough Open University or indeed from the myriad of MOOCS available.  However, it also includes those engaged in research-based reading of e.g. Paul Dix “When the Adults Change, Everything Changes” or Tom Sherrington “The Learning Rainforest: Great Teaching in Real Classrooms” or “Shine” by Andy Cope and Gavin Oattes plus many other books, papers and articles.  Maybe even some of the 400+ Scottish Government/Education Scotland publications (2018/19) which they meant to read but didn’t have time for during the session due to other immediate professional commitments?

This reading also counts as learning that deepens knowledge and understanding but we can go further here.  Teachers reading a whole range of books under the guise of reading for pleasure are also undertaking Professional Learning.  How can a teacher read works such as: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Hadden; The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer or the more recent Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or indeed, Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari and not apply that new insight and understanding into their professional work next session?

There are teachers who undertake Learning as Collaborative by enrolling on summer programmes on language immersion, upskilling IT offered by universities and other providers including SSERC.  However, most learning as collaborative is not so obvious to the ‘outsider’ – but ask any family member of a teacher about holidays.  Do you really think a day at the Edinburgh Festival or a book festival or a visit to a museum or art gallery or a wee hill walk are purely fun family days out?  I think not – the teacher is always on the look out for new experiences, new opportunities, new ideas to take back into the classroom.

In addition, much learning as collaborative during the summer holidays takes place in school!  Teachers are in and about their schools particularly at the start and the end of the summer break involved in the big tidy, the planning, the setting up and they engage with others also on site and talk about work!

Earlier this year in TESS I said that the way in which teachers have embraced professional learning pays testimony to their dedication to making a difference and getting it right for every child.

I stand by this and will cheer with them as they wave goodbye to their pupils at the end of session 2018/19.  The summer holidays are almost upon us and our teachers deserve them, need them and all benefit from them having them.

Isabelle Boyd