New Designs for Teachers' Professional Learning

Series Bedford Way Papers
Author(s) Jon Pickering, Caroline Daly, Norbert Pachler
Publisher Institute of Education
Published 2007
Pages 282
Price £20.00
ISBN 9780854737291
Reviewed by Mr Jonathan Tummons
York College
Review published 15 August 2007
New Designs for Teachers’ Professional Learning is a collection of papers that have a common root in a Master of Teaching (MTeach) degree that originated at the Institute of Education, University of London, and has now been adopted for use at other institutions throughout the UK (with the exception of Wales). Drawing on the scholarship of tutors on different versions of the MTeach programme, and on a variety of research projects that focus on the lived experience of students on the course (generally, though not exclusively, newly qualified teachers within their first two years of teaching practice), this collection as a whole posits a new approach to the continuing professional development of teachers.Current dominant discourses of CPD tend to revolve around issues of managerialism and performativity, privileging a top-down, centralised model of CPD that encourages top-down, centralised delivery: on may occasional throughout the chapters of this book, the voices of teachers join in a uniform chorus of criticism of too much CPD as modelling poor practice, lacking interaction, applicability and relevance. The MTeach programme, as narrated and analysed in this collection, puts forward a very different CPD model, based on three key tenets: shared practice; collaboration; and scholarly and critical reflective practice. Informed by a theory of learning that occupies ground variously described as social constructivism and socially situated, the authors in this collection look in-depth at several of the aspects of the course. Topics covered include the promotion of reflective practice through autobiography; developing practitioner research/action research; portfolio-based learning and assessment. Other chapters engage with the pedagogy of the MTeach itself, with particular reference to the impact of networked learning. Indeed, technology constitutes a significant driver behind the design of the MTeach course.There are lots of interesting things here which, irrespective of the specific focus on the MTeach course, have a degree of applicability across contexts. As a teacher educator, rather than a CPD facilitator, I recognised several themes that were of relevance and potential benefit to my own teaching. To take one example: an exercise in encouraging collaborative and critical reflective writing included not only discussing first-person reflective accounts within a peer group, but also writing up the same account in the third person, as a narrative device to encourage detachment and, therefore, a more rigorous and scholarly approach to the analysis of the issues at hand. Ideas about portfolio development and recognising and encouraging action research lend themselves to wider application immediately. Beyond the immediately applicable, there is also some debate on the nature of e-learning. Chapters look closely at the ways in which specific module tasks are constructed and sequenced, and at the educational theories (philosophies?) that underpin them. Critical analysis of e-learning is still relatively thin on the ground, although some epistemological and pedagogical issues are covered. Daly and Pachler’s chapter, “Learning with Others in Mind” is the best thing I have read relating to e-learning within a socially situated context and really deserves a whole book to itself: other ideas (such as communities of practice (Wenger 1998)) could have been worked a little harder.So who should read this book? Anyone with an interest in CPD, certainly. Teacher educators should read it. And, from the point of view of my area of work, the Institute for Learning and Lifelong Learning UK should read it. In post-16 education CPD becomes mandatory for the first time this September, and the lessons of this book could be usefully heeded by policy makers as they implement the new CPD regime.