Maintaining Your Licence to Practise

Series Professional Development in the Lifelong Learning Sector
Author(s) Jeanne Hitching
Publisher Learning Matters Ltd
Published 2007
Pages 160
Price £15.00
ISBN 9781844451371
Reviewed by Dr Anthony Thorpe
Roehampton University
Review published 25 February 2008

This is a book about the practice of teaching in the further education or lifelong learning sector but it is not about initial teacher training. The book is intended to, amongst other things, ‘offer a range of development activities that [teachers] could undertake as all or part of [their] regular CPD tariff for the Institute for Learning’ (p.xiv).

Some background information may be useful at this stage for, as the author explains, this publication is occasioned by the introduction of ‘The Further Education Teachers’ Continuing Professional Development and Registration (England) Regulations’ which came into force as of September 2007. The regulations require that every full-time teacher in further education must complete at least 30 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) each year with part time teachers undertaking pro-rata amounts. Teachers must also register by early 2008 with a body called the Institute for Learning (IfL), which is the professional body for the sector. The IfL is the equivalent of the General Teaching Council but with the crucial difference that the Institute has the responsibility to monitor that each teacher has completed the required CPD as part of the maintenance of his or her licence to practise.

The six chapters of the book can be split into two sections with the first three providing explanation and theory, whilst the last three consist of CPD activities. In the first chapter, Hitching outlines the background information on the CPD requirements and the role of the IfL. As with the two chapters that follow, objectives are listed as bullet points at the beginning and then summaries of ‘key issues’ are given at the end. Chapter 2, which is the most detailed section of this short book, focuses upon on the importance of reflection by all practitioners in the model of CPD designed by the IfL. The reader is taken through a number of types or models of reflection as well as an explanation of single, double and triple loop thinking. Reflective tasks are given within the chapter. The third chapter identifies ways for teachers to maximise their CPD and provides tips on how to complete the reflective writing tasks.

The final three chapters offer a series of over 30 different development activities including, for example, ‘developing subject resources’ (p.56), ‘developing mentoring skills’ (p.90) and ‘shadowing to develop new roles and responsibilities’ (p.111). Each activity has a title, an introduction, a development brief and suggested reflection activities.

Hitching has links with the IfL as she was a member of its strategy group that developed the framework for the CPD model. There is a subtext that she is aware of, that some teachers will be reluctant to engage in the required CPD process and, the presentation of the book may be in recognition that not all of the members of the further education teaching workforce hold degree level qualifications.

The layout of the book is very clear with its use of frequent subtitles and bullet points to break up the text. The author seems to have sought to write in a direct manner and avoid complexity but some problems arise from this approach. The author directly addresses the reader in the second person, sometimes in the singular, such as, ‘you will need to ensure your membership subscription to the IfL is paid up in full on an annual basis’ (p.3), and at other times in the plural, ‘[s]ome of you may be able to carry out all or part of this type of learning from home’ (p.42). The use of such a device might give the impression to the reader that he or she is in a group of staff listening to a talk by a senior manager. At times the book can come over as sounding like a guidance document produced by the IfL as there is no critique of the Institute or any attempt to identify possible problems or issues with its new role. Under a sub-heading of ‘reflecting about reflecting’, it is stated that, ‘the IfL consider this element to be particularly important’ (p.45). Yet Hitching neither gives evidence to support the statement nor does she identify a document in which the IfL express this view.

In general, statements are made without a supporting argument as, for example, when the author claims that, ‘the level of introspection encouraged by some self-evaluation models has the potential to produce damaging levels of self-criticism’ (p.20). There is a section in chapter 3 on ‘Balancing your training needs with institutional objectives’ but the possible tensions between the two are not explored or critiqued (see p.38). A CPD activity on professional values does not encourage any critical reflection on the value or appropriateness of the professional standards except to note that some of them might be difficult to demonstrate (see p.66). The book laudably promotes reflection but, perhaps in its pared down approach to the topic, it does not model a critical reflective stance itself.

This book might meet the individual needs of some teachers looking for information on the new regulations and ideas for CPD activities. However, it might not satisfy the wishes of some members of the profession seeking something a little more challenging on this important topic.