Workgroup 2: leadership and professional development

Short summary

Considerable change is afoot. Cognitive science and social media are both telling us much more about how we learn effectively: learning professionals research and exchange effective practice, as high level research informs our fundamental understandings. Bottom up and top down are contributing and intersecting. Change means professional development, but of course change also alters and evolves what professional development might be.

This workgroup focussed on the need for teachers to develop and exchange clear, evidence based strategies for using digital technology, improving their skills to use it effectively.

Education leaders, heads of institutions, governors, teachers and lectures, indeed everybody is faced with tough decisions and finite, tight, budgets. Digital technology should help them solve their problems, not bring more.

If at all levels of leadership there was recognition of the need to invest in innovation, with the expectation of rewards in the longer term, not necessarily within the budget year, current exam cycle or by the next inspection, then they might be enabled to move forward more easily.

Education is a complex system of global, national, local and institutional stakeholders, multiple forces, public, private and charitable institutions, with a broad range of professionals. Every student’s journey through informal and formal education should enable them to attain their best learning potential, for the benefit of both individuals and society. For that to happen, everyone has to play a part. And for THAT to happen the enablers, as well as the supporters of change, have to play their part.

That is complex, and the complexity is spelled out in the link below, but as has already been explained complexity is not difficulty. Lots needs to be done, but none of it is particularly difficult.

In particular the “self-help” initiatives of face to face local events like TeachMeets or regular social media discussion spots like #UKEdChat, with their extensive archives, and the new delivery models of on-line mass courses, together with the global communities of practice all contribute already to burgeoning all-but-free professional development for those already connected and participating.

There is of course a distinction to remember between first order innovation of the truly new and adoption of innovation which has an established track record. Reaffirmation through communication with peers on both counts moves us forward and helps vouchsafe quality.

Key recommendations

Building on this analysis (see link to detail below), the following actions could make a significant difference, to putting the education system onto a track of continual innovation, sharing and improvement, if we take the time it needs, given that the funding is likely to be minimal:

  1. Invite each agency responsible for the main drivers in the education system to reflect / report on how it would change its approach to ensure that teachers, lecturers, institutions and their own staff prioritise the adoption of proven and promising innovation with digital learning technologies. The innovation of new approaches to learning with digital technology should also be supported, with the sharing of both successful and unsuccessful innovations for the sector to learn from and influence wider adoption across the education system.
  2. Set up an expectation of “online learning CPD”, linking to current organisations and associations, with perhaps an overarching CPD directorate as an organisation to collate and share the teaching community’s knowledge of research and effective practice with digital learning technologies, and to reward, showcase, celebrate and recognise high quality and effective teaching innovations across all sectors. In particular such a CPD directorate might look outside England too for exemplar practice.
  3. Define a “digital experts’ programme” to inspire students to develop their digital skills across the curriculum, with the successful Digital Leaders initiative at its heart. We could imagine something like a nationwide “digital Duke of Edinburgh scheme” with collaborative and mixed age digital student leaders at its heart.
  4. The DfE should lead by example, asking ‘how can new digital technologies help?’ focus on the part of strategic leadership at all levels, seeking the optimal use of digital technology to help solve the most challenging issues in education. For example, in all our ETAG visits we have yet to see young learners regularly inputting to policy in the way that we observe in the front running learning institutions.

» Detailed reflections on leadership and professional development recommendations »