- Models of delivery
Trying to map the different models of delivery and the range of activities which constitute CPD is not straightforward due to the highly varied pattern of provision.
In order to make sense of the range of provision which exists, Vogel (2010) suggested a framework based on Land’s (2001) work. She suggested that different delivery models of ICT CPD could be located somewhere along the following axes
- Technology-centred – pedagogy-centred
- Learner-centred – institution-centred
- Centralised – local
- Extrinsic – intrinsic motivation
- Formal – informal
- Situated – generalised
- Support – development ethos
- Voluntary – compulsory
The traditional model of sending staff on courses is general seen as ineffective in failing to provide opportunities for practice and failing to involve colleagues to support new initiatives (IfL, 2010). Furthermore, courses are decontextualised from work cultures, constraints and practices.
However, the dichotomy is probably painted too starkly. CPD may be delivered in house by outside ‘experts’ or external CPD programmes may be delivered through on-line courses, be heavily contextualised and use a problem centred approach.
Whilst there are limited studies of the effectiveness of CPD as a whole there are numerous small scale case studies. These include:
- A Professional Engagement Group (PEG) model as a community-based alternative in a school within an institution’s Faculty of Education with small groups convening, sometimes only briefly, round a given problem and facilitated by academics (Hanrahan at al, 2001)
- A structured, rapid and iterative problem-based group activity to introduce academics in the departments to Web 2.0 technologies focusing on bridging the gap from knowledge and skills to practice in the classroom
- E-mentoring in which a buddy system was set up between a lecturer who was inexperienced with technologies and a learner who was confident with them.
Several universities run professional development courses on line. For example, Glyndŵr University offers the Postgraduate Certificate in E-learning, delivered entirely on line and aiming to increase the knowledge and skills needed to apply technology effectively to support teaching and learning across a range of educational and training contexts.
The University of Greenwich runs a professional development programme leading to a Certificate in e-Learning, Teaching and Training (CeLTT) to help staff understand both technology and pedagogy. The course is offered fully online or as a blended programme.
Camel Stoke College has ‘Holy Hours’ set aside for staff development whereby all tutors have two hours per week for ICT CPD. This was in response to a skills audit, which revealed that many middle and senior managers are embarrassed by their lack of IT skills. Staff are asked to identify their own priorities and skills deficits. Since introducing the scheme they have been overwhelmed by requests for one-to-one training.
There are increasing opportunities to use on line resources for personalised CPD. However the IfL (2010) )report that “although there is a large variety of media and technologies through which members can gain new skills or develop their practice, as part of CPD, in general more members either had not used or heard of ‘new’ technologies, than had.”
However, there is a substantial take up of e-Portfolio tools for professional development.The major barriers to using such tools were lack of time, low confidence in how to use different tools, difficulties with technology and that their employer required them to submit their CPD records by different systems.
It is also notable that technology can be used to support CPD outside the area of teaching and learning. For instance, technology can be used to scaffold CPD for management issues or for career progression, using social networking, recording and reflecting learning to help reinforce the message of the effectiveness of technology for learning.
In summary, research indicates that the source of CPD provision itself is less important than the learning approach which is adopted. CPD which is designed to be collaborative is reported as effective in a majority of studies whereas CPD designed for and delivered didactically to teachers by a third party is not.
In their review of Continuing Professional Development in ICT for Teachers, Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) concluded: “The core issue to emerge from the review is that teachers need to be at the centre of their own learning if they are to change their deep-seated beliefs and habits regarding the use of technology. Otherwise, surface-level adoption occurs.” (p6)
- Constraints and barriers
Amongst the different barriers which have emerged in recent research are the lack of adequate access to technology especially for practising themselves and for embedding in their classroom practice and a lack of intellectual challenge offered by a purely skills-based approach and a focus on de-contextualised skills without reference to any underlying pedagogy.
Teachers were also alienated by what they saw as hard-sell approaches by zealous ‘experts’ and the often insensitive attitudes of people outside the profession who were implicitly or explicitly critical of their current practice. This reflects the point that teachers perceive a credibility gap when taught by non-teachers.
In some institutions, ICT CPD is heavily linked with buying particular products from commercial providers. This may be dictated by purchasing policy, by technical support departments or service level agreements rather than by assessment of learning needs. In addition, vendors are often responsible for the CPD linked to the use of a particular platform or software application. This may stifle exploration of other available software and act as a barrier to innovation and the adoption of new applications as they become available.
Lack of support from managers may also be a significant barrier. The analysis of the IfL survey of their members (IfL, 2010(b) concluded that “for technology to have a real impact, support for teaching, learning and CPD needs to be central to the organisation. When our members were asked if they felt supported by their employer and managers, 35% of the survey respondents said they felt unsupported and lacked the confidence to explore new methods in the classroom”
There appears to be a tension between addressing individual and whole-school development needs. Teachers report that the latter usually dominate the CPD agenda. However, treating teachers as individual learners is important if deep-seated beliefs about learning are to be reviewed and attitudes changed regarding the role of technologies in the classroom.
Policy tensions and imperatives may also deflect from coherent and consistent development of pedagogic approaches to the use of technology for teaching and learning, especially in dictating the use of time and resources.
- What are the successes / critical success factors?
A summary of the research reveals the following key factors as critical to effective ICT CPD:
Peer learning / skill sharing
Teachers who have more experience are given structured opportunities to share with those who have less and there are no hierarchical divisions between ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’. Most importantly, this sharing process is valued and legitimated. This depends on the institution having a strong sense of community and a shared ethos of peer learning. This has to be built rather than imposed.
The Institute for Learning (IfL, 2010(b)) report: that “evidence shows that the CPD most likely to lead to the desired impact is based on learning from others – from shared resources, from peer support and working together and through formal and informal networks.” (p10)
Small group learning
As noted above, there has been a trend away from mass ‘Inset’ sessions towards group work as a valid form of CPD activity. Groups may be based around skill levels, different software interests, subject specialities or different target groups (e.g. Women returners, Special Educational Needs etc). There were many positive reports on the effectiveness of this approach as a vehicle for discussing practice and planning new approaches.
Informal learning may be more important than formal courses.
“Informal conversations are vital, as is dedicated time to allow teachers to talk together and plan for new approaches in terms of their use of ICT in learning and teaching.” (Daly, Pachler and Pelletier, 2009)
Informal learning, by definition, cannot be planned but can be facilitated by creating time and space for networking, inclusive leadership styles, democratic staff relationships and the development of staff as a learning community.
Clear links between CPD and practice
The additional benefits of using ICT must be very clear. CPD activities have to be immediately relevant to the individual teacher and applicable in the classroom.
As teachers become more familiar with the technology, there is an increasing demand for subject specialist CPD, an area which is not well developed and frequently not a priority. It is also likely to be one in which there is least in-house expertise available.
A sound pedagogic base and reflexivity
There should be a shared of understanding of how learning occurs, how it can be planned and facilitated and what constitutes effective teaching and learning. This may be stating the obvious but there are criticisms of some commercial providers who were perceived as having a different baseline.
The design of the ICT CPD should incorporate effective use of ICT for learning. That is, it should practice what it preaches. Teachers need to experience and participate in e-learning activities as part of their professional development.
“The incorporation of group work, collaborative problem-solving, independent thinking, articulation of thought and creative presentation of ideas are examples of the ways in which teachers’ CPD might focus on pedagogy, with a view to how technologies can support these processes.” (Daly, Pachler and Pelletier, 2009).
A clear vision for ICT CPD focused on pedagogy and teacher development was seen as a prime factor by staff and providers.
If the overall objectives and a coherent strategy are in place this can help avoid or overcome operational problems of time and funding. Effective leaders can build capacity by maximising the range of expertise that staff already have and drawing them together as part of a co-ordinated approach to CPD. This could include, for example, identifying excellent practitioners who use creative approaches in the classroom (using traditional pedagogies), staff with ICT skills, staff with experience of facilitating peer learning groups, staff with staff training and communication skills.
“Organisations with a real interest in developing teaching and learning also identified working in teams, mentoring, and engaging in action research as most likely to lead to brilliant teaching and training.” (IfL, 2010 (a), p10)
Working with newly qualified and trainee teachers
New teachers, particularly younger ones, may be able to make a valuable contribution to the ICT CPD of established staff and this should not be over-looked.
Ownership of equipment:
Teachers and lecturers need to feel that they can ‘play’ with their own kit in order to develop familiarity and confidence, that they can use it for learning outside working hours and that they can customise it in a way which reflects their particular needs (UNESCO, 2006). This was a big issue for teachers but often at odds with institutional policy despite the fact that the preparedness of teachers to use their own time for learning actually saves money!
Teachers resented time wasted on a lot of formal CPD, especially if it was not directly related to classroom practice, but valued time they could spend with colleagues to generate ideas and plan activities that could be implemented in the classroom.
“It has been shown that teachers need regular time during the standard working week in order to discuss Teaching and Learning. They need both knowledge of the research base and continuing ‘structured opportunities for new learning, practice, reflection and adjustment’ (Coffield, 2008)
Involvement of non-teaching staff
Senior management felt that this was important but perceived as less so by teachers.
Use of mentors or learning coaches
Apprenticeship and support are very important for in-service teachers in acquiring knowledge and adopting innovatory approaches in their classrooms.
Observation of practice
According to Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009), watching colleagues use ICT in the classroom was seen by the majority of teachers as one of the most valuable forms of CPD. However, very few had had the opportunity to do so. Another strategy which was popular was chance to observe and work with external experts who visit classrooms to teach CPD by working with students.
Networks and communities of practice
Kirsti Ala-Mutka et al (2008) recognise the usefulness of social software in ICT CPD. They argue that establishing and participating in teacher networks and following innovative practice development in the field is a crucial part of effective CPD
“Initial and in-service teacher training should disseminate insights and best practices with new innovative approaches, encouraging teachers to experiment with digital and media technologies and to reflect on the learning impacts of their own teaching practices.”
The use of E-portfolios as a tool in ICT CPD
The OECD (2010) recommends that all teachers develop an e-portfolio to support, record and reflect their CPD. This serves three purposes. Firstly, it encourages teachers to use ICT regularly and systematically to support learning. Secondly, they will understand the potential of using e-portfolios with their students and will have first-hand experiences of the issues, problems and benefits they offer. Thirdly, it will serve as a model to encourage student teachers to use ICT during their ITT.
iCatalyst from MirandaNet are CPD providers. In their publicity they describe key features of the programmes they provide. Many of these can be transferred and generalised across ICT CPD:
- a mixed-methods or blended learning programme which provides mentoring and resources to scaffold learning about subjects that are relevant to the challenges for teachers in schools
- [opportunities for] the learners to negotiate customised programmes based upon their own practice and the vision of their institution (these may be individual or based on small groups).
- the use of internet technologies to maximise flexibility of where and when the programme is accessed;
- the creation of mature sustainable e-communities of practice where views and knowledge both of teachers and of students, can be shared to the benefit of all.
- the development of Knowledge Hubs where all resources developed are made available to the community of practice and where new knowledge and evidence-based theory can be created as a result
- leadership development so that participants will eventually become field tutors and run the programme themselves
- an approach which is based on co-production of knowledge, a co-determination of meaning, collective problem solving and multiple perspectives among learners
- work-based accreditation techniques that motivate participants to continue to learn and contribute to the community of practice.
- Issues in the provision of CPD for teachers in the use of technology for e-learning
Diversity of practice, innovation, dissemination and Communities of Practice
Our literature suggested considerable diversity in practice in Continuing Professional Development and a welcome wealth of innovation. However, research is lagging behind in investigating different patterns of practice and all too often innovation is not being effectively disseminated, especially in the Lifelong Learning sector. How can we overcome this ‘research gap’? The use of technology to support the development of distributed Communities of Practice may offer an effective and inclusive solution. However, experience suggests a difficulty in developing Communities of Practice from the top down. How can we facilitate the emergence of Communities of Practice through which teachers can control their own knowledge development and sharing? What should be the role of different agencies and stakeholders in such a process?
Skills training or a focus on pedagogy and changing dispositions?
Although individual teacher’s confidence and competence in using technology is seen as important, evidence suggests an over-emphasis in Continuing Professional Development on skills training in itself at the expense of deep understanding and application of skills to developing learning and teaching. How can we achieve an effective balance between the two approaches? Is it possible to combine a focus on pedagogic processes with individual skills development? How is the development of skills best supported? How can we overcome the tension between individual professional development and whole institution approaches to using technology for teaching and learning and ensure CPD programmes address deep-seated beliefs about learning in order to address attitudes and dispositions regarding the role of technologies in the classroom?
The traditional model of sending staff on courses is general seen as ineffective in failing to provide opportunities for practice and failing to involve colleagues to support new initiatives. Furthermore, courses are often de-contextualised from work cultures, constraints and practices.
Research indicates that the source of CPD provision itself is less important than the learning approach which is adopted. CPD which is designed to be collaborative is reported as effective in a majority of studies whereas CPD designed for and delivered didactically to teachers by a third party is not. Research also suggests barriers to effective CPD include the lack of adequate access to technology especially for practicing themselves and for embedding in their classroom practice and a lack of intellectual challenge offered by a purely skills-based approach and a focus on de-contextualised skills without reference to any underlying pedagogy.
What are effective strategies for developing the capacity of organisations to develop and deliver programmes of CPD? What support is available in planning and evaluating CPD programmes. How can we ensure teachers have adequate opportunities to use their learning within their personal practice?
Co-mentoring and the observation of effective practice
Co-mentoring or buddying appear to be particularly effective models for developing innovative practice in the use of technology for teaching and learning. These approaches are somewhat different to traditional approaches to Continuing Professional Development. Is there a need to re-consider how we define CPD? Despite the potential of using observation as a means to model and demonstrate effective practice, it appears to be little used at present? How can we develop new cultures in sharing ideas and expertise?
Developing and implementing e-Portfolios
The use of e-Portfolios by teachers can encourage them to use ICT regularly and systematically to support learning. Secondly, they will understand the potential of using e-portfolios with their students and will have first hand experiences of the issues, problems and benefits they offer. Thirdly, it will serve as a model to encourage student teachers to use ICT during their ITT. Should the use of e-Portfolios be required as a means of recording personal learning and Continuing Professional Development? Should teachers be allowed work time to develop their e-Portfolio?