The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

21 Nov 2016

Practitioner Enquiry – spreading the word

Charlaine SimpsonCharlaine Simpson, Senior Education Officer

I have two highlights to share this week.

The first – on Wednesday I had the privilege of discussing Practitioner Enquiry with the probation teachers in Angus and Dundee. I turned up at Carnoustie High School in time for the 10 o’clock start, only to feel that rising panic you get when you can’t find a parking space! Then, when I went into the hall, horror of horrors, they had already started! I wasn’t late, the presenters, Bernadette from P+K and Lesley from Angus, had decided to start at 9.30 am instead of 10 am so it was fine.

While the probationer teachers were streaming out of the hall, I noticed a family friend who I didn’t even know was a probationer teacher so it was great to have a chat over coffee before we headed back into the hall for my presentation. My presentation was tailored as per the probationer support team’s request to discuss Practitioner Enquiry in a way that helps probationer teachers feel confident and engaged with the process. So the aim was to make it – using my key words – ‘meaningful and manageable’.

I started by very briefly putting Practitioner Enquiry into the context of Professional Update and the Professional Standards, then proceeded to use the professional learning cycle diagram to explain how each section guides the process of enquiry (see the diagram at I also had, running alongside this, a very practical and relatable example of an enquiry.

At the end of the presentation the hall was very quiet, I had stunned them into silence (hopefully in a good way and they were processing). I really enjoyed the presentation; I love working with probationer teachers and their supporters. They are the best great hope for the teaching profession and I am privileged to be part of that learning experience.

The second highlight was on Saturday at the first SCEL Enquire Connect Engage event, which took place at Shawlands Academy. I was welcomed by a very bright, lovely and chatty S1 pupil who introduced herself and then escorted me to the area of the school where the event was taking place. On entering the space, I met, in very quick succession, Lynne Jones (the organiser, @MissJOnes), Fearghal Kelly (of Pedagoo fame and SCEL, @fearghal_SCEL), David Cameron (@realdavidcameron) and Dr Aileen Kennedy (Edinburgh Univesity, @DrAileenK). With these people in the room you know there are going to be great conversations around professional learning and Practitioner Enquiry.

David Cameron was chairing the event and in his usual charismatic style welcomed us all in. Setting the premise for the day, he said that, within the education system, we should perhaps stop talking about ‘good’ or ‘best’ practice and start talking about ‘sustainable’ practice: what is meaningful and manageable day in and day out.

Next up was Dr Aileen Kennedy who gave the keynote which, as usual when I hear Aileen, both resonated and challenged my thinking in equal measures.

  The first session I attended was Fearghal Kelly’s, who discussed his gathering of views around teacher leadership and what this really means. The responses from teachers across Scotland declared that what it means is ‘being a really good teacher’. Fearghal then touched on Practitioner Enquiry, which he called ‘a form of pedagogical leadership’. I would agree with this but I also think it is a lot more besides.

I then delivered my session to around a dozen people. I briefly set the context around the ‘why’ of Practitioner Enquiry before spending some time on ‘the how’. It seemed to go well with @lizziegowans taking to Twitter to say ‘thanks’ and that my talk was ‘useful’ and she is ‘feeling enthused’.

After lunch I attended a poster session where four teachers did a two-minute presentation on their enquiry and we then had a chance to have a closer look and individual chat with each – very inspiring. Hopefully the four teachers will send on their enquiry which we will share on the Education Hub in the near future. As chair it was up to David Cameron to bring the day to a close. David’s key idea in bringing the event to an end was ‘How do we move from making a change to making a difference?’. His answer was a list of attributes:

  • Professionalism
  • Reflection
  • Ambition
  • Courage
  • Tenacity
  • Idealism
  • Care
  • Energy

Which was heartening as this absolutely resonates with the GTCS perspective and our key aim of supporting teacher professionalism and teacher identity.