GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

Teaching Scotland’s Future: the profession responds

For the profession, teacher agency, Professional Values and judgement and diversity are key if we are to reimagine education.

This article appeared on page 30 of Teaching Scotland, issue 88. Read the full magazine.

In the GTC Scotland Lecture 2021, Professor Graham Donaldson discussed the changes and challenges in Scottish education and concluded that “deep cultural change” was needed to support Scotland’s young people. He identified three areas for immediate change: enhancing digital pedagogies, teaching ethics and global citizenship, and the role and types of assessment. We asked the profession where we should begin. Here’s what they said.

1. Ethics and global citizenship

“I think there is a great deal of unpacking to do with each of these three areas,” said Omar Kettlewell, a teacher at Robert Smillie Memorial Primary School. “For me, the teaching of ethics and global citizenship stands out as our priority.” For Omar, this starts outside the classroom. “We need to look at leadership values and diversity of the workforce – including diversity of leadership in our education system. These are real challenges. We need to focus on investing more in our colleagues from different backgrounds and support them with their development. We need leadership that embraces diversity and offers genuine and fair opportunities for all.”

This view was echoed by primary teacher Adela Mansur: “If there isn’t a diverse opinion at the table then everyone will agree with the status quo. Graham Donaldson asked the profession to challenge, but when you do, you don’t get invited to the table, you are seen as a troublemaker, a rattler of opinions.”

Juliette Cinna, a Teacher of English and Drama at Kaimes School, felt teachers’ attributes were key to galvanising change. Juliette suggested three criteria need to be met to develop ethical standpoints in learners. “Firstly, the educational experiences of all our children and young people are shaped by the professional values and attitudes of all those who work to educate them. Teachers need to commit to living the Professional Values and engaging in lifelong learning, reflection, enquiry, leadership of learning, and collaborative practice as key aspects of their professionalism.

A second element is linked to the definition of learning itself. Nowadays, the learning of an individual is viewed as a lifelong journey. Our role is to help pupils develop good learning skills so that they can grow into individuals who can adapt to the changes of the world in the 21st century. Finally, teachers cannot be successful unless they help others to be successful, not just those who hold the same values as them.”

For others, change began in the classroom. Jennifer Hutton, a teacher at Dunblane Primary, felt that global citizenship should be interwoven throughout learning. “Education should provide learners with the opportunity to explore and develop their values through a global citizenship approach. Opportunities for learners to engage with and take action on issues within a local to global context are so important to feel empowered in their role as global citizens. Making these local to global connections will help them see the interconnectivity of the world, as well as the positive influence they can have in shaping it. The Sustainable Development Goals, as a context for learning, provide rich opportunities for learners to engage in global citizenship, shaping a sustainable, just and equitable world together.”

Pedagogy was where Diana Ellis of WOSDEC felt we should start. “Ethics are an integral part of Global Citizenship Education (GCE), from 3-18. High-quality GCE pedagogy should be the lens through which the curriculum is experienced. It equips learners with the hope, curiosity, critical thinking and resilience required to take action in the face of complex issues.

“Professor Donaldson described how time is the currency of teaching. Transformative education requires a profession-wide investment of time and resources including high-quality professional learning, local authority investment and school leader investment. When teachers have time and space to reflect with colleagues and help shape a new vision for their school and learners, this is truly transformative practice.”

2. Role and types of assessment

In relation to assessment, Omar felt the pandemic had highlighted the critical need to look at teacher’s professional judgement: “There needs to be more value placed on professional judgement and wider recognition on what teachers do every day from our dialogue with colleagues to our moderation processes.

“Being a teacher in Scotland requires us to have a depth of knowledge and understanding of planning for assessment, teaching and learning. Assessment does not and should not work in isolation. Nor is it about us as teachers – it is about our pupils. It is about what success means to them and our assessment processes need to be inclusive and reflective of the ongoing process of how people learn. This is why we need to support our teachers and value the work they do at the chalk face every day.”

3. Enhancing digital pedagogies

In a new article on lockdown learning in Scotland, Derek Robertson, Senior Lecturer at the University of Dundee, and co-authors conclude that engaging with digital technology offers teachers more possibilities than they have come to expect in traditional schooling. “Children manage servers and use digital services every day; they live in a whole sub-culture of digital technologies. We need to understand how we can make use of this culture for their benefit. Learners aren’t coming to school in a digital vacuum. We need to reflect on the experience of the past year and build on teachers’ digital pedagogy,” said Derek.

“Even before Covid-19, digital pedagogy and global citizenship were highly relevant. And researchers and practitioners have known for decades that the role of assessment for learning is crucial in the development of the profession,” said Richard Holme, Lecturer in Education, also at the University of Dundee. “However, to achieve these, teachers must have the required professional attributes, specifically agency. Teachers must be autonomous professional learners, who feel confident they can take ownership for their own learning and development and not fear getting things wrong, being checked up on, or found out by leaders or inspectors. Central to this is the core Professional Value of trust.

“From ITE onwards teachers must be trusted, but more importantly trust themselves, and embrace being challenged by peers and supporting each other. One way to do this is to admit when we can improve, and recognise what we don’t know, without feeling threatened. Post-pandemic this openness to personal development will be needed more than ever. In that way the priorities and ‘deep cultural change’ identified by Graham Donaldson will have a far better chance of being successful.”