The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Learning matters

A Professional Learning Framework to support teachers and leaders

Jacqueline Morley, Senior Education Officer 

I was struck by the great opinion piece on professional learning by Sandra Bannerman, Headteacher Beaconhurst School, “It’s never too late to learn”, which featured in the last edition of Teaching Scotland. Central to her article is the idea that talented and committed teachers have the most significant impact on learners, and that school leadership has a critical role in enabling teachers to really focus on their professional learning as a priority. So, in an educational landscape of toolkits, guides, policies, pathways and much more, why propose a Professional Learning Framework? In essence, to enable teachers and leaders to focus on their learning and how this impacts on their work and the young learners they support.

Through engaging in professional learning, teachers shape their professional identity and the values and dispositions that guide their professional practice.

This engagement and professionalism is directly linked to the quality of teaching and school leadership. The key point is, as the Scottish Government’s Delivery Plan clearly identifies, “the quality of teaching and school leadership are the most important in-school factors in a child’s outcomes”.


GTC Scotland’s framework for professional learning helps to describe the kind of learning that will best serve teachers in Scotland to enable them to meet the needs of every child and young person. It draws together a wide range of international literature and research on what really supports teacher professional learning and development. It identifies the key principles and maps out the features of effective professional learning in such a way to readily enable teachers and leaders to engage in activities, discussions and reflections on learning which can develop high levels of collaborative teacher professionalism. Schools and learning communities which promote, support and lead professional learning which has a significant and sustained impact on teachers, classroom practice and pupil learning have the following:

  • Leadership – a central role of leadership is establishing a strategic vision for the ethos and culture for learning. Creating the context and conditions, the environment and structures to support and promote learning.
  • Collaborative learning – where teachers and staff are supported by collaborative working: capacity building and critically informed professional dialogue where teachers learn with and from others.
  • Partnerships for learning – within and beyond the school/learning community.
  • Impact on students – a clear focus on the evidence of impact of professional learning on the successful outcomes for the young learners they support.
  • Critically informed – an enquiring mindset, using literature and research to inform and stretch our thinking.
  • Deeply knowing – understanding learners and learning.

Central to the Professional Learning Framework are GTC Scotland’s Professional Standards. The Standards support teachers and leaders as they develop as enquiring professionals, deepening their knowledge, skills and abilities, in order to enhance the learning experiences for all learners.

At the heart of teacher professionalism and the Professional Standards are teachers as committed lifelong learners; teachers who:

  • know their own learning needs, understand and plan their development and learning
  • engage in relevant professional learning for their needs and professional context and are supported in doing this
  • focus on the impact for children and young people – asking in what ways might this professional learning impact on young peoples’ educational experience, either directly or indirectly?


The Professional Learning Framework can be used as:

  • an individual
  • a leader of professional learning in a school/learning community
  • a strategic leader of professional learning at national, local authority and community level.

The aim of the framework is to enable us to discuss and share what excellent professional learning looks like. For example, it can be used:

  • to audit and support the current provision of professional learningto audit and support the current engagement and focus of professional learning by individuals, schools/learning communities, local authorities and other providers of professional learning
  • as a tool to guide the planning of professional learning provision, policies and/or practices
  • to inform the nature and purpose of professional learning and how this is structured, mediated and planned for
  • as an outline and aspiration for the development of all professional learning.

The Professional Learning Framework is also a starting point for a professional dialogue. Through its co-creation with teachers and partners, the framework will be resourced by a series of support guides. These will unpack the research behind the key themes and are designed to provide insights and practical strategies to help leaders and teachers to reflect on and inform professional learning. These support guides will cover:

  • What is the Professional Learning Framework?
  • The model and cycle of professional learning
  • Leadership of and for learning
  • Using the Professional Standards
  • Collaborative professionalism (social capital)
  • The teacher as learner: knowing and understanding (human capital)
  • Professional judgement and critical stance (decisional capital). 

Professional Learning Awards

GTC Scotland is developing a suite of Professional Learning Awards to shine a spotlight on the excellent work taking place in our classrooms, schools, colleges, universities, local authorities and education organisations. The awards will help to celebrate, share and promote the ways in which the professionalism and professional learning of our teachers delivers successful outcomes for all our learners.

The first award being developed is Excellence in Professional Learning: an Award for Schools and Learning Communities. The award focuses on schools and learning communities which promote and develop a culture of professional learning in which all learners can succeed through ensuring a clear focus on the best outcomes for young people. A range of teachers and leaders from across Scotland are participating in the awards this year and working collaboratively to co-create the Professional Learning Framework, to ensure it is a meaningful tool to discuss, plan and shape professional learning. Why? Because learning really matters. As teachers we know and plan for that every day for our young learners. GTC Scotland’s Professional Learning Framework sees the teacher as the lead learner in their professional context, where their professional learning is planned and supported to develop deeper knowledge, skills and abilities. 

More information

GTC Scotland’s first Professional Learning Awards ceremony will take place in Glasgow later this year to coincide with the Scottish Learning Festival. North Ayrshire’s Professional Learning Academy is one of the first to participate in the Professional Learning Awards.

Read about North Ayrshire's Professional Learning Academy

Look out for further case studies of our award participants in future editions of Teaching Scotland. 

For more information about the Professional Learning Framework and Awards contact:

Teaching Scotland

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Editor contact: Evelyn Wilkins

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