Professional Learning and Research for College Lecturers
Professional learning is meaningful learning which develops thinking, knowledge and skills.
It often involves learning with and from others and is aligned to the needs of students from diverse communities across Scotland and internationally.
A commitment to ongoing professional learning is a clear responsibility within the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges (Standard 3.1). In particular the need to:
- use the professional standards to inform practice and ongoing professional learning and development;
- reflect critically on own practice and engage in professional dialogue with others;
- continuously and actively engage with up to date research and developments in learning, teaching and assessment to inform practice.
A key criterion for meaningful professional learning is that it should be felt to be impactful on a lecturer’s thinking and practice and on students’ learning.
There is a common misconception that professional learning only relates to formal ‘learning’ events such as attending an industry conference or completing an accredited training programme (often with a focus on how many ‘hours’ were completed).
In practice, professional learning described as worthwhile and impactful for individual lecturers, tends to include a much wider range of experiences.
These may take advantage of local or national expertise, be experienced individually or collaboratively, take place over the short or long term and can be organised through formal or more informal methods.
Career-long professional learning helps to continually stimulate thinking, develop professional knowledge and to support teaching practice that is critically informed and current.
When a wide range of high-quality and purposeful professional learning experiences are undertaken, lecturers are more likely to inspire students through excellent learning and teaching experiences, thus enabling learners to grow and continue to progress their learning.
Professional learning for lecturers is meaningful learning which develops thinking, knowledge and skills. It often involves learning with and from others and is aligned to the needs of students from diverse communities across Scotland and internationally.
Key to meaningful professional learning is that it should be felt to be impactful on a lecturer’s thinking and practice and on students’ learning.
There is a common misconception that professional learning only relates to formal ‘learning’ events such as attending an industry conference, workshop or completing an accredited training programme (often with a focus on how many ‘hours’ were completed).
In practice, valuable professional learning includes a much wider range of experiences. These may take advantage of local or national expertise, be experienced individually or collaboratively, take place over the short or long term and can be organised through formal or more informal methods.
Examples of professional learning activities could include:
- Work shadowing
- Co-operative or team teaching
- Digital learning to enhance blended/remote learning and teaching
- Planning learning which is inter-disciplinary
- Employer/industry engagement
- Participation in activities relating to assessment and moderation
- Secondments, acting posts and placements
- Masters level study
- Accredited courses or activity related to achieving national professional standards for lecturers
- Industry/academic conferences
- Self-evaluation and critical reflection processes
- Action learning
- Enquiry-based learning
- Professional dialogue with colleagues, other professionals, employers and learners
- Critical analysis of focused professional reading and research
- Engaging in practitioner enquiry/action research
- Learning about aspects of curriculum or pedagogical practice
- Peer support e.g. coaching or mentoring
- Observation of learning
- Online learning/blogs
At the heart of being a professional lecturer is the need to be continually self-aware and reflective.
Regularly reviewing pedagogical choices and professional practices can help identify areas where there may be a need to enhance subject knowledge and to develop skills and confidence to make changes and improvement to better meet the needs of diverse learners and dynamically changing global environments.
MyPL is a service developed by GTC Scotland to support professional development by offering a range of tools to record: Professional Review and Development (PRD) conversations; identified areas of development; professional learning activities; and reflections of the impact of that learning based on evidence.
All registered lecturers are encouraged to engage with the wide variety of resources available to them through this online professional learning platform.
MyPL is accessed by logging into MyGTCS. You will receive access to MyGTCS once you are fully registered.
MyPL has six connected areas:
- Professional Review and Development (PRD) where you can record discussions and reflections on your annual PRD meetings.
- Areas for development where you can record areas you have identified for development which will inform your professional learning planning.
- Professional Learning (PL) where you can manage and reflect on your professional learning activities.
- Professional Update (PU) where you will find information on your required ‘sign-off year’ (when your agreed reviewer must verify your professional learning and PRD records (termed ‘sign-off year’)
- Employment and Qualifications where you can record and update your employment history and qualifications and if required can also produce a CV.
- Resources to support your professional learning.
Within MyPL you can access a range of helpful video tutorials to support you to make the most of the service.
Professional learning considered most impactful should be recorded within a registrant’s MyPL profile (and/or another system agreed with colleges as part of GTC Scotland PU validation processes).
Where a college has an existing, GTC Scotland validated PRD system in place, the college will provide guidance to registered lecturers on the recording system to be used which allow an opportunity for the lecturer to engage in ongoing self-evaluation using the relevant Professional Standards.
There is no requirement for a lecturer to duplicate information in MyPL, however, the 5-yearly ‘sign-off’ must take place within MyPL.
There is a diverse range of rich professional learning taking place across Scotland’s colleges but this is often not known about beyond the college it’s happening in.
To help advance professionalism in the college sector, GTC Scotland, in association with the College Development Network (CDN) and EIS FELA Learning Representatives, are working together to raise awareness, and increase engagement in, the wide variety of professional learning taking place.
The initial phase of this work is to gather examples of professional learning which lecturers have found particularly worthwhile in order to create a new national professional learning resource.
We hope that this resource will help: increase lecturers awareness about the wider range of professional learning possibilities; generate some new professional learning ideas; and highlight the importance of collaboration and consideration of impact.
This work will also help to inform new areas of development and research.
Worthwhile professional learning may range from:
- peer coaching to planning inter-disciplinary learning;
- participation in assessment and moderation activities to engaging in open learning or attending accredited courses or industry conferences;
- refreshing existing industry experience and skills; and
- professional dialogue with colleagues to critical analysis of professional reading and research.
Lecturer contributions are important to help us build this new national professional learning resource.
If you would like to get involved and share an example of professional learning please contact us to discuss, we would love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘A-Z of Professional Learning’.
A-Z of Professional Learning
In our A-Z of Professional Learning, we share examples of professional learning which have had an impact on college lecturers and their students.