College lecturers

Professional Standards and Code for Lecturers

Professional Standards

GTC Scotland maintains a suite of Professional Standards for teachers and college lecturers which are underpinned by the themes of values, sustainability and leadership.

The Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges were published in November 2018 and responsibility for these standards was transferred from the Scottish Government to GTC Scotland in December 2019.

Standard for Provisional Registration (Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges)

GTC Scotland’s Council approved the Standard for Provisional Registration (Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges) in February 2023. This standard provides a transitional route to registration for college lecturers who do not yet hold a GTC Scotland-recognised teaching qualification, or an equivalent teaching qualification.

This standard will come into effect on 3 April 2023.

To be awarded Full Registration in Further Education, college lecturers must:

  • Meet the Standard for Provisional Registration (Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges) and
  • Achieve a GTC Scotland-recognised teaching qualification or the equivalent.

Engaging with the Professional Standards

Practitioner Enquiry

Underpinning the Professional Standards are the core principles of practitioner enquiry.

In practice, this involves college lecturers having an enquiring disposition at the core of their professional practice.

This means thinking critically and questioning their own educational beliefs, assumptions, values and practices.

College ecturers create knowledge to enhance, progress and lead the learning experiences of all learners and work collaboratively with colleagues.

The lecturer as an adaptive professional is open to change and engages with new and emerging ideas about learning and teaching within the ever-evolving curricular and pedagogical contexts in which learning and teaching takes place.

College ecturers can use the Professional Standards for a range of purposes:

  • to create a shared language for teaching professionals
  • as a benchmark of conduct and professional competency
  • to develop and enhance professionalism
  • to support career-long professional growth
  • to provide a framework for the Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE)
  • to underpin professional teaching qualifications for lecturers in Scotland’s colleges
  • to develop critically reflective and evaluative practitioners
  • to support professional dialogue and collegiate working
  • to support professional development
  • to ensure and enhance public trust and confidence in the profession
  • to contribute to ongoing developments across the sector

For registered college lecturers, engaging with the Professional Standards and using them as a tool for both self-evaluation and ongoing professional development must be central within Professional Review and Development (PRD) discussions with line managers (reviewers).

What is self-evaluation and why is it important?

Self-evaluation can take many forms and may occur at various stages in the professional learning journey.

The Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges are one key reference, but other sources may also form part of your self-evaluation.

For instance a focus on areas for development within a Professional Review and Development (PRD) discussion with your line manager (reviewer) or your department/team or college’s strategic development plan.

Self-evaluation should be a valuable process that is rigorous and enables you to be critically reflective about yourself as a professional and your practice.

Self-evaluation should support you to:

  • reflect on what you have done
  • think about what you might do next
  • consider your progress and development
  • deeply understand your professional practice, your professional learning and the impact of this on your: thinking; professional actions; students and their learning; and on those you work with and support

Self-evaluation will involve:

  • asking deep and searching questions about self and practice
  • using the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges to inform and guide your reflections
  • using other influencing factors such as your college or department/team’s development plan; other relevant standards or targets; issues relevant to your particular context
  • using your ongoing reflections and enquiry into practice
  • considering the needs of learners/colleagues in your context
  • using evidence from a range of sources to inform and support your self-evaluation

Effective self-evaluation will enable you to:

  • plan for meaningful professional learning
  • engage in critically reflective dialogue as part of the Professional Review and Development (PRD) process
  • identify and focus on areas you wish to develop expertise or accomplishment
  • consider your career planning
How to self-evaluate and reflect on your practice

These reflective questions will support you to consider and plan your professional learning, development and practice.

The questions should not be seen as prescriptive or as a list to be completed. The questions are intended to provide prompts for reflection and self-evaluation.

Using the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges to plan and support professional learning and development
  • How will I use the Professional Standards to inform and support me when planning my professional learning and development?
  • How will I use the Professional Standards to support me to identify areas of learning and development to enhance my knowledge, understanding and practice?
  • What aspects of the Professional Standards do I find most challenging? Why? How could these challenges be addressed?
  • How can I use the Professional Standards to support my self-evaluation process in preparation for a Professional Review and Development (PRD) discussion?
Assessing your Professional Values
  • How are the professional values reflected in my professional practice?
  • How have my professional values been developed and informed by knowledge and experience?
  • How do I critically reflect on my assumptions, beliefs and values?
  • Who am I as a lecturer? What has influenced me? What sustains me?
Assessing your development needs
  • What development needs do I have to enhance my subject knowledge and pedagogical expertise?
  • How do I plan my professional learning to enable me to develop in these areas?
  • What support do I require to meet those needs?
  • In what ways do I engage with professional literature, theory, research and policy to challenge and inform my thinking and practice?
  • What informs my thinking when planning my priorities for future professional learning and development?
Reflecting on your professional learning
  • As a result of my professional learning, how has my practice developed to improve outcomes for all learners? How do I know? What evidence of impact do I have? What does this tell me about my practice?
  • How do I critically reflect on my learning with a focus on impact and how do I share this with my colleagues to lead improvement across the college and/or wider community? What evidence do I have of this impact?
  • How do I know the impact of my teaching on learners? How will I systematically gather and analyse evidence of impact?
  • What impact has my professional learning had on my colleagues or others in my educational community?
What other standards might be relevant?

The Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges are the key standards that underpin all learning and teaching activity within Scotland’s colleges.

As a lecturer working within one of Scotland’s colleges you are likely to be:

  • involved in teaching across many SCQF levels
  • working with a variety of awarding/industry bodies
  • practicing in different learning environments

Many of these situations will also be informed by industry and sector-specific guidelines and/or standards.

Examples of standards that may also be relevant to your specific professional practice, and can be used to support self-evaluation are:

Higher Education

Colleges are increasingly involved in delivering a significant proportion of higher education whether as part of a higher level SQA qualification, or as part university level delivery or partnership.

College lecturers involved in higher-level delivery may find it helpful to also reflect on the UK Higher Education standards and professional learning initiatives supported by Advance HE.

Advance HE support professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education around the world.

GTC Scotland is working closely with Advance HE to review the opportunity for closer collaboration to support the professional development of lecturers delivering higher education in Scotland’s colleges.


GTC Scotland has a suite of five Professional Standards for school teachers in Scotland.

Lecturers continue to play an important role in supporting school-college partnerships, often directly working with school-age students.

Indeed, many lecturers will have started their career within the school sector as registered primary or secondary school teachers. For these lecturers, it may also be important to reflect against the relevant school standard as they consider future professional development and learning needs.


The CLD Standards Council Scotland is the membership body for people who work or volunteer in community learning and development in Scotland.

The college sector has long played an important part in supporting adult learning and development in the community.

Many college lecturers are members of CLD and will engage in CLD initiatives in addition to reflecting on their occupational standards as part of their own professional development.

GTC Scotland is working closely with CLD to review the opportunity for closer collaboration to support the professional development of lecturers in Scotland’s colleges who deliver in the community.


You may find it helpful to reflect on relevant sector/industry standards as part of your self-evaluation activity.

This reflection can be recorded within the GTC Scotland online professional learning service (MyPL) and/or another system agreed with colleges as part of GTC Scotland’s Professional Update validation process.

Where a college has an existing, GTC Scotland validated PRD system in place, the college will provide guidance to registered college lecturers on the recording system to be used which allows college lecturers 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.

How to use the standards for reflection

Myths about using standards for reflection

Do I have to cover all the standards with which I’m working?

No. As part of the Professional Update process, you are expected to reflect against the standards most relevant to your practice and consider areas where you feel that you would wish to develop.

The areas you select will be relative to your professional needs, the needs of your students and your college community.

Do I have to cover all aspects of the standards with which I am working over the five-year Professional Update period

No. Standards can support you in planning your learning and developing your professional skills and knowledge. Professional Update is about a commitment to ongoing professional learning, what that learning looks like will differ from person to person.

There may be a time over the 5 years that you focus on an area of the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges as you are deepening your learning.

At another time you may choose very different areas of the standards or indeed different standards relevant to you such as relevant industry standards or those linked to higher education to consider your professional learning needs.

Do I have to take a traffic light approach to self-evaluating against the standards?

It all depends how you use this approach and what you hope to gain from it. ‘Traffic lighting’ can provide a quick look or ‘temperature check’ but can be very limited, too focused on gaps or a ‘deficit’ model of professional learning and development.

The Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges are there to support you as a lecturer working within one of Scotland’s colleges to plan your professional learning and development. They are intended to be a development tool which promotes critical thinking, self-reflection and discussion.

Traffic lighting, or similar approaches, often do not lend themselves well to this deeper reflection.

Each year a certain number of strands within the standards must be covered

This is not the case. The number of strands selected should reflect the focus of an individual’s professional learning and practice.

When making the decision about the nature and focus of their professional learning the lecturer needs to consider what is realistic, relevant and achievable.

If too many strands are chosen the learning may have little depth.

I have been told I can only work with one standard at a time

This is not the case. It can be very useful to work across standards which you consider as most relevant to you as this lets you see the progression and deepening of your skills as they develop across areas relevant to your professional practice.

My line manager (reviewer) will tell me what aspect of the standards I should focus on

It is important that you have ownership of your professional learning as you best know what you need to learn and how this should best be done. This does not mean, however, that when using the professional standards you should reflect in isolation.

You are part of the college learning community and when reflecting against standards consideration must be given to not only the needs of you as an individual lecturer but the college community as a whole and how this learning may help to improve the learning experience for students.

I have to make sure you focus on a different aspect of the standards each year

There is no requirement to do this. It is a question of balancing which areas you wish to focus on and develop over time.

On some occasions you will continue to focus on an aspect of a standard as you want to deepen your learning. On other occasions because priorities within the college change, the focus for learning may change.

Equally if you are taking responsibility for a new programme or there is a change to your remit you are likely to look at the professional standards differently.

Professional Code for College Lecturers

Lecturer professionalism is about your professional identity and ‘way of being’ as an educational professional.

Professionalism is firmly rooted in your values, beliefs and dispositions.

A commitment to the professional values of social justice, trust and respect, integrity, and students as learning partners are at the heart of lecturer professionalism and underpin your leadership, relationships, thinking and professional practice in Scotland.

Professional and personal values are at the heart of the Code of Professionalism and Conduct (CoPAC) and Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges.

CoPAC outlines the expected conduct of Scotland’s teachers and college lecturers and defines the required professionalism.

CoPAC cannot address every possible circumstance in which lecturers in Scotland’s colleges might find themselves. Registrants should be mindful of CoPAC when making judgements within and outwith their learning environments.

Ethics and the Teaching Profession

Teaching is not only a technical role. It is complex relational and intellectual work. It requires hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, effective ethical reasoning. GTC Scotland has begun a process to review CoPAC and this journey has started with a conversation about ethics in the teaching profession. If you have an interest in this work, you can find professional learning opportunities and read about this project here.

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