GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

Professional Learning

Teachers engage in professional learning to stimulate their thinking and professional knowledge and to ensure that their practice is critically informed and current. 

When a wide range of high-quality, sustained professional learning experiences are undertaken, teachers are more likely to inspire pupils and provide high-quality teaching and learning experiences, enabling learners to achieve their best.

It is important that professional learning provides rich opportunities for teachers to develop and enhance their professional knowledge and practice, in order to progress the quality of learning and teaching and school improvement.

Critical self-evaluation is an important part of the professional learning and PRD process. The GTCS Professional Standards offer constructive support for teachers as they consider how they might develop their professional values and dispositions, their knowledge, skills and understanding through on-going critical self-evaluation and professional learning.

  • What is self-evaluation?

The National Model of Professional Learning captures the core features and processes of professional learning.

The dynamic relationship between all learners and the impact of their learning is central to the model. This learning 'feedback loop' between learners and teachers is at the heart of the model.

Professional learning should be:

  • Challenging and lead to developing thinking, knowledge, skills and understanding (Learning that deepens knowledge and understanding);
  • Underpinned by an enquiring stance and developing skills of enquiry and criticality (Learning by enquiring);
  • Interactive, reflective and involve learning with and from others (Learning-as-collaborative);
  • Informed and supported by Professional Standards and other educational policy.

Leadership of and for learning is recognised as an essential factor to ensure professional learning is well planned, supported, promoted and sustained.

The National Model of Professional Learning is a tool to help plan development of and engagement in professional learning. It could be used by those leading, providing and supporting professional learning. It could be used by those leading, providing and supporting professional learning to provide a shared language and aspiration informing the provision, structure and nature of professional learning. Individuals could use the model to help plan and understand their own professional learning needs and expectations.

The Professional Learning planning Cycle

new PL wheel

The Professional Learning Planning Cycle assists and supports reflective thinking in professional learning discussions. The cycle reflects the enquiry profess and can be used alongside the National Model of Professional Learning to help focus on the most appropriate and meaningful approach to professional learning.

The key elements of the Professional Learning Planning Cycle are:

  • The initial planning of the professional learning.
  • The engagement in that piece of professional learning.
  • Consideration of the impact of the professional learning.
  • Understanding the evidence of impact of the professional learning.
  • Sharing the professional learning with others (professional dialogue)

 Here are some examples of professional learning opportunities:               

  • Experiential, action or enquiry-based learning
  • Professional dialogue with colleagues, other professionals, parents, and learners
  • Focused professional reading and research
  • Leading or engaging in practitioner enquiry/action research
  • Critical analysis of reading, learning and impact on professional practice                
  • Peer support e.g. coaching or mentoring
  • Probationer support       
  • Classroom visits/ peer observations/ shadowing with related professional dialogue
  • Online learning/blogs
  • Co-operative or team teaching
  • Leading or participating in a working party or task group
  • Planning learning which is inter-disciplinary or cross-sector
  • Participation in activities relating to assessment and moderation
  • Secondments, acting posts and placements
  • Masters study and qualifications
  • Accredited courses or activity related to achieving national professional standards for teachers
  • Professional/ Academic conferences
  • Self-evaluation and critical reflection processes

The GTCS Award for Professional Recognition provides the opportunity for teachers to focus on and develop their professional learning in particular areas of interest and/ or expertise and gain recognition for enhancing their knowledge, understanding and practice.

Evaluating the Impact of Professional Learning

Evaluation of the impact of professional learning is important in order to ensure it has been worthwhile and informs next steps. Evidence of impact can be gathered from a diverse range of sources including direct observation, information and data and people's views.

It does not always have to be a written record, but should inform your professional discussions and help identify your next steps. What is important is that whatever you use as evidence should be analysed and reflected on.

Examples of Evidence

  • Reflections on professional dialogue with peers, parents, colleagues and learners
  • Individual critical reflections on practice, including reflection journals (if appropriate)       
  • Analysis of pupil work, individual or group focused
  • Interrogation of data to support professional learning       
  • Analysis of surveys taking account of the views of respondents         
  • Reflection on feedback from lesson observations/ discussions with learners
  • Analysis of pupil feedback
  • Analysis of teacher feedback
  • Analysis of video observations

There is no right or wrong way to record professional learning; however recorded, there should be reflections about the learning undertaken.

Depending on the type of professional learning, there may be external expectations for the recording of that learning. For example, some accredited courses expect reflections to be shared in a poster format, or master level learning should be shared in continuous prose. 

Regardless of external pressures, the only GTCS statutory requirement to record learning is to maintain a record of professional learning. Teachers should use either MyPL/ PU within MyGTCS, or the online profile chosen by their local authority or employer, to record only the significant pieces of professional learning undertaken that have had an impact on your learning and teaching or leadership.

Line managers and/or reviewers should know about the professional learning of the school team/ reviewees and trust that those professionals are engaging in lifelong learning, as described in GTCS’ Professional Values and Themes. It is important to note, that discussions around non-engagement in professional learning should not happen in a PRD conversation, or be left to the sign-off year, but should be brought to the teacher’s attention at another appropriate and timely time.

Lengthy entries are not required to ‘justify’ professional learning undertaken. Records on an online profile should serve as an aide-memoire to support the professional conversations in PRD, when more in-depth reflections should be shared.


To discuss any aspect of Professional Learning contact:

Professional Learning and Development Department

T: +44 (0)131 314 6000