Leaders recognise that many people contribute to the education of learners and can contribute to professional learning of educators. The importance of listening to students and of learning with students is not overlooked (Margolis, 2017). Some educators, for example supply teachers, part-time staff and learning support assistants are sometimes marginalised by professional learning leaders. Additional arrangements may need to be made to ensure that they are included; they also have a great deal to offer mainstream professional learning. Individual professional learning is strongly influenced by, but not restricted to, the day-to-day contexts and priorities of individuals. Future development and career needs will also be considered. Leaders support individual practitioners in taking ownership of their own professional learning (Welsh Government, 2020) in the context of school, national, wider professional and personal priorities (Welsh Government, 2017; Welsh Government, 2019).
Leaders stimulate professional conversations to make visible the contributions that individuals make to others’ learning. They encourage those closest to individual practitioners to generate this support through mentoring, coaching or critical enquiry (Lofthouse, 2020) and provide further support to those taking on mentoring roles.
Leaders acknowledge that individuals will not be committed to one school for the whole of their careers and will encourage broader professional learning such as leadership development, wider networking and deeper professional engagement such as a Master’s programme (Welsh Government, 2021). Each practitioner’s ‘starting point’, experience and aspirations for their pupils informs differentiated, personalised engagement with professional learning (e.g. learning for induction, enhancing mentoring skills, extending highly accomplished teachers) (Porritt, Spence-Thomas and Taylor 2017; Carpendale, et al, 2021).
Professional learning is differentiated and allows new practice to be developed as well as building on existing experience (consolidation) (Jones, 2020). The identification of professional learning needs is aligned with schools’ appraisal, performance management or objective-setting processes (ASCL, 2018).
There is value in less formal approaches to professional learning, based on influence rather than authority, with ‘teacher leaders’ acting as instigators of change and inspiring colleagues towards improved educational practice (Margolis and Strom, 2020; Nguyen, Harris, and Ng, 2019). Such professional learning leadership is built on peer relationships, respect and trust rather than any formal authority, but it will require the support of school leaders to legitimise it and allow it to flourish (Dodman, 2021).
Developing and supporting continuous learning opportunities for all staff
Professional Learning (formal leadership roles)
We asked leaders from schools across Wales to tell us how they are Leading Professional Learning, using each of the eight hallmarks of well-led professional learning as a reference point. The resulting Case Studies offer an insight into a diverse range of effective approaches to Leading Professional Learning that we hope will bring the hallmarks to life and inspire fresh, strategic thinking for other leaders in Wales. We want you to Be Inspired.
If your school or cluster has an example of practice that could be included in the Leading Professional Learning resource – under one (or more) of the eight ‘hallmarks’ of well-led professional learning, we want to hear from you.