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Training and/or Learning and Development which is key for quality in teaching

Christine Challen

The drive to measure teaching performance through observations and assessment in schools and the introduction of teaching excellence framework (TEF) at HEI has led educators to ask “where do we go from here?” How do we consistently improve our teaching? Is it through CPD training or learning and development? While training implies a “one dimensional” approach sometimes referred to as “production centred”, learning and development is multifaceted requiring self-critical analysis driven by reflection. The word training might imply repetition, such as that frequently done in sport activities. However even when the same teaching session is being delivered several times daily subtle changes occur at every point as amendments are made on reflection to enhance learning. If we consider teaching like a scientific experiment which has failed the difference between the great and the average scientist is the ability to ask why, what or how am I going to make this work? This should be the same approach to teaching the ability to reflect. To my mind reflection is the key to learning and development and is completely different to training.

In addition to reflection real education always involves risk and in ‘The Beautiful Risk of Education’ Gert Biesta discusses the importance of risk taking and it being central to ‘educational endeavours’ and “ to the forefront of critical pedagogical practice’.  His strong argument for this is based on the principle that education is not “an interaction between machines, but an encounter between human beings. The key starting places for the risk taking strategy are a combination of subject knowledge and research into current subject delivery techniques, as well as most importantly reflection.

So the big question is how do we endeavour to encourage and ensure that all educational practitioners reflect in learning? This is a tough call and certainly not a process that can be achieved by training. One way to tackle this may be to develop a strategy called “peer reflect.” This would involve staff working with a peer/mentor and through reflection over time using e.g. student assessment and retention as evidence to support consistent self-critical analysis in teaching. Additionally it also highlights the benefits of coaching and mentoring in the practitioner/student learning experience. Further it could also include any new risks taken after this process thereby embedding Biesta’s theories and practices, relating this to critical pedagogical progression.

This is not an overnight fix, however the benefits over time and persistence may prove rewarding, not only for the students’ teaching and learning experience, but professionally for staff and their institution. The ever increasing policy focus on measures of teaching performance in schools, colleges and HEI means that there is a demand to demonstrate and consistently improve teaching. This is in addition to the pressure to encourage and develop pupil/student autonomy and critical thinking skills from early on. The implementation of reflection and “risk taking” will not only develop excellence in teaching and the student learning experience it may also enhance and build on reputations of educational institutions through pupil/student achievement.  But there is more to reflection than this it sets the example of autonomy in learning to our pupils/students, if we as practitioners are showing critical thinking and responsibility for our teaching.

As W.B Yeats put it ‘education is not about filling a bucket but about lighting a fire”. As educators we always want to see our students not as “objects to be moulded and disciplined but as subjects of action and responsibility.” The importance of autonomy as a key to successful life-long learning is a well-known concept and doing this by example is an ideal way to encourage our students, particularly if they see a positive outcome in their learning journey. Even better why not involve them in this process through their feedback and ideas so that they can learn how to be self-critical? As Benjamin Franklin so aptly said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

As practitioners and educators we should remember that reflection is our own professional autonomy, the ability to think critically in learning is the key to pedagogical development and professional satisfaction something that cannot be trained for!


Lofthouse, R (2015) Professional Development  {accessed 23/11/15}

Lofthouse, R (2015) Professional Development  {accessed 04/12/15}

Culshaw,S (2015) Professional Development  {accessed 23/11/15}

Biesta,Gert.J.J ( 2013) The Beautiful Risk of Education

Lofthouse.R (2016) Coaching and mentoring {accessed 23/01/16}

Lofthouse, R (2015) Becoming More Creative in Academic work  {accessed 30/11/15} Writing For Research