Our response to the DfE consultation outlines the Society's CPD work with teachers, and encourages support for sustained CPD throughout teaching career progressions.
Response submitted 2015
The Society welcomes the call for evidence into teacher’s professional development, and the need for a ‘Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development’ in England.
In working across schools, higher education and the professions, the Society is uniquely placed to identify, help shape and respond to key changes in the discipline of geography. This context provides significant added value to the Society’s work in providing professional development for over 1,000 teachers annually, addressing their current and future needs. So, too, does the fact that the Society is a well-established community of geographers, with a depth of activities that both add to and complement our CPD offering. Our work specifically addresses Ofsted’s regular commentary on the continuing need for schools to provide professional, subject-specialist, development support for geography (2005, 2008 and 2011). We focus our support for teaching and learning into those areas of knowledge and skills, relevant to the curriculum, where we believe there to be the greatest need for CPD. As a charity, we aim for a mix of free and affordable provision.
The CPD is provided through a popular programme of twilight sessions, one day courses, residential fieldwork courses, 'TeachMeets’, and a programme of locally delivered events and activities built around local networks of teachers. These activities are run by a combination of the Society’s own educational staff; expert teachers – particularly Chartered Geographer (Teachers); Academy chains and Teaching Schools; colleagues from Higher Education; and key partners including the Ordnance Survey, Field Studies Council and Esri UK (a GIS provider). The majority of our support is provided to subject specialist, secondary geographers, and we are also increasingly working with non-specialist primary colleagues.
The Society’s current interventions in professional development for teachers address the following areas:
1. Promoting good quality fieldwork: particularly in schools which face significant challenges in this provision
This responds to frequent reference in Ofsted reports of the poor quality of fieldwork provision in some schools. Since 2007 the Society’s ‘Learning and Leading’ programme has worked in depth with 136 teachers from secondary schools which have all faced significant issues in their provision of good quality geographical fieldwork. The programme is targeted specifically at challenged schools or teachers, often in inner city areas.
Each of these teachers has been provided with a fully-funded place on one or two weekend residential courses, which took place in a range of urban and rural locations across England and Wales. These courses provided expert tuition to small groups of teachers, learning collectively, on a breadth of geographical fieldwork themes and skills directly relevant to the curriculum. Teachers found the environment both supportive of learning and challenging in terms of content. Teachers rated these courses very highly; a typical comment from an attendee being “(my) fieldwork at A Level will be vastly improved. Thank you”. Many of those introduced to the Society through these residential courses subsequently became involved in other events and CPD; thus strengthening their involvement in the community.
The impact of this programme is currently being evaluated independently. The programme report will be completed by April 2016.
2. Supporting key geographical skills: mapping skills, the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and mathematical and statistical techniques in geography
Working with partners including the Ordnance Survey and Esri UK, the Society runs a regular programme to enhance geography teachers’ subject specific skills. These offer support in curriculum-based aspects of skills teaching and learning that are ‘new’ or that teachers find particularly challenging. The skills include map skills, especially the use of Ordnance Survey maps (KS2); the application of Geographical Information Systems (required at KS3, GCSE and A Level); and will shortly address the use of mathematics and statistical techniques (quantitative skills) in geography (GCSE and A Level especially).
This programme aims to tailor courses to meet different levels of need. It thus ranges from workshops for primary colleagues to ‘expert-user’ events for secondary colleagues using GIS. They are one of the few opportunities for teachers to receive such focused support and more individualised training.
To enhance geography teachers’ use of mathematics, statistics and other data techniques at GCSE and A Level the Society has recently launched the ‘Strengthening quantitative skills through geography’ programme. This two year programme will provide face to face CPD, online resources and other support for teachers in this important area of work that has been recently strengthened in both GCSE and A Level criteria. Please see this link for further details: Strengthening Quantitative Skills.
3. Creating local CPD networks to promote and share good practice.
Through the Society’s ‘Rediscovering London’s geography’ programme, which was supported by the London Schools Excellence Fund, the Society created and ran local CPD networks in 11 London Boroughs. These teacher-led, and Society supported, networks provide the opportunity to share good practice locally and to receive regular subject specific support. Since the initiation of the Rediscovering London’s geography project, teachers have attended regular termly CPD events which have focused on geography within the National Curriculum, local fieldwork, curriculum planning in the subject, and identified areas of core content. Teachers have readily welcomed this locally provided CPD, and many primary colleagues have noted that it has been the first time they have ever received CPD support in geography. As one primary colleague said, “The project has ‘given coherence to geography’ by introducing new plans as part of the National Curriculum, and encouraged phasing out of older plans. Geography has become important again within school, in context of English and Maths often taking priority.”
4. Robust subject knowledge, to equip teachers to address the requirements of the National Curriculum, and new GCSE and A Levels
As the learned society for the discipline, the Society is able to draw on our strong links with higher education to ensure that CPD is provided for teachers which is firmly rooted in robust subject knowledge and an up-to-date understanding of the subject. We provide a regular programme of CPD events at the Society and regionally which enable teachers to receive training covering many difference aspects of the discipline and its relevance to the curriculum and new examination courses. These are further supported by online resources and the Society’s programme of lectures.
The positive impact of the Society’s professional development for teachers has been recognised in the following ways:
One of the key findings of an external review of the Society’s Rediscovering London’s geography programme (2013-15) was that “The most notable improvement in teacher subject knowledge has been for teachers in local (CPD) networks who are not subject specialists and (who) now feel well prepared to teach the new curriculum.”
From 2006-2011 the Society stepped up its CPD programme, into a genuinely national programme, as part of our work within the DfE-funded ‘Action Plan for Geography’. The Ofsted subject report (2011) identified that, “the best geography was usually seen in schools which were participating in the professional development programme offered through the Action Plan for Geography, in specialist humanities schools or where schools shared good practice with local partners.” This programme offered sustained support for teachers over a period of years, through a combination of face-to-face CPD and complementary online provision.
In feedback from teachers involved, and through their continuing professional engagement with the Society.
The Society recognises that professional development cannot be addressed simply through CPD events, rather teachers need to be encouraged and sustained through active engagement with their professional communities. Over and above the direct CPD work described above, the Society marries this with additional support for teachers including:
use of our online educational resources
attendance at the Society’s lecture programme in London and nine UK regional branches; access to lectures online; and access to the Society’s Ambassador programme and events for their students
access to our publications that include four learned journals and the popular Geographical magazine
the additional benefits that derive from being part of the Society’s active fellowship of 16,000+ geographers, at the heart of the geographical community.
1. The central importance of subject specific professional support and development. In the Society’s experience there is often a tension in schools between the professional development the leadership team is prepared to support and that which teachers themselves would prefer to do. In particular, opportunities for subject-based CPD are often either not allowed or restricted to attending courses provided by Awarding Bodies. While the latter may be a short term benefit, it ignores the medium term need for good teachers to continue to be engaged and stimulated by their subject and cognisant of developments in it that are curriculum-relevant.
2. The need to provide teachers with opportunities to build on, and implement what they have learnt in CPD through additional support, such as access to online educational resources, lectures, journals and collaborative networks.
3. The central role of subject specialist learned societies and subject associations in providing carefully targeted programmes of quality assured professional development and the means through which teachers can become engaged in a community of expert subject specialists and can have a sustained involvement with a national community of expertise and/or a local network.
4. That professional development should contribute towards ‘markers of esteem’ for teachers. For example, involvement within the Society’s professional development programmes can underpin a teacher’s successful application to become a Fellow or, for those who qualify, as a Chartered Geographer (Teacher).
5. That an ongoing commitment to professional development can be further encouraged through the requirements of existing professional accreditations, particularly subject specialist Chartered programmes. For example, Chartered Geographer (Teacher) requires an annual submission which identifies a teacher’s involvement with professional development activities related to subject knowledge and pedagogy, in order for them to retain this professional accreditation.
Set the clear expectation that a teachers’ ongoing professional development, including the essential enhancement of their subject specialist knowledge and skills, is a necessary part of an individual’s career progression.
Welcome the opportunities for teachers to have sustained professional development externally recognised and validated through existing subject-specialist accreditations; and encourage them to be reflective of the ‘impact’ of CPD on their teaching and student outcomes.
Recognise the range of high-quality CPD provision and wider, complementary support provided by subject specialist bodies, including learned societies and subject associations.
Strongly encourage teachers to become active members of their respective subject specialist learned society or association and to take up the opportunities for professional development, accreditation and other, community-centred, support that they provide.
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