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Wider professional responsibilities for new teachers and their professional development

“A teacher is expected to demonstrate consistently high standards of personal and professional conduct.”

DfE Teachers’ Standards Part 2

 

Topics on this page:

  • Training to fulfil wider professional responsibilities
  • Professional development and new teachers
  • Communities of practice
  • What should I encourage new teachers to read
  • Introducing new teachers to research and practitioner enquiry
  • Reading

 

Introduction

As a geography teacher educator, you have a responsibility to help new teachers to get to grips with the wider professional responsibilities that are part and parcel of being a teacher, and also ensure that they take control of their own professional development.

  • Refer to the DfE Teacher’s Standards. These are in two parts. The second covers Personal and professional conduct, which is in addition to Standard 8 to fulfil wider professional responsibilities.

You should be aware when training ECTs that for serving teachers the DfE has a separate Standard for teachers’ professional development. 

 

Training to fulfil wider professional responsibilities

Geography teacher educators should liaise with those who have general oversight of initial training and induction, because this responsibility will probably be part of others’ training remit and need to be coordinated with the geography training. That said, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure new teachers adopt professional standards and ethos.

There are some aspects that will be an essential part of a geography training element, such as working with departmental colleagues and reporting to parents. Early career teachers will require support in the transition to a full-time teaching role and the new responsibilities they are taking on.

See More than mentoring?, which discusses experiences that geography teacher educators can provide for new teachers in areas of wider responsibilities, such as involving them with their professional community, working with colleagues in the department and visiting other educational settings. Such experiences support new teachers to become well-rounded professionals.

Geography educators should clarify the expectations when new teachers communicate with parents. Provide them with opportunities to communicate with parents by attending progress meetings, report writing or preparing letters about field visits.

 

Professional development and new teachers

As a geography teacher educator you will be directly involved in the formal initial and induction training that forms the main element of professional development for the new teachers. However, it is important that you encourage a new teacher’s autonomy and expect them to assume responsibility for their own professional development.

Help new teachers to understand that professional development should have a positive impact on their teaching and importantly on the students they teach. It is particularly important to encourage them to use self-reflection to identify their own professional development needs, so they will continue to do this throughout their career.

A third of teachers leave within five years of joining the profession. Therefore, professional development is important to sustain and develop them in their early career. Your role as a mentor is to help facilitate professional development opportunities for them and assist them to evaluate and record the impact of the CPD activities they undertake. They may not readily see the importance of professional development at first or happen on bad experience.

Draw the attention of new teachers to the increasing number of online CPD opportunities. These can be convenient and less costly, but provide new teachers with fewer informal opportunities to exchange ideas with other teachers that are a main benefit of face-to-face opportunities.

Enser (2021) recounts her experiences as a new teacher:

‘CPD had become one-off events, where we piled into the hall, were bombarded with information on data or safeguarding or others’ plans for our teaching. This felt removed from the reality of my classroom and left me feeling despondent, withdrawing further and further from opportunities that came my way, my view distorted by these experiences.’

She goes on to explain how using Kolb’s approach was so significant in her early experiences of professional development and helped her to understand how to make meaningful change. Discuss this article with new teachers and work out with them how they can adopt such principles.

You should provide new teachers with help and guidance based on your own experience and your understanding of the new teacher you are mentoring. For example, most new teachers find the workload quite stressful and welcome support with managing this and prioritising their own health and well-being.

Discuss with them how to balance demands on their time to allow space for their professional development. Also help them to consider longer-term professional development in relation to their future career. They may be looking for guidance on whether to embark on a further qualification leading to a Masters degree or the new National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) and, as their mentor, you would be well placed to consider the pros and cons with them.

Geography educators should identify opportunities for new teachers to engage in collaborative activities that promote their professional development, such as planning curricula collaboratively or working with others on some small action-research.

In such activities they can discuss the theory with colleagues and test practices and ideas in classrooms. They will also receive some informal feedback from those they work with on their contribution.

Consider involving a trainee teacher in a collaborative enquiry that uses lesson study, or support an early career teacher to use practitioner enquiry (see more about these below). Such activities provide good opportunities for reflection and encourage new teachers to explore others’ work and research.

 

Communities of practice

‘Communities of practice’ provide opportunities to co-create knowledge and support professional learning. They are professional learning communities within which teachers continue to learn collaboratively by engaging in activities that focus on improving subject knowledge and classroom practice.

These are particularly important for new teachers to enrich their understanding of the discipline of geography and help them to become fully conversant with geography curriculum ideas and pedagogy. It is by engaging in communities of practice and with geography networks that teachers recontextualise their discipline for use in the classroom.

 

 

Rawlings Smith, in a presentation to the GTE conference in 2021 entitled Let’s talk: The importance of collaboration, communication & networking in education, draws on a graphic (above) to illustrate the three interconnected aspects of a teacher’s professional knowledge: practical wisdom, subject and pedagogical knowledge and critical reflection. All three are fuelled by communities of practice.

Rawlings Smith undertook some small-scale research into the communities of practices with which trainee teachers were involved and her findings are reported in the GTE presentation, which makes interesting reading. How does this match with your new teacher?

  • Refer to the reading list included in the presentation for further information on communities of practice.

Rawlings Smith concludes by pointing out that her sample of trainee teachers did not always show an awareness of different professional development opportunities. It is the geography teacher educator’s role to ensure that they are.

You should strongly encourage new teachers to engage with and participate in the geography community, both locally and nationally. This will introduce them to external ideas so they are not just having the same discussions with the same people and reinforcing the same approaches. Kinder (2022) comments that ‘the geography subject community represents a rich reservoir from which new ideas and insights may be derived and a sense of purpose recalibrated and renewed.

Encourage new teachers to participate in webinars, ‘Teacher Meets’ and conferences to hear ideas from other practitioners. Even informal exchanges at meetings and conferences can spark processes that challenge and or extend a new teacher’s thinking.

There are many suggestions in Belonging to the geography community. It is the geography teacher educator’s role to encourage new teachers to participate actively and use the opportunities offered. For an example, see the discussion between geographers about using ‘models’ in human geography that sparked a debate on Twitter involving teachers (see Teaching Human Geography).

The GA welcomes new teacher involvement and encourages contributions for articles to Teaching Geography or to the ‘Teacher to Teacher sessions’ at the annual conference. You could suggest they apply for the Rex Walford Award from the RGS or the GA Rex Walford Student Teacher Award. ECTs can register for the GA Professional Passport and begin to build their own professional development portfolio.

  • Read Healy (2018), which discusses the importance of subject specialists, subject communities and sustaining subject expertise.

 

What should I encourage new teachers to read?

Training to be a geography teacher requires intellectual engagement so that they can make informed decisions about how and what they teach.

From the outset, a geography trainee needs to be aware that they are joining a profession in which theory underpins practice. They also need to understand that the experience they have in the schools they teach is only a very small part of the wide range of practice that exists across the country, and if they are to develop as a geography teacher, they need find out what other geographers are doing.

The Reading list for geography ITE trainees is a good place to start, and reading suggestions are given throughout the new teacher webpages on the GA website, though they are not exhaustive. Encourage new teachers to read about educational changes as they happen – curriculum or organisational – so they have an understanding of current educational issues. Reading a quality newspaper can keep them geographically aware of current issues as well as educational debates.

If the trainees are studying for a PGCE, they are expected to be working at Masters level and to demonstrate their understanding of the theory-practice relationship. They will need to read quite widely for this. More information about expectation for these qualifications can be found on the new teachers’ webpage Working towards PGCE and Masters qualifications.

New teachers should also read about research in geography and geography education. Encourage them to browse the Geography Education Research pages of the GA website and to read the PDFs of the Theory into Practice booklets that can be downloaded from there for GA members.

 

Introducing new teachers to research and practitioner enquiry

The ITT Core Content Framework (2019) requires new teachers to be informed by the best available educational research and learn how this should inform their teaching. New teachers need to have the intellectual and practical skills to identify issues in their practice where development is indicated, investigate (through reading and action) and evaluate potential responses to improve practice. They should develop the confidence and skills to seek to problematise and improve their own teaching through effective practitioner inquiry.

As part of the professional development of new teachers, you should help them to use research evidence to inform their teaching so that they develop into practitioners who can critically engage with it and thoughtfully implement strategies that arise from such evidence. They should be encouraged to develop professional scepticism, and should be aware of the distinction between evidence-based practice, where a strategy is robustly tested and makes claims for specific outcomes, and evidence-informed practice, where a teacher uses empirical research to inform their professional judgement.

Encourage new teachers to explore the Geography Education Research webpages. In addition the GA has two GA Research Engagement Leads for primary and secondary who support teachers to think about education research in regard to school geography and to explore ways to incorporate education research into their own professional development. From time to time they hold seminars and online courses about research which you should alert new teachers about as relevant. There are also sessions about teachers as researchers at the GA annual conference.

You should support new teachers to look deeply into aspects of practice by using practitioner enquiry. The learning gains for a new teacher are not only a reflection on their practice and ways to develop it, but also insights in research methodology, which should help them to analyse research evidence more critically.

Another approach you can use is lesson study, which is a form of collaborative teacher enquiry that focuses on learning as a way of developing classroom practice. It involves a group of teachers agreeing a specific element of geographical learning to focus on. They design a ‘research’ lesson collaboratively that is taught by one teacher while the rest observe the learning of selected students (see Lesson study for guidance).

Several providers include practitioner enquiry in their ITE programmes in the form of small-scale projects because they believe that this could provide a useful opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills required to critically engage with research.

Refer to Lofthouse (2021), who strongly believes that:

Teachers are also learners. They learn through their engagement with a knowledge base, through their immersion in practice contexts and through their relationships with others. Teachers’ learning determines how their practice develops over time and what impact their work has on students, colleagues and the settings in which they work.’

She outlines the COG model of professional learning, which is based on cycles of practice, enabling learning to be cumulative. There are strong overlaps here with the advice offered by Enser, and are worth considering carefully as you discuss professional development opportunities and practices with new teachers.

It is important to discuss with new teachers the importance of research ethics and data protection. Research ethics are the moral and ethical decisions made in planning, conducting and disseminating research. Refer to BERA (2018) for guidelines on research ethics.

Also refer to the article by Hammond and Rawlings Smith (2023) where they discuss positionality in research and the five key premises of ethical research: autonomy, beneficence, avoidance of harm, confidentiality and anonymity, and integrity. Discuss with new teachers Figure 1 in this article when they are planning and conducting research in geography education.

There are very clear legal obligations concerning General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the Data Protection Act (2018). You should ensure that new teachers comply with these when they are dealing with personal data in educational research.

Discuss with new teachers the data protection principles to research in geography education as set out in Hammond and Rawlings Smith (2023) Figure 2, before they embark on their action research or practitioner enquiry.

 

Reading