Professional Development Within Education

Professional development consists of all natural learning experiences and those conscious and planned activities which are intended to be of direct or indirect benefit to the individual, group or school, which contribute, through these, to the quality of education in the classroom. It is the process by which, alone and with others, teachers review, renew and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of teaching; and by which they acquire and develop critically the knowledge, skills and emotional intelligence essential to good professional thinking, planning and practice with children, young people and colleagues throughout each phase of their teaching lives. (Day, 1999:4)


Day’s view of professional development (1999) evokes many personal thoughts and opinions with regards to the role and responsibility of teachers working with children in the twenty first century. This topic has been brought to the fore front recently, as the professionalization of teaching has come under scrutiny in terms of whether it is defined as a profession or as a semi-profession, not to mention the varying degree of importance individuals place on professional development. This document will explore some of the key theories, assumptions and values that Day’s view of professional development (1999) portrays in an attempt to justify how through the use of effective and continuous professional development educators may strive for and achieve definitive professional status.

The nature of a profession

In order to appreciate what is meant by, and the importance of, professional development, we must first define the nature and characteristics of a profession. The following definitions describe a professional occupation.

A profession is an occupation that seeks to regulate itself by developing a consensus concerning what its practitioners must know and be able to do. It has an accreditation and licensing system in order to ensure transfer of knowledge and skill. An occupation becomes a profession when organisations such as universities, the public, and the government accept the system by which a profession is achieved (Wise, 2005).

A profession is an occupation that regulates itself through systematic training that is technical, specialised and is concerned with providing a service rather than profit orientation (Starr, 1982).

A profession can be defined by the recognition of the social and moral context of its work (Arthur, Davison and Lewis, 2005).

Teaching as a professional activity

Is teaching a professional activity? Some of the key words and phrases that define what a profession is will be discussed below in relation to whether teaching achieves these particular aims and requirements.

Regulation and Accreditation – Teachers are licensed and trained over a wide variety of institutions in a variety of specialist subjects. Attempts have also been made to define the skills, competences, knowledge, understanding and core values that are expected of new teachers in order to establish a level of conformance and adherence. This is mirrored in Day’s (1999) view of professional development as teachers should acquire and develop critically the knowledge, skills and emotional intelligence essential to good professional thinking, planning and practice with children, young people and colleagues throughout each phase of their teaching lives.

Systematic and Specialised Training – From my own experience I would definitely agree that teacher training is systematic and specialised in nature, in that a formal training procedure is undertaken so that all students studying at university receive the same training and support. Specialised training is also provided within specific areas of study within the subject. 

Providing a Service – At the heart of teaching is the desire to help children and young adults learn and become well rounded adults. Teaching is a service in that there is an expectation for children in the western world to be educated. This highlights the need for teachers to educate children, and for teachers to provide this service to society.

Social Context – Teachers facilitate the opportunity for children and young people to interact, communicate and socialise between peers, teachers, parents and carers, in an environment where it is safe and managed appropriately.

Moral Context – Teachers are in positions of authority and as such should demonstrate and encourage good morals and responsibility. Teachers are often role models and need to set good examples for children and young people.

Holistically it would appear that teaching is indeed a profession as it meets the criterion set out by the definitions. However, if we delve deeper, could there be cause for concern in the training process itself? After all, professional qualities have to be exhibited throughout each phase of a teacher’s life (Day, 1999).

The GTCE framework of professional values and practice

University of Sheffield Teaching & Learning ConferenceIn recent years the government and education authorities have strived to establish standards by which entry into the profession is regulated and moderated. This drive for regulation started in England and Wales in 1992 when the first set of nationally required competencies were published. In 1998 the standards for QTS were published by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) and the Teacher Training Agency (TTA). This was followed by the National Curriculum for Initial Teacher Training. The National Curriculum for Initial Teacher Training was criticised for failing to include professional values and attitudes and personal attributions essential for teacher professionalism.

In 2002 the response to this criticism came in the form of the establishment of the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE). The GTCE included professional attributions within teacher education and training. As a result of this new focus the publication for QTS standards in 2002 dedicated its first chapter to professional values and practice.

These were welcomed developments in the codification and regulation of the professionalization of teacher training. However, the TTAs (2003) guidelines for Professional Standards for Qualified Teacher Status and the Requirement of Initial Teacher Training were predominantly focussed with what a teacher could do, instead of what they are and may become. These standards portrayed the teacher as a technician charged with specific tasks that are measureable in outcome. With this in mind, the GTCE created a new revision of the framework for professional values and practice. This latest version is continually reviewed to ensure the relevance and credibility of the standards expected of teachers, with particular focus on facilitating equality in schools regardless of gender, class, race, and disability (GTC, 2006).

These standards are still in their infancy as they stand, and have yet to be maximised and updated to include all of the intricacies and complexities that teaching can impose. Considering my own experience, having just completed the initial teacher training, I feel that the standards are still expressed with an emphasis on instrumental practice and knowledge which is somewhat one dimensional in its approach. However, the GTC is making steps to ensure that all elements of teacher professionalism are taken into consideration in the near future (Appendix A, Teaching in 2012: GTC vision), which is no mean feat considering the multifaceted nature of teaching.

Whilst there is a clear desire to make teaching a more rigorous and accountable discipline, some theorists believe that this process could actually undermine teacher professionalism (Arthur, Davison and Lewis, 2005). I agree with this statement because it is important not to lose sight of the fundamental aim of teaching; to ensure that pupils are experiencing high quality learning opportunities, rather than the codification, monitoring and regulation of teachers. Day’s (1999) view also emphasizes the importance of the quality education in the classroom.

The GTCE framework of professional values and practice is just one national policy that aims to provide and promote high quality learning experiences for all pupils. The GTC also advises the government and other organisations about the major issues affecting teaching and learning. Key areas of interest at present are personalised learning, the children’s workforce, promoting equality and the study of teaching (GTC, 2009). These initiatives and areas of focus will be outlined as follows, along with other relevant national policies and initiatives.

National policies and initiatives that influence both school wide and physical education specific practice to promote high quality learning experiences for all pupils

National policies and initiatives support Day’s (1999) view as they are intended to be of direct or indirect benefit to the individual, group or school, contributing to the quality of education in the classroom. High quality learning experiences for all pupils can be promoted and facilitated through the following national policies and initiatives.

Personalised learning

The GTC supports the view that pupils will learn more effectively if teaching is adapted towards their needs and interests. The GTC advises that through the use of assessment for learning, ICT and increasing pupil participation, personalised learning may be achieved (GTC, 2009). I have found through personal experience that the following two initiatives can be used to aid the personalisation of learning.

Adopting the Target Strategy (Ames, 1992) described in Appendix B, is one method that could be used within lessons and extracurricular clubs to facilitate and encourage a task and mastery orientation environment. Pupils are encouraged to focus on personal improvement and to set self-referenced goals and targets. The emphasis is on the facilitation of a mastery climate rather than that of an ego climate, whereby individual performance is evaluated in terms of personal improvement and effort, not in comparison to others. The emphasis is on pupil learning and mastery of the task, so pupils are encouraged to try their best and to set goals and targets to improve on their own past performances. A recent study also concluded that a mastery climate, along with achievable goals, corresponded positively with that of intrinsic motivation and satisfaction experienced by pupils (Papaioannou, Tsigilis, Kosmidou, and Milosis 2007).

UK Athletics (2005) suggests that by fostering this pupil centred approach it will indeed assist the progression of pupils learning. This approach, along with the use of ICT within lessons, also encourages the notion of active engagement, whereby it is deemed that pupils learn most effectively when they are interested, involved and appropriately challenged by the task. This is typically when pupils are most engaged with their learning (DfES, 2004).

Bunker and Thorpe (1982) devised the Teaching Games For Understanding (TGFU) approach in order to combat the traditional method of teaching specific motor responses in a technical sense. This was no longer deemed appropriate as it focused on the content and not the pupil and could be demoralising as it is focussed on the outcome rather than the process. TGFU encourages pupils to make their own decisions and devise concepts and tactics themselves, fostering curiosity and interest. This enables active engagement in learning and can also act as a motivation tool (Capel, 2000). This approach can help develop a positive learning environment, not only maximising participation and achievement of success, but pupil enjoyment also (Capel, Whitehead and Zwozdiak-Myers 2004).

The children’s workforce

The GTC supports the Children’s Plan, which looks at how children’s services can help promote the wellbeing of children and young people. The GTC has encouraged children’s services professionals to work together as effectively as possible on behalf of children and young people. As part of its 2020 Children’s Workforce Strategy, the Government is now reviewing the policies and standards for major organisations in the children’s workforce (GTC, 2009).

This has had an immediate impact on the PESSYP Strategy (DfES/QCA, 2008), which helps pupils make the transition between school, extracurricular, and out of school sport. As a teaching professional it is part of your responsibility to ensure that you work together with other children’s service professionals, whether they are coaches, managers, development officers etc. This is also reflected in Day’s (1999) view that good professional thinking, planning and practice must span across a variety of mediums including colleague interaction.

Promoting equality

It is essential that equality and diversity is promoted in schools as well as in training establishments (GTC, 2009). The National Curriculum Statutory Inclusion Statement (DfEE/QCA, 1999) is an initiative that promotes equality and diversity. It states that teachers should set suitable learning challenges, respond to pupils’ diverse learning needs and overcome potential barriers to learning. This can be achieved through active participation and enjoyment by all, regardless of skill level or ability within physical education.

In my experience I have found that Sport Education is an approach that may also promote equality. This approach is designed at pupils taking on different roles and encouraging them to essentially become competent, literate and enthusiastic sports people (Siedentop, 1994). It encourages pupils to take on different roles and interact with a variety of individuals. This promotion of equally helps ensure that all pupils achieve high quality of education in the classroom. This is also one of the outcomes highlighted by Day (1999).

The study of teaching

This area is concerned with establishing what teachers need to know and what skills and strengths they need in order to help all children fulfil their potential (GTC, 2009). The following government documentation was created in order to provide teachers with a framework for teaching physical education.

High Quality PE and Sport for Young People was published in 2004 by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), and describes and clarifies what high quality physical education is, what it looks like and how it can be achieved. It is divided into three main sections. Firstly, there is a detailed description of the outcomes of high quality physical education and sport. For each outcome there is a description of what they can expect young people to be doing when experiencing high quality physical education and sport. Secondly, an overview of what high quality provision is, with advice for what teachers, coaches, leaders and managers need to do to achieve high quality physical education and sport. Finally, there is an overview of effective school club links, outlining how schools and clubs can work together to achieve high quality physical education and sport.

High Quality PE and Sport for Young People (DfES/DCMS, 2004) suggests that in order to achieve the outcomes highlighted within this document three basic principles need to be followed and encouraged, these being:

  • To enable all young people whatever the circumstances or ability to take part in and enjoy PE and sport
  • To promote young people’s health, well-being and safety
  • To ensure that all young people to improve and achieve in line with their age and potential

This document was followed by ‘Do you have high quality PE and sport in your school?‘ (DfES/DCMS, 2005) which further outlines how through self-evaluation and monitoring students progress high quality PE and sport can be achieved. I have found these two documents very useful in my own teaching, helping me to ensure that the physical education I deliver is of a high quality.

Good practice in outdoor education is defined in the document High Quality Outdoor Education (Ordinance Survey, 2005). The themes included in this document consist of participation, competition and achievement, residential experiences, differentiation and progression, safety and risk management. This document has also informed my outdoor adventurous activities planning considerably, especially as this area of activity is sometimes associated with an over exaggerated amount of risk and safety concerns.

The Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto (LOtC) suggests that every child and young person should experience the world beyond the classroom. It is an essential part of learning and personal development whatever their age, ability or circumstances (DCSF, 2008). These experiences are often memorable and frequently stay into adulthood and may affect lifestyle and work. These experiences may also influence behaviour, including values, attitudes and decisions that children and young people make. Physical education lends itself ideally to LOtC, and all schools will be able to access a place where LOtC can be achieved.

The most prevalent initiative that underpins the majority of all new national policies and initiatives is the Every Child Matters Agenda (ECM) (DfES, 2007).

The Every Child Matters Agenda

Physical education can help facilitate the achievement of the five outcomes of the ECM agenda (DfES, 2007). Each of the five outcomes outlined in the ECM agenda are discussed below in relation to the contribution that physical education can provide:

Stay Safe

  • Through correct guidance and use of equipment children and young people can stay safe from injury
  • Potentially dangerous situations and activities can be undertaken in a controlled environment with specialist equipment and coaches
  • Improve the awareness of safe practices in physical education and sport

Be Healthy

  • Understand the importance of being physically healthy and how this can be achieved through physical education and sport
  • Develop and maintain psychological, sociological and emotional health and well-being
  • The use of physical education and sport to develop, maintain and promote a healthy lifestyle

Enjoy and achieve

  • Achieve and enjoy personal and social development and recreation
  • Enjoy and appreciate the outdoor environment
  • Achieve national educational standards and awards

Achieve Economic Wellbeing

  • Provide opportunities for children and young people to engage in further education and training within physical education, sport and the outdoors

Make a Positive Contribution

  • Engage in decision-making
  • Develop positive relationships
  • Develop self-confidence and successfully deal with challenges in everyday life
  • Engage in law abiding and positive behaviour, within school and the wider community

I feel that the aims of the ECM agenda should be at the heart of all teaching. It is a framework that describes what we as educators are trying to achieve and to some extent how to achieve it. This document underpins good professional thinking, planning and practice (Day, 1999).

The teacher as a researcher

Active learning is considered as a process in which learners strive for understanding and competence, and seek out knowledge about the world (Piaget, 1972; Rogers, 1975). This is a concept that we as educators promote and encourage pupils to adopt. We as educators also need to adopt this ethos and strive to become active practitioners, seeking out more effective practice and making every effort to become a more efficient educator, after all, imparting knowledge effectively and thus maximising the learning is the ultimate aim of teaching (McKeough, Lupart, and Marini, 1995). Through research we may provide the best professional service as we are continually seeking out better practice and knowledge. Day (1999) also suggests that teachers should be committed to reviewing, renewing and extending their knowledge, skills and emotional intelligence.

Loughran (1996) describes reflection as the purposeful and deliberate act of thinking about ways in which to respond to problematic situations within teaching and learning. Action research is defined as a way of systematically reflecting on one’s teaching experience, as a way of understanding it, and creating meaning from that understanding (Hopkins, 2002). It is also important not only to reflect but also to create an action for improvement from this understanding, so that positive changes can be made to current practice (McKernan, 1996).

In my experience I have found action research to be an effective research method. If this method is to be used it is important to consult the action research guidelines (BERA, 2004). This document highlights the importance of ethical research. When undertaking action research one must consider the responsibility to the participants, the sponsors of research and the community of educational researchers.

The Teacher Learning Academy (TLA) helps schools and teachers achieve professional excellence and gain recognition for their achievements. Teachers’ work is supported and reviewed by other teachers, allowing them to share best practice. It also helps pupils, schools and the education service (GTC, 2009).

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD is an essential process by which teachers may review, renew and extend their knowledge, skills and emotional intelligence essential to good professional thinking, planning and practice with children, young people and colleagues (Day, 1999).

CPD is especially prevalent in today’s society as we strive for professional status. If teachers do not pursue professional development and as a result lose touch with current initiatives and new knowledge, then they will become obsolete and defunct as professionals as they are no longer providing the appropriate service of educating children and young people. This view corresponds with Day’s (1999) suggestion that professional thinking, planning and practice must exist within each phase of their teaching lives. It is essential that all teachers actively involve themselves with CPD opportunities in order to maximise the facilitation of high quality learning opportunities within their own lessons.


It is essential that all teachers exhibit professional values and practice throughout all phases of teaching. Teachers should actively seek out new knowledge through research, national policies and initiatives, in order to facilitate high quality learning experiences for all pupils. Teachers, through effective CPD, can drive education into the twenty first century, ensuring that they are providing the best service of education possible, by being current and innovative in their approach. Day’s (1999) view of professional development encapsulates this ethos entirely.

Whilst there is a clear desire to make teaching a more rigorous and more accountable discipline, it is important to ensure that this process does not undermine teacher professionalism (Arthur, Davison and Lewis, 2005). The predominant focus must be associated with pupil learning, rather than the monitoring and regulation of teachers.

[toggle title_open=”References” title_closed=”References” hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”]
  • Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology. 84, pp. 261-271.
  • Arthur, J. Davison, J. and Lewis, M. (2005) Professional Values and Practice: Achieving the Standards for QTS. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • British Educational Research Association (BERA). (2004) Revised Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research. Southwell. Available from: [accessed 27th March 2010].
  • Bunker, D. and Thorpe, R. (1982) A Model for the Teaching of Games in Secondary Schools: Bulletin of Physical Education. 18 (1), pp. 5-8.
  • Capel, S. (2000) Approaches to Teaching Games. In Capel, S. and Piotrowski, S. (Eds) Issues in Physical Education. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Capel, S. Whitehead, M. and Zwozdiak-Myers, P. (2004) Developing and Maintaining an Effective Learning Environment. In Capel, S. (Eds)Learning to Teach Physical Education in Secondary School. Second Edition. U.K: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Day, C. (1999) Developing Teachers: The Challenges of Lifelong Learning. London: FalmerPress.
  • DCSF/QCA. (2008) Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto. London: HMSO.
  • DfES (2004) Key Stage 3 National Strategy: Pedagogy and Practice – Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools – Unit 11: Active Engagement Techniques. London: HMSO.
  • DfES/DCMS (2004) High Quality PE and Sport for Young People. London: HMSO.
  • DfES/QCA. (2008) PE and Sport Strategy for Young People (PESSYP). London: DfES.
  • General Teaching Council (GTC). (2006) The GTC Statement 2006. Available at: [Accessed on 27th April 2010].
  • General Teaching Council (GTC). (2009) Influencing Policy. Available at: [Accessed on 27th April 2010].
  • General Teaching Council (GTC). (2009) Professional Development. Available at: [Accessed on 27th April 2010].
  • Hopkins, D. (2002) A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Research. 3rd Edition. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Loughran, J. (1996) Developing Reflective Practice: Learning about Teaching and Learning through Modelling. London: Falmer Press.
  • McKeough, A. Lupart, J. and Marini, A. (eds) (1995) Teaching for Transfer: Fostering Generalization in Learning. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
  • McKernan, J. (1996) Curriculum Action Research. 2nd Edition. London: Kogan Page.
  • Ordnance Survey. (2005) High Quality Outdoor Education. London: Ordnance Survey.
  • Papaioannou, N. Tsigilis, P. Kosmidou, E. and Milosis, D. (2007) Measuring Motivational Climate in Physical Education: The Journal of Teaching Physical Education. 26, pp. 236.
  • Piaget, J. (1972) Psychology and Epistemology. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Rogers, C. (1975) Freedom to learn. In Entwistle, N. and Hounsell, D. (eds) How Students Learn. Lancaster: University of Lancaster.
  • Siedentop, D. (1994) Sport Education: Quality PE through Positive Sport Experiences. Champaign Illinois: Human Kinetics.
  • Starr, P. (1982). The social transformation of American medicine. New York: Basic Books.
  • Training and Teaching Agency. (2003) Qualifying to Teach. London: TTA
  • Training and Development Agency. (2007) Professional Standards for Teachers. London: TDA
  • UK Athletics. (2005) Strategy for Teacher Education. Birmingham: UK Athletics.
  • Wise, E. (2005) Establishing Teaching As A Profession, The Essential Role Of Professional Accreditation: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 318-331
[/toggle][toggle title_open=”Appendix A – Teaching in 2012: GTC vision – Published: 27 Jan 2009″ title_closed=”Appendix A – Teaching in 2012: GTC vision – Published: 27 Jan 2009″ hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”]The enduring purpose of teaching children and young people is to promote their learning, development and achievement and a life-long love and capacity for learning.

In our vision for teaching in 2012, childhood is valued and respected. All learners benefit from higher standards of teaching which support high achievement, stimulate creativity and promote wellbeing. Children will experience a rich, diverse and stimulating curriculum that enables them to succeed and thrive in their lives and strive for a just and sustainable world. Children’s rights to enjoy, achieve and take an active part in their own learning are recognised and upheld

The teaching profession will work with learners and their parents and carers to identify and meet each young person’s distinctive needs. Teachers will work collaboratively with those who support learning directly in the classroom and with a wide group of colleagues across the children’s workforce. Teachers will draw on shared values and knowledge to make sound professional and ethical judgements on behalf of the children and young people they serve.

Teachers recognise and respond to the challenges that children and communities face, and will continue to find new ways to play their part in helping to break the link between social disadvantage and lower academic attainment.

Teachers will demonstrate their commitment to the rigorous development of their knowledge and practice and support each others’ effective professional learning. The practice of teaching will be based on good research and evidence, and the searching out and testing new ideas and technologies, in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Teaching in 2012 will thrive in an environment that enables teachers to exercise informed professional judgement and allows good leadership to flourish.

Teachers will take responsibility for developing the collective knowledge and expertise of the profession, as part of a national and international professional community. The profession will work together to promote consistently high standards of practice to the benefit of all learners, everywhere.

Working with partners in education, health, social care and higher education, the profession will develop a shared knowledge and language about teaching, learning and child development. This will encourage wider public understanding of the expert knowledge that underpins teaching and allow it to be recognised, challenged and debated.

Teaching in 2012 will thrive in an environment that enables teachers to exercise informed professional judgement and allows good leadership to flourish. The challenges faced by teachers in their day to day practice will be recognised and the practice of teaching celebrated as a complex and creative activity. The experience and expertise of the profession will influence national and local policies for teaching and learning in the interests of all children and young people.
[/toggle][toggle title_open=”Appendix B – Target Strategy Ames (1992)” title_closed=”Appendix B – Target Strategy Ames (1992)” hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”]The Target Strategy (Ames, 1992) is an acronym for describing the characteristics of a learning environment that promotes a task and mastery focus. The acronym is expanded below:

  • Tasks – Focus on the learning and task involvement. Try to avoid emphasis on social comparison and competition, instead just simply focus on learning the new skill. This could be achieved by setting goals where the emphasis is on the process as opposed to the outcome.
  • Authority – Activities are centred on pupil involvement and discovery allowing pupils to make as much of a contribution to decision making within the lesson, for example pupils will devise their own effective warm up and so on.
  • Reward – Give rewards for individual improvement not social comparison for example reward the individuals that improved their successful number of set shots in basketball regardless of how many they achieved in comparison to other individuals.
  • Grouping – Manage the class in order to achieve cooperative groups having pupils working together to solve problems rather than competing against one another. When putting pupils into groups mixed ability, gender, and friendship groups have to be considered, the best formula is individual to each class and a matter of trial and error.
  • Evaluation – Throughout the lesson evaluate the tasks in order to give purpose to the activity. Evaluations must be focussed on the learning process and not the outcome.
  • Timing – Timing is an integral part in ensuring that the above are effective, for example giving positive feedback immediately after the performance or task to reinforce behaviour, or keeping the lesson at an appropriate pace with progression to prevent tedium setting in.

Photos by: University of Sheffield: Learning & Teaching Conference (featured and inline).

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