Catching Fire – Is Masters the way forward?

One of the more interesting aspects of the Donaldson report was the notion that new teachers – in ITT and Probationary Years – should be given the opportunity to study at Masters from the get go.

‘Masters level credit should be built into ITE qualifications, induction year activities and CPD beyond, with each NQT having a Masters Account opened for them’  p.76 Donaldson report 2010

I assume the thinking behind that is that, eventually, all teachers will be educated at Masters level and more equipped for Professional Development in the future. Seems noble enough, in theory anyway.

So it was a wee tingle of jealousy when I spoke to one of those new teachers embarking on a new career, while beginning a Masters level course at the same time. I saw the enthusiasm for teaching coupled with a fascination for learning so often missing in newer teachers in my experience; and in that moment saw a possible future of Scottish education. How might my career have differed if I had been given the same opportunity? How might I have avoided the hours and hours of meaningless development sessions which have had no impact whatsoever?

That brief meeting encouraged this blog post because it reminded me of why I do the work I do and why I engage so much in Professional Enquiry now. And on the day when the Research Ed Conference is taking place in London has there ever been a more important time to get involved in that?

I would guess that the reason I have been so involved in Pedagoo, Teachmeet, Blogging, Twitter etc is because I’m trying to claw back all of the years of Professional Development I’ve wasted. I’ve travelled to Stornaway, London, Newcastle to be in a room with great teachers in order to wipe out the memories of days sat in front of a Powerpoint listening to the latest edubabble that will change my life and my practice, only to be disappointed. I’ve changed from being passive in my acceptance of development offered to active, at times, rabid, in my pursuit of things I want learn and questions I need answered.

Donaldson’s hope that all teachers will eventually be educated at Masters level only really makes sense if there is an implicit desire for research and embedded continuing development on the part of the educational establishment. I would worry that it would be seen as a badge of honour; one which became part of a hierarchy.  Regardless of the implications of cost and time the conditions need to be created for every teacher to do this. Unless the Scottish Government is willing to support this and the profession is committed to that then I would be concerned over its long term success.

As one who recently started on a Masters programme I am only too aware of the difficulties and pressures in terms of time that that can bring. It is an intimidating thought for teachers to re-enter academia. However, if we are to see ourselves as a true profession then it will be important to grasp the opportunity to to embed research and enquiry into our practice. Donaldson seems to have suggested a way forward. Perhaps it is up to us as front line teachers to take up the challenge.

3 thoughts on “Catching Fire – Is Masters the way forward?

  1. The ITEs are well engaged with Donaldson, Kenny, not just for the student teachers but also in developing partnership programmes to support teachers at all stages of their careers. What you saw in that new teacher is that subtle but fundamental shift in mindset compared with those who did their teaching degree or PGDE a decade ago (*ahem*).

    Whilst teachers are a little bit in “I’m too busy clearing the swamp to worry about alligators” mode as they get to grips with the (r)evolution in the Scottish curriculum, the first rays of professional update are piercing the canopy.

    If teachers want to find out more about it, start with the GTCS: and then have a conversation with a new probationer. Oh, and make sure you’re keeping a decent, well documented and reflective CPD log.

    “He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.” – Leonard da Vinci

    • Cheers Nick
      Yep, fully aware that things are a -changing. And not before time. rest of us need to step up a wee bit now.
      Thanks for the reply.
      see you at SLF Teachmeet?

  2. I figured that you’d be up to speed, Kenny: readers of your blog may not be. The shift from “a job for life” to recertification is something that has passed many by, though, judging by recent conversations I’ve had with teachers.

    Thanks for the reminder: I’ve just signed up for a 7-minute slot at #TMSLF2013. See you then!

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