Thinking differently about professional learning in educational workplaces

In this climate of constant change and financial strain in education, how can we make sure that teachers remain passionate about their jobs? Rachel Lofthouse, Professor of Teacher Education at Leeds Beckett University, is a firm advocate for placing professional development at the heart of our schools and universities. To make this happen, she has set up a new hub for coaches and mentors to share their know-how.

Concerns about education in England are constantly hitting the headlines. School leaders and parents are fighting education budget cuts; there are worries about sustaining a qualified and committed workforce; there is genuine concern about children and young people’s mental health; and there are constant debates about the purpose of education for individuals, employers and society as a whole.

The teaching profession has to respond to constant challenges with confidence and intelligence. This is why I was appointed this year as Professor of Teacher Education at Leeds Beckett University.

One advantage of having worked in education for 27 years, in both schools and universities, is that I am able to take the long view, and also to be authentic in my working life.  I know that I have learned most in professional situations characterised by trust and challenge, where everyone’s voice is heard and we all aspire to achieve social justice for all.

My job is all about professional development and learning and the working environments that nurture, enable, or constrain, professional growth. You might assume that people working in schools, colleges and universities are lucky enough to have employers that understand learning so are excellent places for professional development.  And while this may be true in some organisations, it is not for all.

This is why I decided to set up CollectivEd: The Hub for Mentoring and Coaching at Leeds Beckett.  My ambition is that CollectivED will bring together practitioners and researchers in the field of mentoring and coaching to connect ideas, people and practices.

We want to use and create scholarship and research from a range of educational and professional settings.

What I am most excited about with CollectivED is its potential to cross boundaries and influence different areas of practice and research. We know that we can and should learn from business and enterprise but we don’t have to blindly mimic them. We are all about the power of people, to share, to support, to build trust, to reflect, to learn and to enable and empower.

We know that women are in the majority in the educational workforce in UK, but that they are under-represented in educational leadership, and that their average salaries (like in most professions) are lower than those of their male colleagues.

Many women take roles as mentors or coaches in schools and colleges, playing a key role in professional development and building learning cultures.  But they often do their work without the status of management, or without recognising it as having transformational leadership qualities. I hope my work as Professor of Teacher Education, and through CollectivED, can contribute to a wider acknowledgement of the professional expertise that women can bring to these roles and the opportunities for them to continue to improve their practice for the greatest impact.

You might view ColletivED as a manifesto for change, but it is also a powerful reflection of the values that I hold; values that have been forged through my professional and academic career, and that have been shaped by the people I have worked with and taught. It is constantly growing and evolving; so CollectivED (like each of us as individuals) is, and will always be, work in progress.

For more information follow @DrRLofthouse and @CollectivED1 on Twitter.


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