Why Teachers Need to Carry on Learning

By Noble-Rogers, James | The Independent (London, England), March 24, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Why Teachers Need to Carry on Learning


Noble-Rogers, James, The Independent (London, England)


Excellence in the classroom requires the very best training. So why has funding for the master's in teaching been cut? By James Noble-Rogers

It will have been difficult for those in the world of education not to have noticed the new Government's statements about raising the quality and status of teaching. Many people feel strongly that making teaching a master's level profession would help to achieve this goal. We know from research that master's level study is important not only for raising the status and professionalism of teaching but also in helping people to become better teachers.

Master's level teacher education, delivered in partnership between universities, schools and other partners, really does have a transformational impact on teachers, their colleagues and their schools. So it was disappointing to see that the Government has removed funding for new entrants to the Master's in Teaching and Learning (MTL). What the education community is now concerned about is the future of other master's programmes for teachers. The value that master's degrees bring - along with other accredited qualifications such as postgraduate diplomas - must be recognised by policy-makers and school leaders, and teachers should be encouraged and supported in engaging in further study.

While initial teacher training provides teachers with the critical skills to succeed in the classroom, a master's degree builds on those by encouraging teachers to follow critical, reflective, inspirational and innovative approaches to education and to take risks.

A master's qualification allows teachers the space for in-depth investigation of their subject, which not only instils them with greater subject knowledge but with wider professional knowledge. Teachers with master's qualifications have a better understanding of pedagogy, allowing them to continually improve their own teaching techniques. The qualification empowers educators to try out new strategies and to evaluate their success on classroom performance, which can help to breathe new life into schools.

Those teachers who study at master's level lead by example: a 2008 report into postgraduate professional development showed that teachers with a postgraduate education qualification were more confident in helping and supporting their colleagues and were engaged more effectively with other staff in professional discussions. All of which fosters a community that encourages sharing, discussion and the adoption of new ideas and approaches.

We welcomed Michael Gove's acknowledgements of the importance of continuing professional development last year. Indeed, accredited CPD is essential for making sure that the generation of teachers we have now, and those being trained to enter the profession, are the best they can possibly be. And encouraging teachers to take further postgraduate qualifications helps schools to foster a sustained relationship between CPD and professionalism. For CPD to really have an impact, master's degrees need to be a focus for schools and teachers.

The benefits of employing master's qualified teachers extend beyond individual circumstances. In the experience of universities and the schools they work closely with, teachers with higher qualifications are better at disseminating new techniques and information to colleagues. At a time when education policy is shifting drastically, our schools will also benefit from having colleagues at the cutting edge of educational changes.

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