Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Vocational CPD Needs to Get Real

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Vocational CPD Needs to Get Real

Article excerpt

How can FE lecturers hope to educate pupils about work when their knowledge is out of date?

To say that professional development is not fit for purpose is not particularly revolutionary: it's a mainstream view these days. Yet we hear little in the way of alternatives. This can be especially true for vocational education teachers, who are too often lumped into academic CPD sessions that deliver nothing of use and can even be detrimental.

Academic teachers need to have subject knowledge and know how to teach; they present this knowledge, with the odd tweak dictated by syllabus changes, year after year. Industry teachers have a wider remit: subject knowledge and knowing how to teach by doing are a given, but they also need understanding of practice through personal experience, up-to-date industry awareness and familiarity with a range of competencies.

Back in business

So how should CPD for vocational teachers work? A friend of mine teaches film and media studies. He came into teaching after years of successful industrial experience and the first thing he did was to turn the BTEC specification into a film project. His enthusiastic 16-year-old students wrote scripts, selected musical scores, scouted locations, began a crowdfunding project, and begged and borrowed equipment via social media. They worked antisocial hours. They were cold, tired and furiously challenged. They learned on the job.

After two years, the students had produced a brilliant 82-minute feature film (bit.ly/ScrawlTrailer) that had trained them in every aspect of film production: acting, make-up, creative design, finance, promotion and numerous other skills.

What my friend needed to make the project succeed wasn't hours and hours of CPD on how to embed numeracy and literacy into lessons or how to teach entrepreneurship; he already had those skills. Focusing on the Ofsted framework, policies, procedures, schemes of work and learning plans would not have been useful.

Instead, this example shows that vocational teachers sometimes need to be resubmerged in industry to ensure they are giving students the best experience possible.

Skills, skills, skills

One of the most revealing CPD sessions I ran demonstrated this very point. It involved choosing units for a BTEC course. …

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