The Education and Training Foundation’s own data (2017) reveal that 60% of FE and SKills staff are not engaging in any annual CPD and the average amount of professional learning undertaken by tutors in vocational education is as low as 7 hours. If true, this has serious implications for professional currency and quality of learning for students. Conversely, informal professional networks both in the form of events such as weekend, face-to-face conferences and educators’ online communities such as Tutor Voices and #UKFEchat are thriving, with both the number of networks and participant numbers growing. They have been called ‘rhizomatic’ in nature (Siemens, 2011) and certainly seemed to be replicating the attributes of these plants in terms of proliferation.
This contradictory picture requires us to ask the question ‘are teachers in FE really no longer undertaking CPD’? Perhaps instead their professional learning, by their own choice, has changed in form as they reject an agenda of surveilled performativity (O’Leary, 2014) and turn their backs on instrumentalist, tick box (Coffield: 2017:2015:2008, Coffield & Edwards, 2009) or ‘sheep dip’ (Wiliam, 2009:2012) professional development sessions imposed upon them by managers in favour of informal learning undertaken to their own agenda and often in their own time.
My research (described in the next topic on this form) is currently at a formative, yet exciting, stage as I have completed the background, rationale and literature review chapters, which draw heavily on the work of Sennett (2009), and the discussion of personal ontology. I am presently finalising the chapter on methodology and research questions. By the time the research meet is held, I hope to be in the thick of data collection and will be very keen to engage participants at the event in this as well as discussing the process and early findings of the research itself.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
I am undertaking a MPhil through the University of Sunderland, funded by ETF as part of their Research Development Programme. Eschewing the more traditional research methods of questionnaires and focus groups, the research will use an approach founded on the concept of connective ethnography. It will use a netnographic (Kozinets, 2015) investigation into the professional learning and community activities being undertaken educators’ online professional learning networks, followed by a series of 1-1 interviews with key contributors to these networks.
Its purpose is to establish the value to educators of participating in informal networks in terms of effectiveness of professional learning. It will also enquire whether the CPD being undertaken in these informal events serves the organisations that the practitioners working for and aids educators in meeting the professional standards put in place by ETF.
Kozinets, R. V. (2015) Netnography: Redefined. London: Sage.
Marsden, P.V (2005) Recent Development in Network Data Measurement in Carrington et al (2005) Models and Methods in Social Network Analysis. New York, Cambridge University Press. pp 8-3
Siemens, G. (2011) Rhizomes and Networks [MP3 audio] Recording of lecture at Learning Technologies Centre. Available from: http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=329. Accessed on 27/11/2017.
Resources for participants