Conventional models of professional development see expert led training tailored to the needs of individual teachers. We speak about continuing professional development (CPD) which records the experiences and learning of teachers, aiding future improvements in educational practices. 

However, Stephenson College based in the UK, has been exploring a different model: joint practice development (JPD).

This model has been successful in supporting outstanding teaching and learning. 

JPD has been defined by academic Michael Fielding as ‘learning new ways of working through mutual engagement that opens up and shares practice with others.’ It differs from CPD because it involves interaction and mutual development between individuals and organisations and it recognises that each partner in the interaction has something to offer. The process is also often informed by research, involving collaborative enquiry. 

With this in mind, Stephenson College paired with four other colleges and a group of creative professionals including web designers, animators, a film company and publishers to create a community of learning. By working together and sharing ideas, the hope was that this community would be able to improve practices in the creation of curriculum resources. 

All partner colleges were invited to training days and meetings ahead of the project, and were asked to contribute to the creation of new curriculum resources. Participants then met with creative professionals to discuss and share ideas about the best ways to create new resources. This included conversations about both skills and procedures that would aid the process. Once resources were created all colleges were involved in peer reviewing materials. Stephenson College collected both qualitative and quantitative data from partner colleges whilst also conducting an internal review with teachers. They also organised focus groups with learners to evaluate the outcomes of the project. 

Stephenson College found that embarking on a JPD approach was helpful in developing learning materials, and improving the skills of teachers. 

Resource development meetings – involving both vocational teachers and commercial design professionals – were highly productive in creating suitable resources. These meetings were particularly useful in the creation of innovative, digital resources combining the designers’ industry knowledge and the teachers’ awareness of what students need.  

The peer review process and involvement of different colleges was effective in allowing teachers to make a variety of improvements, encouraging reflection and the ability to learn from others’ experiences.

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