Professional development in compulsory education: a move towards more collaboration, active participation and innovative partnerships


The Joint Research Centre recently published a report on Innovating Professional Development in Compulsory Education, the first part of a study which is designed to analyse practises aimed at improving teacher professional development.

This study, which comprises both desk research and a series of interviews, is based on thirty case studies which outline different professional development practices in European countries, including an example from the United States of America. The second part of this study, in which the main analysis will be reported, is to be published in 2019.

The main objective of this study is to examine what kind of practices are emerging to overcome the known barriers that hinder teachers from participating in professional development activities and that help them to meet today’s needs. Several trends emerged from this study, namely that approximately half of professional development courses are provided free of charge by public authorities,  two-thirds use mixed modes of delivery and one half use digital technologies.

Furthermore, seven labels are used to describe the focus of innovation of practices in this investigation: school as a learning organisation, empowering learners through a competence-oriented approach, innovating online delivery, re-inventing blended learning, engaging in first-hand experiences, innovating degree programmes, and innovating partnerships and new actors.

The findings show that professional activities are increasingly taking place onsite. Another developing trend is the introduction of hands-on experience to traditional online courses allowing teachers to experiment “onsite” with their newly acquired knowledge. A move towards professional development courses which require an active participation from the participants has been observed as well, including the practice of shadowing students or engaging the teacher directly in the same style of learning as students. There is also an increasing amount of forward-thinking partnerships such as business education alliances and the creation of collaborative workspaces within schools.

Standing firm that education is a public good which should be accessible to all, ETUCE  warns against the dangers of such innovative partnerships and reiterates its stance against the privatisation of education systems. Furthermore, this report fails to mention the role that social partners, such as education trade unions, play in providing professional training courses across Europe. A survey recently conducted by ETUCE, as part of its project on Strengthening the Capacity of Education Trade Unions to Represent Teachers’ professional Needs in Social Dialogue, demonstrated that nearly two-thirds (62.1%) of education trade unions in Europe provide training for professional development to its members. ETUCE also published guidelines as part of this project, which call for, amongst others, high quality, publicly-funded professional development which supports the autonomy of teachers and freedom of pedagogy and didactics.