Time and time again, research shows that teacher quality is by far the most
important factor in driving up standards in schools. Effective ongoing professional
development is key to ensuring that teachers perform to the best of their abilities,
keep abreast of new developments, and adapt their practice to take account of
The UK government, like many others, has taken this message to heart. Underlining
its commitment to improving teacher quality in its 2010 white paper, The
Importance of Teaching, it has introduced a range of measures in this area, including
changes to Initial Teacher Training and the introduction of new Teaching Schools.
The government also recognises the importance of encouraging and enabling
teachers to learn from each other, stating that ‘we know that teachers learn best
from other professionals and that an ‘open classroom’ culture is vital: observing
teaching and being observed, having the opportunity to plan, prepare, reflect and
teach with other teachers.’
Many teachers and school leaders would applaud this focus, and are already one
step ahead. Using emerging technologies and social media tools, teachers are
beginning to take control of their own professional development, finding new ways
to learn from each other, to reflect on their own practice, and to develop learning
and support networks of like-minded professionals all over the world.
In the current constrained financial climate where, despite the best intentions,
CPD budgets are often the first to be cut, this type of low cost, self-directed
teacher development is interesting. Might the spread of such informal, peer-based,
online CPD help to support the government’s drive to raise teaching standards,
supplementing the larger scale plans at minimal additional cost? This paper explores
this question, seeking to understand:
• How are teachers and other educators currently using social media to aid their
professional development, and what do they and their students gain from it?
• What evidence is there for the benefits of peer-to-peer teacher CPD, and for
using social media in this way?
• What can teaching learn from industry in this respect?
Drawing on emerging academic research in this area, and on the experience of
trailblazing teachers, it recommends a number of ways in which school leaders
and policymakers can exploit the benefits of social media for teacher professional
Via GRIAL Univ Salamanca