Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Collegial space and continuing professional development in community learning and development.

Keywords: Collegial space, Continuing professional development, Conceptions of competence, Community learning and development

Authors: Mr John Bamber (University of Edinburgh); Professor Lyn Tett (University of Edinburgh)

This paper concerns the early career and continuing professional development (CPD) of community learning and development (CLD) workers. The work of these professionals is changing significantly and now includes, for example, a stronger emphasis on geographical communities rather than communities of interest and the need to establish new forms of partnership working across a range of agencies. The changes are the result of a new political context for community-based educational work, caused by the creation of the Scottish Parliament and the need to stimulate and sustain public interest and confidence in its work. In broad terms, there is a new agenda for civic education and learning for democracy, and CLD has a particular contribution to make in this area. The paper explores the new agenda in terms of the ways that CLD practitioners make sense of who they are, what they do and how they do it. In analysing the content, level, direction and extent of the learning effort in relation to a range of influencing factors, it discusses the lack of CPD and other support opportunities available to staff. The paper shows how working alongside others enables staff to learn from each other, especially new practices and perspectives, and thus to bring fresh insights into their work. The main point is that staff development that builds on collegial relationships and collective identities would enhance the availability of support and advice from colleagues and enable CLD practitioners to meet together for mutual support and development. CPD is enhanced therefore, when practitioners have access to collegial spaces in which to develop thinking and the capacity for reflection.

The paper argues that there is a need to free up spaces for critical thinking in the working life of community learning and development workers. It will provoke fresh questions about CPD amongst practitioners, trainers and policy makers.

Date: Wednesday 23 January 2008, 12.00-12.30

Venue: Carrick One

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).