6.3 Continual professional development

Continual professional development (CPD) or educational development/academic professional practice as it can sometimes be called, has become much more prominent in the higher education (HE) sector since the 1990s.

In 2003, The Future of Higher Education White Paper proposed a UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning (UK PSF) was needed. The UK PSF [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] was launched in 2006 and revised in 2011.

The UK PSF aims to foster professional approaches to supporting learning. Another key objective is to make students and other stakeholders aware of the professionalism that the staff bring to their teaching. Further, it provides a means of demonstrating that professional standards are supported through an institution’s development programmes.

For staff entering Higher Education without a previous background in teaching the UK PSF can be a daunting read. It’s easy to feel that the areas of teacher professional activity are alien and somewhat impenetrable. However, it is perfectly possible to enter teaching and acquire the required skills ‘on the job’ provided tutors bring their own development needs to the fore in the first few years.

CPD and The Open University

Professional development is not an ‘event’ or something that is delivered to tutors. All staff must take responsibility for their own learning and development as professionals. However, the OU has a very strong commitment to helping staff develop their skills and expertise in teaching and supporting learning.

As a result, it provides a rich range of resources to assist tutors in doing this, as detailed below:

  • A wide range of web-based resources to support tutors in their teaching – for instance, on supporting diversity or disability

  • Resources provided by the module team to assist tutors in preparing their tutorials or with correspondence tuition

  • The Development Fund, which enables tutors to apply for funding to support attendance at a conference or to undertake other developmental activities or studies

  • Access to a fully online academic library

  • A fee waiver for OU modules so tutors can take most OU modules/qualifications at no charge including the opportunity to complete a research degree

  • Support to conduct pedagogic research via funding and staff development provided by eSTEem: The OU Centre for STEM pedagogy.

And most importantly, the OU provides a full programme of development activities specifically to support tutors in their work. These activities can take place face-to-face in a variety of venues or online and enable tutors to get together with each other and with their line managers to support and to share best practice.

These hugely enjoyable events bind together OU staff into a diverse and rich academic community where explorations of the best way to tutor our students and to support their learning are the key focus of discussions.

6.2.3 For the mentee

6.4 Ways of developing as an OU tutor – what tutors say