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

When OU tutors are asked how they came to develop their skills or extend their knowledge as teachers, they frequently list the following experiences:

  1. Training courses or events
  2. Materials – in print or online
  3. The influence of another person – in a presentation or by example in their practice, for example:
    • Feedback either from students or after observation by a colleague – an informal discussion with students or colleagues
    • In response to the changing demands of the job and/or the need for updating – in recognition of the distinction between development that is essential as opposed to desirable
    • Research or further study
    • Engaging in practitioner enquiry – into their own practice or by feedback on their performance.

You may be able to draw parallels here with the type of CPD you have undertaken in your current role(s).


Make a note of ways in which you have improved your own professional practice in your current role, in this case focus not on your subject expertise but on the related work skills and issues such as communications, project management or supporting others to succeed. This may have been through formal CPD events or by other less direct methods.

Of these, which do you feel is the most effective approach?

Could you envisage any difficulties in acquiring CPD in a distributed organisation such as the Open University?

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You may have focused on the informal learning you acquire ‘on the job’, and the types of experience and skill development which may arise naturally from working closely with others through observation and emulation. You may have cited more formal workshops or even an appraisal process which has provided feedback on your performance and directed you to acquire new skills. Your view on which of these is more effective will be personal to you.

You may be concerned that developing as a professional in a distributed organisation such as the OU would be problematic, given the limited opportunities to meet colleague face to face. However, if you are used to communicating with colleagues via online applications in your current role you may feel that new technology can be extremely effective in supporting professional development.

Whatever your views, they are unique to you and your past experiences will have affected your responses here.

When we asked groups of tutors to note the ways in which they have improved their own practice, four key points emerged, as shown in the diagram below.

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What also emerged from sessions with OU tutors was that there is a difference between:

• Development in terms of knowledge or skills that are essential – for example, when new electronic ways of handling processes such as running tutorial software or managing the electronic marking system are introduced.

• Development that the individual tutor personally identifies as a requirement – for instance, understanding the conceptual difficulties students face in understanding areas in the subject or finding out more about students’ responses to TMA feedback.

6.3 Continual professional development

6.4.1 Face-to-face CPD