Learning from the impact on education of second-career teachers’ industry insights

Kilbourne (2005) maintains that “as they progress towards ‘teacherhood’ second career teachers draw regularly upon their skills, insights and understanding gained from a diversity of work place experiences…”[i]

Fairweather and Paulson (1996) concluded from their research that “[University lecturers] with industrial experience spend a greater percentage of their time on teaching above and beyond their work assignment… [and] that efforts to enhance the value of teaching in engineering and the natural sciences [should add] experience in industry as an important criterion in hiring new [staff]….”[ii]

It seems reasonable to infer from this that if first-career teachers or others are given professional training, exposure to industry, etc., they would also utilise their extra skills, insights & understanding of the world of work to deliver better teaching outcomes.  This reinforces Spark’s anecdotal experience over the past 33 years of supporting a wide range of opportunities for teachers to engage with industry.


Enquiry based, active Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers

Dadds (1997) argues that the expertise of the well-educated teacher must lie at the heart of continuing professional development if the best of educational reform initiatives are to be implemented in the pursuit of educational improvement … Her research draws upon material from case stories of teachers undergoing profound changes of understanding as a result of enquiry-based continuing professional development.[iii]

Hughes (1998) studied how, with financial and administrative support from outside bodies, 70 FE colleges had supported 848 staff placements with Education Business Partnership (EBP) or Training Enterprise Council (TEC) support.  They experienced a range of benefits.[iv]

Gareth et al (2001) research found that teachers say CPD based on “content knowledge and active learning” helps them to increase knowledge, skills and change classroom practicee.  This further reinforces the case for investment in industry/business experience to strengthen teachers’ content knowledge, leading to better teaching outcomes.[v]  The sample size of 1027 maths and science teachers make the results statistically significant.


CPD for STEM teachers

The Roberts’ Review (2002)[vi] argued that “CPD is vital in improving science teachers’ understanding of, and ability to teach, all areas of science – particularly those related to contemporary issues discussed in society and the media that are most likely to capture pupils’ interest. CPD also allows science teachers to stay in touch with the latest developments in their specialist subjects, which can be an important retention mechanism.”  He also noted that “pupils’ access to initiatives that can enhance their learning (for example, trips to science centres), significantly affect the desire of pupils to study particular subjects.”

Ten years on and the National Science Learning Centre (NSLC) that Sir Gareth Roberts report helped encourage, focuses on providing:

  • a focus on high quality experiences that embed what is known about effective CPD for long term impact in classrooms;
  • working in partnership with schools and colleges, expert teachers, scientists and science educators; and
  • through CPD, improving pupils’ engagement and achievements in science.

NSLC advise that an accumulation of research evidence shows that effective professional development is that which is:

  • relevant to teachers’ needs – teaching science to their pupils in their institution;
  • collaborative, with teachers working together and with experts on shared issues;
  • sustained and continuing throughout a teacher’s career;
  • involving teachers accumulating, articulating and communicating professional knowledge of science and science pedagogy; and
  • embedded in the culture of the institution.

In NSLC’s 2011-12 Impact Report[vii] they conclude that:

  • 95% of teacher participants improved their knowledge, understanding and skills
  • 90% of teacher participants improved their practice
  • 86% showed impact on pupils
  • 64% demonstrated wider impact on their school or college

NSLC argue in a more detailed impact study[viii] that this is backed up by four independent studies quantitative evaluations (2090 participants) that point to high levels of impact on individuals, for example:

  • improved knowledge and understanding: 67–85%
  • changed practice: 53–73%


Practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips

Reviewing the area of school science lessons and field trips, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2011) recommended strongly that: “Ofsted report on how effectively schools provide opportunities for their science teachers to stay up to date with their science specialism, specifically in attendance of externally provided subject training, as part of Schedule 5 inspections under the current heading of “The effectiveness of leadership and management in embedding ambition and driving improvement”. “[ix]

The committee’s report also details submissions from various bodies that conclude that experienced teachers who keep on top of their subject are the capable, confident teachers who provide teaching which makes a difference.


Learning from best practice in secondments

The Spark! Factor/ KICKSTART could be conceived as providing a ‘micro-secondment’ for teachers. A 2009 study commissioned for LSIS[x] looking at the effectiveness of secondments recommended:

  • The focus of secondment should address identified and validated needs to meet the requirements of learners, employers and the organisation.
  • Secondees should follow a systematic model to maximise the impact of secondment and improve the quality of teaching and learning.
  • A detailed action plan is needed to:
    • manage the placement and make the process more active;
    • identify the most appropriate timing of processes and resource collection; and
    • achieve the planned outcomes.
  • Secondees should maintain a reflective log … including how they will bring about capacity building and support colleagues when they return to their own organisations.
  • A detailed report needs to be produced following secondment that:
    • links back to the original aims and objectives including QA and HR requirements;
    • supports a wider discussion of teaching and learning and how it might be improved;
    • leads to the recognition of CPD needs of colleagues and the production of appropriate CPD resources;
    • indicates how outcomes of secondment will be used to develop the curricula; and
    • suggests what learner-facing resources might be produced and the range of pedagogies that support them.
  • Processes are required for peer-to-peer support mechanisms to embed outcomes of secondment into their own practice.
  • Consideration of the monitoring of knowledge transfer including their colleagues’ reflection and the production and/or development of learner-facing resources is needed.
  • Processes for the collection and interpret of impact are required to evaluate the success of secondment.

[i] Kilbourne, B; Keating, C; Murry, K and Ross, I. (2005). Balance feedback and inquiry: how novice observers (supervisors) learn from inquiry into their own practice. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 20(4), 298-318 cited in Etherington,M.B.(2009) Swapping the Boardroom for the Classroom, Australian Journal of Teacher Education,, Accessed: 13 August 2013

[ii] Fairweather, J. and Paulson,K. (1996) Industrial Experience: Its Role in Faculty Commitment to Teaching, Journal of Engineering Education, Volume 85, Issue 3,  pp. 209–215,, Accessed: 15 August 2013

[iii] Dadds,M. (1997) Continuing professional development: nurturing the expert within, Journal of In-service Education, Volume 23, Number 1, pp. 31-38(8),, Accessed: 15 August 2013

[iv] Hughes, M. (1998) Learning with business: FE secondments to business and industry, Further Education Development Agency,, Accessed: 15 August 2013

[v] Garet et al (2001) What Makes Professional Development Effective? Results From a National Sample of Teachers, American Educational Research Journal, pp. 915-945,, Accessed: 15 August 2013

[vii] Project ENTHUSE- National Science Learning Centre,, Accessed: 15 August 2013

[viii] Impact of Science Learning Centre CPD a synthesis of the evidence,, Accessed:15 August 2013

[ix] House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2011), Practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips – Ninth Report of Session 2010–12, pg 18 and 33 (Para 55),, Accessed: 13 August 2013

[x] ‘Exploring secondment as a potential means to improving teaching and learning in engineering’ commissioned for LSIS (2009), Accessed: 15 August 2013