Defining the Advanced Practitioner role
The starting point for developing the Advanced Practitioner Professional Development Programme was the research commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation to investigate and understand the role of Advanced Practitioners in Further Education and Training across England.
This research, by Tyler et al (2017), confirmed the value of the AP role in supporting sustainable, positive changes in teaching, learning and assessment and, therefore, quality improvement at the institutional level. It also revealed how cultures of performance management and quality improvement across the sector impact significantly on staff perceptions of the AP role and, consequently, the extent to which APs are empowered within the role and colleagues are willing to engage with the support that is offered.
Tyler et al describe three models of performance management and professional development that are commonly seen across the sector, and all three have been clearly visible, throughout this programme.
- The Deficit Model: focuses on teachers perceived as ‘under-performing’ and a reliance on graded teaching observations, targeted CPD and performance management measures.
- The Universal Model: recognises that even ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ teachers need to continually develop their professional practice, through critical reflection, peer-support and CPD. Perceived ‘under-performance’ is still, however, regarded as a management, as well as, a development issue and is subject to some form of performance-monitoring procedures.
- The Developmental Model: regards all teachers equally as needing to continually develop their professional practice and responds to identified ‘issues ‘as a development-need rather than a management issue. In this culture, peer-support and CPD does not therefore attract negative connotations.
Tyler et al conclude that the AP role can flourish within a development culture and, evidence would suggest, in a universal culture, whilst a deficit culture leads to perceptions of a blame culture and suspicion that the AP is simply a tool of a negative style of management. Anecdotally, AP delegates have told us that it is not uncommon for an unfavourable inspection to lead to a retrograde move, led by senior and middle managers, back towards the Deficit Model. Such a move, research would suggest, can only further damage morale and esteem, at a time when the natural innovation and collective power of teaching professionalism needs to be unleashed and harnessed in enabling sustainable quality improvement.
This preliminary research also highlighted some typical functions of the AP role, seen frequently across the sector together with some underlying values which were either stated explicitly or clearly implicit within their review. These were then encapsulated in the Six Functions and Seven Values of the AP Role.
Throughout the AP Development Programme, we believe that the Tyler et al (2017) research has been thoroughly exemplified and the AP role, together with our understanding of the organisational cultures in which they thrive, have been validated and endorsed. You may have also spotted the relevance of the seven values of the AP role in underpinning and supporting a more universal or developmental culture of professional development and quality improvement.
Joss Kang, Programme Director