Great teaching and learning, the third in a series of publications commissioned by the 157 Group and the Institute for
Learning (IfL), has captured the mood of the sector to focus on high-quality teaching and learning and, we hope, steered a stimulating sector-wide debate.

The first, Leading learning in further education, found that providers should allow space for reflective practice and enter into a debate about great teaching and learning.

Leading learning and letting go, the second, suggested that great teaching and learning comes from innovation and from the creation of what Professor Lorna Unwin describes as ”expansive learning environments”, with enough space and time for teaching professionals to share and learn. It suggested that cultural change would be necessary, nurtured and supported by good leadership.

Now, Great teaching and learning, our latest piece of practitioner-based evidence and action research, adds another dimension to understanding the features that assist or hinder greatness in teaching.

It suggests that teacher professionalism is crucially about broader relationships, respect and networks, as well as the teaching and learning expertise directly used with learners in the classroom or workshop and workplace settings. The continuing development of these “soft” and critical skills requires nurturing – and recognising – by college and sector leaders.

As the Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning continues its work, and as Ofsted continues to have an increased focus on the quality of teaching and learning in colleges, this thought piece is timely. It provides, we believe, a picture of what those who matter the most – teachers and learners – believe great teaching and learning is about and how best it is nurtured.

The paper does not set out to consider any particular type of learning – “vocational” or “academic”, for example. Indeed, it would tend to suggest that there are many similarities in the fundamental elements involved, whatever the setting or focus. It does, however, establish and examine the distinctiveness of great teaching and learning in a vocational context and we will share this with the Commission, which is chaired by Frank McLoughlin.

We hope that college leaders will arrange similar “great teaching and learning” events in their own organisations, and have written the report to help them do this. We hope they will take the overarching threads from our publications and synchronise them with their own strategies. We know that many leaders and practitioners have already acted on our recommendations and found that they work, which we are delighted about.

The 157 Group and IfL will continue to lead thought in this vital area, in partnership with other sector membership bodies and with the support of the LSIS. Here is a flavour of what we have planned:

• Replication of the event in organisations around the country – feedback from the day suggests that it has already been a powerful motivator for change in a number of settings
• A follow-up seminar with the Institute of Education to examine specifically the leadership of vocational learning
• Embarking upon work with respected research and policy organisations to look further at the role played by effective continuing professional development, the development of innovative curriculum planning skills and the involvement of learners in curricular debates

The coming year will see more activities in these areas, so do watch out for them. If your organisation would like to run an event similar to the one described in the report, please contact andy.gannon@157group.co.uk or rachel.cooke@ifl.ac.uk. Even better, if you have a suggestion for something we should be doing or looking at in more depth, then let us know.

One thing is clear in the report; teaching and learning becomes truly outstanding when we share our knowledge and expertise in a professional way and truly serve the needs of our learners to benefit from excellent teaching and to succeed.