Defining Professional Development

Identifying and describing different types of professional development

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Five core values underpinning engagement with professional development

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Five distinct areas to assist staff to explore how they may structure their development as teachers

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Reflective Practice

Encouraging participants and institutions to consider ongoing, career-long professional development

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Defining Professional Development

One of the key aspects of the PD Framework is its recognition of various forms of professional development. Following consultation across the sector, a national consensus was reached on the description of four different forms of professional development. Professional development can be accredited or non-accredited. Non- accredited professional development can be collaborative, structured or un-structured. These agreed descriptions provide a useful framework for encouraging those engaging with the Framework to think about the range of potential activities that constitute professional development.


  • Collaborative and Non-Accredited
  • Informal
  • Conversations with colleagues, peer networking, peer observations, online blog or discussion forum
  • Collaboratively led


  • Unstructured and non-accredited
  • Non-Formal
  • Reading articles, following social media, self-study, watching video tutorials, keeping a teaching journal or portfolio, preparing an article for publication
  • Individually led


  • Structured and non-accredited
  • Non-Formal
  • Workshops, seminars, MOOCS, conferences, summer schools, structured collaborative projects
  • Led by an Institution, Network, or a Membership Body


  • Accredited
  • Formal
  • Professional certificate, Graduate Diploma, MA, PhD, EdD in Teaching and Learning, eLearning, Leadership in Education, education policy
  • Accredited and affiliated programme of study


The PD Framework is underpinned by five core values, agreed by staff across the sector.

  • Inclusivity: The framework is for all staff who teach, regardless of their employment contract, the stage they are at in their career, or their professional identity. It is just as relevant to learning support staff and management as to lecturers at different stages in their careers.
  • Authenticity: The Framework recognises that professional development must allow for genuine and personally-relevant engagement; opportunities for professional development must be real, useful and valuable to individuals in their practice.
  • Collaboration: Although focused around individual staff, the approach supported by the Framework emphasises the social learning that is key in a workplace context. Being continuously productive in busy academic roles can be overwhelming, so having the support of colleagues through engagement with the Framework can be important in encouraging peer dialogue, mentoring and sharing of learning.
  • Scholarship: The Framework encourages staff to be informed on, knowledgeable about, and have the capacity to contribute to the evidence-base of their teaching. Helping staff to identify best practice in their disciplines goes hand in hand with adopting innovative evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning.
  • Learner-centredness: If those who teach in higher education are always encouraged to be student-centred in all that they do, then it naturally follows that the professional development opportunities provided for them must position the learner at the core.


The PD Framework identifies five distinct areas to assist staff to explore how they may structure their professional and personal development as teachers. These areas are called domains. The flexible structure of the Framework means that an individual or group may start with any of the five domains, as they complement each other. Engagement with the scholarship of teaching and learning is an underlying component of each of the five domains.

  • Domain 1 The Self At the core of the domains is the centrality of ‘the Self’, recognising that the professional and personal values that the individual brings to their teaching are pivotal in their development as a teacher.
  • Domain 2 Professional Identity, Values and Development in Teaching and Learning focuses on the consideration of professional and/or disciplinary identity in given contexts. The domain supports critical reflection, recognising that an individual’s professional identity can change at different stages of their career.
  • Domain 3 Professional Communication and Dialogue emphasises the importance of excellent, clear and coherent communication skills within the changing learning environment.
  • Domain 4 Professional Knowledge and Skills ensures the individual remains current in terms of their professional/disciplinary knowledge and can implement teaching, learning and assessment approaches which promote active learning and are underpinned by a strong evidence base.
  • Domain 5 Personal and Professional Digital Capacity recognises explicitly that we live and work in a digital world, and that teachers must develop digital skills that allow them to harness the potential of technology for learning impact.

Reflective Practice and Personal Development Portfolio

The PD Framework encourages participants and institutions to consider professional development as an ongoing, career-long engagement with any stage in their professional lives.

The Framework recognises the value of supporting individuals to think about their current knowledge and experience (reflection on experience) in addition to developing their capacity to shape and plan their future learning (reflection to improve action). This cyclical, considered approach to professional development is called reflective practice. Reflection is also closely associated with the scholarship of teaching and learning and involves consideration of both experienced and research-based instructional, pedagogical, disciplinary and curricular knowledge. One of the significant findings of the initial implementation of the Framework was the transformative and empowering impact of the structured approach to reflective practice.

Central to the success of reflective practice is the development of a Personal Development Portfolio (PDP). A PDP is an active working and learning space where a participant may collect, share, and create experiences and resources that are useful for thinking about and evaluating their own professional practice. A PDP may be a journal, a blog, a video, a podcast or any platform where information may be gathered and/or shared. Participants acknowledged that creating and maintaining a PDP was time-consuming but also enabled deep, evaluative thinking about their discipline, pedagogical approach, techniques, skills and future goals.

Professional Development Publications

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Professional Development Projects

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Professional Development Mapping Tools

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