Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.

The role of the University in the professional learning of educators

 In this blog, we hear from Bex Ewart, Quality Improvement Education Officer (Early Years) at the City of Edinburgh Council, who is currently undertaking the part-time MEd Leadership and Learning with Moray House School of Education and Sport. 

How has the University become a space for your professional learning? 

I have tried to imagine other experiences or opportunities that could offer a similar breadth, rigour, challenge and quality of development and I’ve not yet been able to come up with any.  The MEd affords me the space to think, interact and collaborate with other senior leaders across authorities and sectors.  Within the space of the university there are explicit expectations of us, as students and professionals.  These include considered criticality, an expectation of challenge and robust debate, professional respect and the support for us to develop our capacity to sit with intellectual discomfort. 

This space and interactions allowed me to interrogate my identity as an educator, consider my values and motivations and begin to dance the political dance in my day job. Taking the time to explore, critically examine professional learning away from my day job, and in far broader company than my own Early Years silo affords has been invaluable. 

How did you find the process of critically reflecting on education?  

This process is challenging, confronting and at times unsettling; I have learnt to be professionally and personally vulnerable.  In blunt terms I am grounded by foundational beliefs and values that are carefully and critically examined.  Having these anchors gives me the space and confidence to explore, reflect, adopt, experiment and play with new concepts, approaches, ideas and positions. I can choose to integrate, adapt or reject new things with confidence and a rationale based on research, theory and policy.  In my experience this level of reflection is not supported in other spheres of the system.

The physical, intellectual and relational space that the university affords has, in my view, the capacity to support the system to build strong, shared foundations that can then provide the security for informed experimentation and approaches during this period of reform.  Relationships with other educators in a variety of contexts and stages in the Master’s programme offer new lenses to consider familiar issues, and a relational space to suggest, test and critically evaluate thinking. 

What new understandings of education have you developed? 

I think educators are being asked to navigate a treacherous and murky landscape, although it is worth noting that we do not have to navigate a system with political influences. We have systems and structures that were developed in an age where compliance and particular ideas about teaching, learning, children and childhood informed the design of the system for example, bells, power, linear hierarchy.  

Our policy landscape and curriculum require teachers to enable children to lead their own learning. Shifting pedagogies require teachers to reconsider their role and identity, using spaces, experiences and interactions as a whole to deliver (offer, construct, explore?) the curriculum.  I don’t believe that this tension has been acknowledged and as a result teachers have not had the support, time and space to navigate these demands.  Teaching is “a very complicated activity which requires us to think, act and make judgements by habit much of the time.” (Kemmis et al 2014).  The habits informing these judgements are intricately intertwined with and influenced by the teacher’s professional identity.  

Exploring and critically engaging with unexamined and broadly unchallenged features of the system is complex and can involve questioning received wisdom and practice of those who are more senior, or further up the hierarchy.  This is one aspect of professional learning as activism that I experience in my role. At first I regarded it as necessary but uncomfortable; but this is evolving to be something that I embrace and brings me professional and personal fulfilment.  

What personal challenges did you encounter? 

Entering into postgraduate study while working requires a conscious decision to make and protect time for one’s own professional learning.  This decision is influenced by a number of factors including the financial means to meet the fees of the modules.  I am privileged to be one of the last educators to benefit from government funding to cover the bulk of the £3500 fees for each module, but it is worth noting that with the exception of ‘Into Headship’ [course], I have paid £650, which is a sum that may exclude many.  Although I have identified important, transformational and fulfilling positives of engaging in professional learning at this level, it can also be extremely challenging, difficult to juggle, and requires a significant time commitment.  I am worried that removing financial support to access learning at this level will make engagement at this level far less attractive.

I believe that the system, educators and our children need deep and critical reflective dialogue between educators with the skills that in my experience are developed through the MEd experience.  I have not come across professional learning that offers a similar, or even near, skillset.  A reduction in the numbers of those who engage at this level will hamper considered, strategic, sustained reform. 

What is your impression of Master’s study for educators, now and in the future?  

The ‘third space’ of the university gives educators the tools, understanding, confidence and support to explore issues, positions and norms.  I am now in my 5th year of engagement with learning at this level with peers across stages and roles; dialogue and debate with my peers in this space has been crucial to my development and understanding of issues across education.  Through anecdotal evidence I think that other participants have experienced significant shifts in their development as a result of the MEd; I am optimistic about the future of education across Scotland because there are practitioners and leaders across sectors, roles and locations who have engaged in learning at this level. 


Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R., Nixon, R. (2014). A New View of Practice: Practices Held in Place by Practice Architectures. In: The Action Research Planner. Springer, Singapore.  


Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.