Professional Development (PD) is often a way to encourage engagement in training that enhances productivity. However, it is most successful when the person has ownership over the journey.

At Verdala International School (VIS) we have been collectively looking at what PD means to us, to gain a common understanding. We currently run professional growth conversations at the beginning and end of the scholastic year where personal goals are identified as well as how staff contribute to whole-school objectives. We always ask: “what do you need to help you grow?”

In some organisations there may be an expectation that PD is a time-bound element, perhaps paid in lieu if taken outside work time. However, with a change in ethos this notion has had to evolve, as educators tap into a range of variables that contribute holistically to professional growth.

Teachers traditionally used their prep-time to mark and plan independently. This is now becoming collaborative planning time, where teachers standardise their marking, think creatively together about units and produce assessments together. This creates both an aligned curriculum and cohesive experience for the student year groups.

Staff meetings are no longer town-hall events for housekeeping but are used to focus on specific topics, where teachers share good practice or develop their skills. Teachers teaching teachers can offer peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

In addition, another change in practice is the idea of employing an instructional coach, an on-site support to staff both in the classroom and beyond giving regular guidance and reflecting with the teacher rather than a top-down evaluation.

An Action Research Project aims for our staff to collaboratively come up with ways of improving student performance

With the COVID years came a boom of online opportunities: courses moved to online accessible modules over a few months (asynchronous) or intensive three-day events (synchronous). Bite-size webinars became readily available and often free.

Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, talks about a growth vs fixed mindset. “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

She sees learning as a continuum, that builds on each experience to grow our knowledge and understanding. When you apply this to workplace context, this would mean that each learning trajectory allows for failures and success and promotes a growth mindset that allows for conversations between the employer and employee to share that journey.

At VIS we have gone one step further with our in-house professional development as we have brought all our staff together to contribute on an Action Research Project – a whole-school initiative that aims for our staff to collaboratively come up with ways of improving student performance.

We crafted time for staff to discuss and familiarise themselves with new pedagogies to keep abreast with the latest developments in education. We chose to focus on ‘concept-based inquiry and differentiation’ so we can help our students to become more independent, self-directed, happy learners. These strategies fuel in our students the curiosity to learn and to apply their learning to local and global concepts. We hope that we are also empowering our staff to learn and adopt different techniques and skills.

Apart from this being a part of our accreditation requirement under the ‘Sustaining Excellence’ protocol, which is monitored by the Middle States Association, we are excited to open our doors to local educators, as we invite fellow schools in Malta to a symposium in May to share our learnings and findings.

Professional development can be about ticking a box, but recent years have shown that it is about continuous learning, collaboratively or independently within school and beyond. Even as adults we remain forever on a learning curve that keeps the trajectory moving, recognising that it is a pathway forwards that can be rewarding and stimulating.


Totty Aris is head, Verdala International School.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.