Although Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has received great attention in recent years as a key strategy for improving the quality of teaching practices and student learning, concerns remain about the quality and sustainability of these practices. Throughout their professional careers, teachers have many opportunities to develop their skills, improve their practice and further their professional development. However, it seems that these opportunities are not appropriately created. Against this background, the study aimed to examine CDP in the field of physical education in Europe and identify the CPD practices evident in different European countries. We thought that identifying CDP practices could enhance our collective knowledge and improve the different CPD strategies, models and approaches implemented in Europe, as well as encouraging greater collaboration.
The study was part of an Erasmus+ project titled “Identifying best practice across physical education teacher education programmes: A European perspective” and was funded by the European Union. During the three-year project, the physical education teacher education (PETE) systems (initial, induction, and in-service) of Erasmus+ program countries were examined. We began by providing a brief overview of what we currently know about CPD internationally in general education and physical education.
Within the scope of the project, we first examined the general education and physical education literature to give a broad picture of CDP practices in European countries. Moreover, drawing on the work of Parker and Patton and Patton et al., we provide an overview of these key features of effective CDP. The main points that emerge for the CDP to be effective can be listed as follows:
1. Effective CPD is ongoing and sustained.
2. CPD based on teachers' needs and interests.
3. Effective CPD acknowledges teachers as learners in an active and social environment.
4. Effective CPD includes collaborative opportunities within learning communities.
5. Effective CPD enhances teachers’ pedagogical skills and content knowledge.
6. Effective CPD is facilitated with care.
7. Effective CPD is supported.
The findings of the research revealed a range of different applications of CDP, from central mandatory and decentralized optional opportunities. A number of differences also emerged in the aims, content, duration and format of the CDP experiences in different countries and the provision of support materials and resources to accompany these experiences. When the findings are examined, it is striking that there is no exact number of CDP hours required for teachers in some countries (for example, Bulgaria), and the time allocated to CDP between countries is very different (For example, 150 hours per year in Italy and 12 hours in Malta). Based on these findings, it can be said that the most common form of CDP is traditional Dynamic and patterned applications are rare. Moreover, there is considerable variation between countries in terms of duration, implementation and content. There are no strong clues regarding the sustainability of learning through CDP either. However, sustainability is a key inclusive and equitable practice defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4. The lack of sustainability certainly has implications as this should be an essential feature of any CDP offering in Europe.
It was expected that the EU, which seeks to set standards around many issues, would also seek to standardize the issue of CPD. Maybe the results of this study will provide policy makers with the incentive to address the disparities in CPD practice across the union. On the other hand, it can be said that the findings simply reflect the main features of effective CDP reported by Parker and Patton.
In conclusion, this study examined the current situation in Europe, providing modest insight into physical education teacher education programs and CDP providers. It is hoped that the work will form the basis for physical education colleagues in Europe to develop a CDP network based on efforts to share CDP practices, engage in discussions about these practices, and design collaborative research on such practices. Another remarkable result is that there is no pedagogical approach towards CDP in European countries. However, the signature pedagogies of Shulman may be one of the first steps for the CDP network to explore and develop. In this context, a range of signature pedagogies for learning can be developed in different CDP contexts internationally. Furthermore, CDP providers can establish criteria for how to analyze, evaluate and compare CDP policies and practices. This is important because open systems require feedback, questioning and critical thinking. In the future, it may be recommended to test CDP practices by conducting intercultural intervention studies and to develop a standard CDP program for European countries based on these studies.