Most teachers have sat in a hall, all together and been talked ‘at’ regarding a whole school priority. The thing that the latest Ofsted report said we should focus on: ‘boys’, ‘differentiation’ or ‘starters’. It may have been presented in a funny, engaging, anecdotal manner, with laughter and nods from the audience.
But what impact does it have? How does it change what we do for the better? How is the impact of this ‘training’ measured? Can it be measured?
I am fed up with the lack of differentiation with CPD. Could it be that I am able to teach boys, differentiate effectively and am brilliant with starters*? Could it be that what I need to work on is something that no-one else in my school does? **
If we are saying that students deserve a differentiated lesson, can have different special needs and have individual targets, then why isn’t this carried through to our teachers?
Some schools offer a programme of training sessions throughout the term. At first glance it looks like a nice range of sessions. ‘How to use excel as a mark book’, ‘Questioning’, or ‘Dealing with disengaged, school action plus girls who are FSM’. However, the small print says ‘You must choose 6 sessions per term’. It’s irrelevant if you don’t need to work on 6 of these. You just have to choose 6. Isn’t this similar to giving students a ‘choice’ of targets but none of them actually meet their need?
And how are these evaluated in terms of impact on practice? Either a register to prove you were there or as David Weston calls them something like a ‘happy’ questionnaire. A small questionnaire completed directly after the session mostly based on how enjoyable the session was rather than whether it was relevant to your practice and the potential impact it may have on practice. They’re not evaluated a month/3 months/6months /a year after the session to find out the actual difference it made.
And then there’s the ‘You’re good at it so you can lead the training’.That’s your CPD sorted isn’t it? Well no it isn’t. Whilst I love supporting colleagues and sharing ideas, it isn’t meeting my needs for developing MY teaching. Back to the student analogy, it is my pet hate of putting the most able student as the group leader to help the other students. They already know what they’re doing so they can ‘teach’ the rest of their group. Lovely. But what did they learn? Yes they developed their leadership skills……and?! We should use people’s expertise, especially those who are on the upper pay scale or with leadership posts BUT we must also provide targeted support for their own development.
So what is the way forward and why are schools reluctant to change?
Many schools like to say that their teacher’s PM/appraisal targets inform the CPD programme. However if this were 100% true the job of organising this programme would be immense in some schools. If you have 100+ teaching staff this could be 300+ targets.
I think that leaders are scared to ‘let go’. How can they justify the CPD provision? Isn’t it easier to present a nicely presented programme of sessions ( to anyone who is checking) than to try to evidence 100+ individual ‘programmes’? It’s a leap of faith to trust your colleagues to take control of their own CPD. What about those, who like some students, cannot ‘work independently’? How can SLT ‘prove’ they’re working on whole school priorities if people aren’t being made to engage in whole school training?
Something needs to change across education so that all schools run personalised, truly developmental, accountable CPD. The concept of ‘whole school priorities’ should change. The idea that 2 hours after school on a Monday night for CPD must change. Attending a session is not enough. Measuring the impact must be an essential part of the CPD.
The future of CPD
- Twitter has taught me that my CPD is in a teacher’s own hands. I have spent £100s 2013/14 on going to events that meet my needs. But do all teachers know what is out there? In the past year I have taken part in webinars, TeachMeets, network meetings, weekend conferences, Saturday conferences. Shouldn’t it be up to me when I do my CPD? Why does it have to be Monday after school?
- A professional portfolio– it should be my responsibility, I should be held to account with it. It should have a minimum expectation. It should use a wide range of evidence. Could be based around the teacher standards? Keeping it update is CPD in itself as it requires reflection and identification of areas for development.
Here is mine that I keep personally. It can include space for student work, videos of me teaching and anything else that contributes to my development.
Here are the possible sources of evidence for the professional portfolio.
- Coaching – if any CPD is to truly focus around my needs in my classroom then coaching in its purest form will help to identify and work areas to develop. I’ve also heard that Lesson Study has the potential to move forwards T&L.
- Working with others – not just in school but with other schools. Any school. Not just those in an alliance or pyramid. I should be able to work with anyone that can help me move forwards. Getting into another school for a few days a year should be compulsory, for everyone (support staff, LSAs, teachers, SLT and the Headteacher)
- Subject networks – These are especially important in subjects with traditionally small amounts of staff. I should be able to meet with subject colleagues AND it be recognised as CPD.
- The role of T&L/CPD coordinator must change – I would argue that this is a huge job to organise and monitor but with effective line management and middle leaders monitoring it should not revolve around this person organising Monday night sessions.
- CPD funding – I suggest we move to a system where each member of staff is given their own CPD budget. I can then use this how I need. It may include buying relevant books, petrol to visit another school or supply cover for me to go somewhere. It should all link in to my personal priorities. It should be reviewed at the end of the year as part of my professional portfolio.
- Reading – I admit it. I’ve started to read education stuff this year. It’s since I’ve taken control of my own CPD. I’ve heard people mention books and blogs. These have directly impacted my practice. Should we be encouraging all staff to spend time reading appropriate texts rather than sitting in a room listening to someone?
- The only ‘whole school’ training should be on the compulsory Health & Safety and safeguarding etc
- Evaluation and measuring impact – the professional portfolio could cover this in a reflection section or a blog. What CPD have you undertaken and what impact has it had over different periods of time? It could be supported with images, video clips, student work to show etc to show the subtle evolution of practice.
I know there are schools that don’t do the whole school sessions any more but I think there are still too many that aren’t treating their teachers in the way that they’re telling staff to treat their students. Learning is learning, it doesn’t matter how old you are.
* I hate the concept of a starter anyway.
** I admit I have special needs. I am the kid who you have to think completely differently for. Most ASTs I’ve met are the same. We’re ASTs for a reason but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need training. Our teaching isn’t perfect. We can all learn.(I am aware this sounds arrogant but it genuinely isn’t meant to be)
Following #NTENRED I would like to add the following to what teachers can do:
Research – Whether alone or in pairs/groups, research has the potential to directly make a difference in the classroom. A teacher should choose the focus based on their own needs and interests.
I believe Mary Myatt used the term ‘micro research’ in her presentation. I think this is the small changes or ‘tweaks’ we make in our teaching. Some teachers do this unconsciously, particularly if they’re reflective on their practice. This should be encouraged but not made into an onerous task.
Alternatively, if staff feel they have the capacity they could complete a more structured action research project.
David Weston said in his session said that effective CPD should take place over a large amount of hours 30-40? Doing this kind of research would easily take this time and have the potential to make significant individual differences.