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Elizabeth Holmes

CPD and the year ahead – the view from the TDT (Part 2)

'Learning never exhausts the mind.' – Leonardo Da Vinci

Following on from our recent blog on David Weston and the Teacher Development Trust, we discuss with David the key characteristics of effective CPD and what schools can do to raise the profile and standard of the CPD accessed by teachers.

Elizabeth: Last time we covered what effective CPD might look like and the blocks preventing schools from achieving it. What are the key characteristics of effective CPD that schools can work towards?

David: CPD needs to be collaborative, sustained and iterative through enquiry and experimentation. It needs to be focused on improving valued pupil outcomes, supported by external expertise that is differentiated for teacher experience and relevant for their work. It’s imperative that it is engaged with underlying theory, as well as practical application.

The Trust recommends the following tips to making CPD count:
  • Evaluate. Scrutinise CPD activities for short, medium and long term impact and revisit them regularly. If there is no expectation at individual or leadership level, ask why you are investing in it.
  • Plan. Make sure that staff CPD has a clear pathway of progress over the short, medium and long term and that it matches carefully monitored needs of everyone in the school.
  • Get real. Insist upon CPD activities having a rationale and focus. If a colleague is insisting upon a particular piece of CPD, ask why it needs to happen and what it is linked to in the wider context. Is it professional standards? The school development plan? Performance management objectives? Whole-school reporting? Career development focus?
  • Be demanding. Even if the topic isn’t that enthralling, don’t allow your staff to engage with dull, dry, uninspiring providers. If the learning is challenging, engaging and supportive the retention of knowledge will be better. Get feedback from your staff and listen to them!
  • Ask the right question. When thinking about evidence of impact, start with your vision for pupil learning and ask: ‘how did this activity help achieve it?’ Ask also, when contributing evidence to individual and whole school initiatives, ‘which, if any, of my CPD activities helped me to achieve this most effectively?’

There is an emerging link between a continual professional learning journey for teachers and improved educational outcomes for all. As the education landscape continues to change, we have the opportunity through Teaching School Alliances, Multi Academy Trusts and groups of individual schools to prioritise CPD and work together to improve our teachers and the outcomes of all our children and young people.

EH: Is there anything that schools can do to raise the standard of CPD accessed by staff?

DW: Schools need to ensure that they allow enough time for effective, focused professional dialogue and collaboration within the school. They can raise standards by using evidence-based quality external knowledge and expertise such as using the Trust’s Good CPD Guide to identify the best providers. They can also change the culture and process of professional learning through networks such as our National Teacher Enquiry Network (NTEN). Our work with schools has exposed gaps in schools’ strategic decision-making with accountability measures resulting in schools feeling pressured to complete CPD in response to Ofsted, league tables, data requirements and safeguarding. CPD should be built around the impact it can have on pupils.

EH: That’s very clear and offers schools excellent guidance on getting CPD right for teachers. The big question is, where next for CPD?

DW: CPD is a valuable part of professional career development, but we need more professional collegiate discourse; a greater focus on the team and less on the individual, with more reference to – and understanding of – the approaches that have worked elsewhere. We also need a far greater engagement with theory. Over the summer, the Trust called for eight policy changes working in partnership with government agencies including:

  • funding the creation of a national database of leading practice
  • strengthening the role of teaching school alliances in brokering support and partnerships for schools
  • embarking on a national communication drive to promote the findings from professional learning research
  • contributing toward an ‘incubator’ organisation to prepare the ground for a new College of Teaching
  • facilitating discussions and provide funding around new professional career levels
  • building confidence and capacity at the Department of Education to facilitate and support system-led improvement in professional learning
  • preparing for a future personal entitlement to professional learning
  • increasing the funding of research into effective professional development and effective knowledge sharing.

Teachers need support in a way that suits the needs of the student in their classroom and we are backing the developments around a College of Teaching that will see CPD for teachers as a core part of its fabric. Ultimately, we’re calling for a system where teachers are engaged in continual professional development, prioritised by school leaders within schools and colleges who exist within national networks of professional learning.

David Weston is the Chief Executive of The Teacher Development Trust. The Teacher Development Trust is the independent national charity for teacher training and professional development. You can follow them on Twitter at @TeacherDevTrust. You can find out more about the Teacher Development Trust on their website. You can also follow David on Twitter at @informed_edu.

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