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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Great CPD: making it count

'Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.' - Abigail Adams

After over a decade of thinking and writing about teachers’ professional learning, I never tire of talking to teachers about their experiences of CPD and how we might improve what’s on offer in schools. While there is some consensus, the great need for contextualised responses to the challenge of professional learning crops up time and again. I recently spoke to Michael Tidd, popular blogger and deputy headteacher at Edgewood Primary in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, about what great CPD looks like, how to make it relevant to teachers’ work and the shape it might take in an ideal world. Here are some highlights from the conversation…

Elizabeth: Great CPD... what does it look like today?

Michael: It's just impossible to say. It looks like a course of 400 participants, and it looks like a moment's solace with a report. It looks like a pre-packaged bundle of resources, or a hand-written note of direction. It can look like a university scholar at work, or the chaos of a classroom at wet break. It varies too much to pin down.

EH: That’s a useful way of viewing professional learning and one which I see replicated at different ages and stages in education, including higher education. So what's the key to making CPD relevant to a teacher's work?

MT: I think variety is crucial; it needs to be personalised to each teacher's needs, whether that be based on their experience, their current performance, their interests or their intentions. For a new teacher lacking confidence in working with students with Special Needs, a package might include a conference, a course, some one-to-one support from an experienced colleague, and some time with the SENCo. That same package of advice might be completely wrong for a more experienced teacher struggling with differentiation for pupils with SEN. The key is to make the provision fit the need as closely as possible.

EH: In your experience, what is the most helpful attitude to CPD?

MT: Ownership. If a teacher can feel that they are in control of their professional development, that they lead on the identification of needs and provision, then they can be almost guaranteed to get more out of it than if they are directed (however fittingly) to tasks and activities that they had not identified themselves.

EH: And once that professional learning process has begun, how can teachers be best supported in contextualising CPD?

MT: There is a tendency to ask at the end of courses or training "How will today have an impact on your practice?" and to expect people to fill in a form or explain to a colleague. To really make effective use of CPD and see action put into practice, that same question needs to be asked at the beginning. If teachers attend courses, or undertake observations, or work with colleagues with a specific intention in mind then it may well succeed or fail all the same, but the direction should be clearer. Ask not what impact CPD will have on your practice, but what impact your practice will have on your CPD programme.

EH: That’s a very helpful perspective. So what would you most like to see happening in the profession regarding CPD?

MT: In an ideal world I'd like to see investment in it. I'd like to see teachers working with a reasonable budget (made up of both finance and time) to really focus on their own professional development; an expectation that teachers take the lead on their own improvement, supported by the means to allow them to do so. Michael’s blog Michael on Twitter: @MichaelT1979

 

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