The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Using a range of activities to make CPD count

Do you tweet? Are you involved in peer networking? Are you a member of a working group? Do you include these activities under the broad definition of CPD? And indeed, should you?

What does – and what does not – constitute CPD (continuing professional development)? At a time when grass roots professional development is taking root, opinions vary on what counts.

Too restrictive a definition can lead to lost opportunities. And with limited funds available for CPD, can we afford this?

A broad range of activities

It’s essential to be realistic about what constitutes the kind of CPD that brings about real change in practice. Yet schools with a truly embedded culture of CPD encourage teachers to make the most of every available opportunity to enhance their professional learning.

CPD has been defined as covering a ‘broad range of activities designed to contribute to the learning of teachers, who have completed their initial training’*.

Included in this ‘broad range’ of methods for professional learning are:

  • action research
  • self-directed study
  • teacher research linked to awards such as the education doctorate
  • using distance-learning materials
  • receiving or giving on-the-job coaching, mentoring or tutoring
  • school-based and off-site courses of various lengths
  • job shadowing or rotation
  • peer networks
  • membership of a working party or task group
  • school cluster projects involving collaboration, development and sharing of experience or skills
  • teacher placements, including those in business and in other schools
  • personal reflection
  • experiential ‘assignments’
  • collaborative learning
  • information technology-mediated learning, for example through email discussion groups, or self-study using multimedia resources.

But in this digital age, could we also add social networking sites such as Twitter? And what of TeachMeets, these grassroots events where teachers come together to share their ideas with teachers?

A blend of professional learning opportunities

Evidently no single approach to professional learning will be sufficient. Great CPD will involve a blend of professional learning opportunities and a strong commitment from the individual, too.

Everything that can be remotely linked with impacting professional development is worthy of consideration. We would be foolhardy to think that CPD is not triggered by, for example, an informal professional dialogue with a colleague in the corridor, or a cursory glance at Twitter during an education chat that leads to following up on tweeted research studies or relevant articles.

These activities may not be costly courses requiring time out of the classroom, but they do still offer practitioners the opportunity to stretch their learning through the synthesis of new ideas – and that, after all, is one of the indicators of a truly reflective practitioner.

A professional learning mindset

Fundamental to this broad approach to professional learning is the professional learning mindset.

This involves having the mentality that seeks to learn from every situation encountered during the school day. It functions on deep reflection, and enables teachers to make the most of all learning situations. It requires skills of contextualising, too, without which learning remains abstract and limited.

If a school has a strong infrastructure for professional learning, then teachers are unlikely to rely on a limited range of activities to constitute CPD. They are more likely to have a professional learning mindset and to see potential learning opportunities all around.

Find out more

*Continuing Professional Development: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Schools (Routledge Falmer, 1996), Anna Craft

Note: this blog post is based on an article originally written by Elizabeth Holmes for the Knowledge Centre

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