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How effective is your setting at supporting whole school professional development?
Supporting Individual’s CPD
Continuous Professional Development (CPD), is a crucial dimension of any professional career. Teaching staff are obliged to undertake five statutory days of CPD, in recognition of the ever-changing and challenging educational landscape.
Most schools and Academy Trusts will plan a significant amount of the content of CPD (INSET) days centrally. There is a need to ensure a whole host of statutory compliance training is undertaken. For example, safeguarding (KCSIE), Prevent (anti-radicalisation) and Health & Safety training. This usually leaves precious little time to link whole school development needs to the training needs of individual staff.
Here are 5 key ingredients for high-quality professional learning which encompasses both whole school and individual professional development.
By definition, professional learning should be ongoing (continuous). This means it is far better to focus on a small number (max. 3 per year) of developmental priorities, that have been identified as the key levers for improving student outcomes. As opposed to either having too many priorities to do justice to any or attending a one-off course, where the most memorable element is sometimes the buffet lunch!
2. Aligned with outcomes gaps
Training priorities must focus on the gap in skills of the students. For example, if a school has identified that it is their disadvantaged students who are performing least successfully, then CPD should rightfully focus on developing the skills amongst staff to work more effectively with this cohort of learners to sustainably improve their outcomes.
It is easy to talk about this but not always easy to put into practice. Bespoke training means that it is tailored to the specific needs of each teacher. Developmental training then leads directly and deliberately to improving the key elements of professional practice. In turn, this will have a demonstrable positive impact on student outcomes. This can be delivered in several ways (e.g. through line management meetings or developmental drop-ins). Fundamentally, is contingent on a school/trust culture based on a high support/low threat ethos, where experimentation, collaboration, co-construction, candid feedback and pedagogy are all genuinely woven into everyday work.
With so many excellent evidence-based best practices available to educators, it can sometimes feel that tempting to surgically implant a school improvement strategy as an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution to school improvement. There are mixed opinions as to the impact of a ‘one size fits all’ style package. The context of the individual school is of crucial importance in the successful implementation of any new practices. Pay close attention to planning the desired change and ensure staff fully understand and own the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of any training that introduces change in pedagogy.
Remember culture eats strategy for breakfast (lunch and dinner)!
Any CPD programme worth its salt must be responsive to the developing needs throughout the academic year. If the CPD programme is rigid and inflexible it will run the risk of being disconnected from the school it is designed to improve. Make sure CPD programmes have the flexibility built into them to respond to findings from self-evaluation (e.g. developmental drop-ins) and feedback from staff.
Finally, CPD sessions must be impactful. It was the wonderful Maya Angelou reminded us that people will forget what we say but remember how we made them feel. Daniel Pink highlights that people are motivated by being given purpose (the why), autonomy (trust) and the expertise (skills and knowledge) to perform their work well.
All CPD should be considered from the point of view of the staff on the receiving end of it, and good training should also be fun, support staff wellbeing and authentically contribute to building professional trust and expertise.