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Planning for CPD: knowing your audience

Sarah Davies CPD

How can you sum up planning for CPD?

Let’s give it a try…

Imagine taking a tub of Marmite and mixing it with jigsaw pieces, trying to gather everything together and interlock the pieces all whilst the Tetris theme is playing in your head. For effective CPD to take place, there is a clear need to firstly recognise the following:

  • A ‘one size fits all’ approach can’t and just doesn’t work.
  • Planning and preparation are just as important for CPD as it is for lessons.
  • Collaboration is key to develop ownership and buy-in.
  • Before you outsource, look at the experts you already have to lead!

When carefully considered based on the needs of your cohort, CPD can be a beacon of light for all practitioners. It can encourage deeper inquiry and personal development; pushing your colleagues to reflect, evaluate and innovate their classroom practice. Let’s face it when done properly, CPD empowers, but if ineffective, CPD can deskill and disengage.

So, what can we do?

The first step is to know your audience. Think about when you’re planning a lesson, although it’s rarely spoken about (a taboo comparison some might say), staff bodies are often like classes. Perfecting your CPD approach relies on first recognising how colleagues will react. Please note, that this isn’t a sarcastic remark about the behaviour of any staff cohort. It’s not talking about the fact that, in any one session you can guarantee that you’ll have; the staff who are talking amongst themselves; those catching up on eating their dinner; those turning up late whilst others eagerly jot
down everything being said; those answering all of your questions and those with a look of seeming disapproval at what you’re presenting. It’s more about how people process and reflect on the information being presented to them.
One strategy that can be taken into consideration when planning your CPD is actually based on the same method that is used to understand sales through buyer identification. In this strategy, people can be grouped into four separate categories.

  1. Active
  2. Potential
  3. Reluctant
  4. Central

Active colleagues can be summarised as;
Those colleagues who are keen to explore their own professional development strategies. They are pro-active in their research; always wanting to expand on their skills and are willing to support in developing others. These colleagues are:

  • Those that constantly engage with and enquire about the content
  • Those who thrive off concepts and contextualisation. They are keen to understand the bigger picture.
  • Naturally critical thinkers who question in a positive and inquisitive manner.
  • Colleagues that would prefer to be guided as opposed to directed. They are suited to more independent or collaborative approaches.

Potential Colleagues are slightly more reserved in their approach. They are colleagues who have demonstrated that they are extremely capable and are specialists in their field. They may not be as ‘hands-on’ when introducing initiatives or approaches, but they are able to adopt these strategies successfully when they present a ‘buy-in’ mindset.

  • They keep up to date with any relevant development within their subjects, but may be less pro-active with whole-school initiatives or focus points.
  • Often appear to lack confidence in their own ability or aren’t willing to volunteer or apply for positions as they feel they are not ready to do so.
  • Benefit from positive reassurance and recognition of their abilities and achievements.
  • Often find collaboration and supportive communication the most beneficial approaches to CPD.

Reluctant colleagues may prove slightly trickier to engage with any new strategies or approaches, particularly to ways of working. They are not necessarily defensive, but may require more support and explanation to develop their comprehension and reasoning. These colleagues:

  • May require additional support and a triangulation approach with other parties in order to progress. This is commonly senior and middle leaders to ensure that CPD is bespoke and specifically tailored to suit needs.
  • Can appear more defensive and critical. In these circumstances, it is even more important to relay a comprehension as to why a specific focus point or target area is being developed.
  • These colleagues need to understand the bigger picture before they are likely to even consider the ‘buy-in’.
  • If approached in the wrong manner, these colleagues can often be the most volatile. They may feel like a particular approach is a direct reference to their individual training need, or that a specific focus is challenging their capability. Although this is often not the case, these colleagues will feel like the training provided is not relevant to them and is a waste of their time. More often than not, this is more the fact that the approach needs to be reconsidered, not necessarily the topic.

Finally, central colleagues are those who are able to complete their job description and do so to the best of their abilities. These colleagues may not show a desire to progress professionally, but that does not mean that they should be disregarded. Instead, these are the colleagues that are central to the efficient running of the school. When supporting these colleagues, it is important that you:

  • Consider them as the key demographic.
  • Ensure that the bigger picture is clear. An understanding of the process and the steps that will be taken are vital to encourage the implementation of specific skills and strategies.
  • Provide time and opportunity for peer collaboration and discussion-based approaches in order to develop more independent reflection and encourage further development.

When you begin to recognise that the accurate and honest preparation and introduction of your intent are what will fundamentally drive your implementation, CPD becomes what it is meant to be for everyone.

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The author

Sarah Davies is the Author of Talking about Oracy (2020) and has written articles for publications including TES, Sec:Ed, The Headteacher and The Teaching Times. After completing a Masters in English and a PGCE, Sarah worked as a Lead Teacher and a Head of English and is currently an Assistant Headteacher. She has also worked as a writer for the Digital Theatre Company as has been a Lead Examiner for the AQA for four years.

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