"great biscuits, good venue" What makes effective CPD?
School is fast approaching (sorry for another reminder!). Are you set to attend CPD? Here Jayne Carter looks at what makes effective CPD and how to get the best out of it.
Guidance developed by Dfe (2016) outlines the importance of Effective Professional Development stating: Effective teacher professional development is a partnership between Headteachers and other members of the leadership team, teachers & providers of professional development expertise, training or consultancy. In order for this partnership to be successful:
Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.
Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.
Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.
Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership
As a teacher, leader & consultant I attend, develop & deliver CPD. I appreciate now the intricacies of high quality CPD just by being part of it; being at the front now instead of sitting at the table with a name card. This has led me to consider the impact of high quality CPD for both attendees and trainer. What are the key aspects which make this a worthwhile commitment? How can both attendees & trainer collaborate to ensure both groups completely benefit from training? Teacher’s thoughts collated through discussions with colleagues:
Learning new stuff: the consensus seemed to be that committing to having time way from school deserves some degree of being informed or enlightened: one or more WOW moments which could be feasibly implemented back at their own schools. “We all like to find out new things which challenge or strengthen our own pedagogy. This is the only way to improve our own teaching & improve outcomes for our children.”
Reassurance that ‘I am on the right lines’: the warm fuzzy feeling and the nods of agreement to information which is being shared was another important aspect of CPD being useful. “It’s a great motivator to feel that you are doing ok; especially as schools are so much more pressurised. A pat on the back is all that is needed sometimes.”
Based on research which has shown it has made a difference to children and/or teachers: a strategy which has been implemented, evaluated & shown to make a positive impact on teaching & learning gives the credibility for others to consider using this approach in their own classroom. Alongside practical strategies of implementation, monitoring & evaluation increases the value of this considerably. “An investment in changing practice feels somehow safer if it has been shown to work for someone in a similar position to me”
Opportunities to collaborate: the opportunity to meet other professionals, discuss, debate, put the world to right still continues to be a significant part of feeling that CPD is successful. Consider the conversations which happen in refreshment breaks & over lunch times to realise that you are literally in the next town to a fellow attendee or an idea you have been mulling over finds an enthusiastic friend. Networking scored highly in my discussions with one colleague commenting that; “It can be the start of wonderful & fruitful personal & professional friendship”
A trainer who knows their stuff: credibility seemed to be a very significant element of whether the CPD is effective. Knowing that the person at the front has either been involved in the subject matter being discussed or have extensively read around current research evoked a secure sense of trust & confidence which allowed for honest and dynamic conversations to happen. A phrase frequently used here was authentic; in both content & delivery.
Trainer who is considerate/listens to people but also has a brilliant knack of ensuring everyone has an opportunity to participate if they want to. A comment here was that a good trainer tunes in to all attendees; modelling how to allow the more vocal in the group to share their ideas person but also gently brings in someone who has valuable contributions but feels worried to voice them. These qualities were seen just as important as the subject content as people felt valued in the whole CPD process.
PowerPoint is kept to a minimum and used as a prompt to share information, invite thoughts, generate questions & share alternate opinions. “No more death by PowerPoint as this immediately makes me turn off” Likewise rigidly sticking to what is on the slides with no opportunity to respond to the needs of the group also makes the CPD feel like ‘training off the shelf’ rather than a chance to respond to the group’s current needs & provide more personalised support.
Variety of approaches used: within a session there is some time for information sharing, some time for collaboration with others, some time spent action planning, some opportunities to participate in practical activities & many reflection opportunities to enable attendees to take stock. I would add that all of these happen for a reason (this predominately being the impact on teaching & learning) and not just for the sake of it. “Let’s action plan that point”
The training is part of a professional conversation; preferably in discussion with SLT as part of the performance management/appraisal process. It was felt that this sets the tone for the CPD as there was already an investment in it as it had a purpose; a reason. Being ‘allowed’ to go on training varied considerably within my group discussions with the general consensus bring that there were less opportunities to attend CPD so the pressure for it to be good was considerably increased. Did this perceived pressure affect attendees contribution/ involvement in the session? If you know you need to show value for money are you more focused on actioning key points from the training or do you feel that this puts you under more pressure to improve?
Trainer leaves delegates with achievable next steps: this seemed to be a very crucial element in my discussions as this was where delegates had the time to take on board information from the session & consider actions to take back to school. It really helped if the trainer summarised each mini section of the training and provided an ongoing action plan or ‘to do list’. Mini reviews were suggested….
The organisation of training sessions: 1 off training sessions were not considered to be the most effective in my discussions with comments being raised including “ SLT are looking for alternative models as there is limited impact form a day course and it also relies on me to feed things back to everyone. I might not do this effectively and that’s more pressure.” CPD which happened over a number of days with tasks to do in-between (action research opportunities) being more preferably as impact could be evaluated, refined an adapted over a period of time together with the ongoing support from the trainer and group. The opportunity to either observe teaching was also seen as important as long as this was an integral part of the whole CPD process with a focus given to observations, well briefed observer & an opportunity to follow up on strategies, impact & implications for sustained use in own classrooms.
Comfortable venue with some decent food was also seen as important. Some colleagues did admit to considering the venue, the distance to travel & the reputation of the venue before agreeing to attend. It was interesting to note through my discussions how many of the points above were concerned with the interpersonal skills the trainer versus subject content…… Trainers views on what makes effective CPD for them. (again carried out through discussions with colleagues)
Delegates who want to be there: it is easy to spot people who have invested in the session compared to the ones who have been told to come. The body language, initial chats as people settle & even if they have brought a pen/paper gives the trainer sufficient information as to the kind of support which may be needed or the amount of support which may be needed. The general consensus was that it was even more important to engage these people and make sure they feel happy & secure.
Open minded delegates: the joy of training for a trainer is the opportunity to discuss, debate & learn from professionals too & broaden their own ideas & partnerships. Attendees who are open to join a collaborative approach to CPD rather than to be talked at proves fruitful for both parties.
Emotional respective of other colleagues: acknowledging the strengths and needs of everyone in your table is really supportive & allows for conversations, activities & debate to flow.
Emotionally ready to hear and action: whilst no one can dispute that each school has its own challenges, comments like “I’m not allowed to do that…my head won’t let me do that….won’t work for me” are difficult barriers to support with. A recognition by both attendees and trainer that these difficulties exist is honest & true but also is a willingness to address them.
Share, debate, and question: participate in the session. It’s really hard work if it’s always the trainer talking so feel happy to affirm what you have just heard, ask questions to clarify or reassess and also challenge. Involved not passive…
We all agreed that CPD, when it was the most effective, was a synergy: a mutually respective partnership between attendee & trainer based on shared values & aims.
Jayne is a committed shoe lover and School Effectiveness Advisor for Lincoln Anglican Academy Trust.
She loves discussing all things Early Years with anyone who will give her the opportunity and prides herself in looking after the adults in the hope that they can also look after the children. Achieve your potential!
Winner of ‘Literacy / Numeracy Blog of the Year’ at the 2019 Nexus Education Awards.