CPD – What or who is it for?

Once an opportunity for teachers to enthusiastically develop their practice or enhance their teaching and learning pedagogy, CPD’s alignment with PRP, accountability and the need to provide evidence that you can breathe well enough let alone teach, CPD has seemingly lost the spark it once had in promoting a profession in which developing oneself as a teacher is an enjoyable experience with endless possibility.

Look for a definition of CPD and it won’t be long before you come across the word ‘competent’ or ‘competency’. Yes, it is true, CPD provides an opportunity to support staff in ensuring that what they do in the classroom is done to a competent level. It might even help to generate a school of good teachers. It will definitely help to evidence the journey towards that creation. But is a CPD programme that is focused on ensuring people are competent at their job good enough?

And the answer is no. For many different reasons.

Firstly, the one size fits all model doesn’t work. Some teachers are barely competent whilst others are more than competent and, therefore, their areas of development are not the same and neither should their CPD be. Many schools, including my own, have created pathways to suit teachers and support staff at different stages of their career to ensure a more tailored and appropriate CPD programme. At my Academy, we opt into two CPD programmes that we would like to attend over the course of the year which enables us to choose aspects of CPD that we would like to focus in on which is a better offering than a one size fits all.

However, I have come to realise that this system is still flawed and does not motivate me to develop myself professionally in a way that I think my school thinks it does. And this is because I am still being told what CPD I need. Whilst I recognise that I have a choice – from about 20 programmes, I get to choose the two I would like to do, the choice is within a range that has been decided by my SLT – a range that suits the needs of the school rather than my own, professional and personal development needs (which potentially, at subject level, is far more specialised). This in turn leads to a sense of disengagement with the process of CPD because there is a feeling of being done to rather than determining.

I pondered a question whilst sat in the CPD lecture at the London Festival of Education this weekend. The question was this – What motivates me educationally at the moment that will have a profound impact on me, as a classroom teacher, a profound impact on my department and a profound impact on the students in my care? (A simple question). And then I posed a second question – Do my SLT know what this is? And I wasn’t sure. And therein lies the problem. No longer is CPD the opportunity for an individual to focus on an area of choice that they would like to develop because it motivates them and it will ultimately help improve practice, it is instead a measure – a success criteria – a body of evidence that is tied into school improvement.

The area that I am most interested in and enthused about at the moment is the area of developing vocabulary. At my school, we don’t currently have a CPD programme that offers sessions on how you develop a students’ vocabulary and so between the hours of three and half four, I find myself sitting in on a coaching session which I am not personally enjoying and, therefore, not getting a lot from. Instead, to ensure I can focus on an area I am particularly interested in, I have spent my own money purchasing a range of books so that I can read what work has been done, what strategies have worked well and what I think is transferable to my department and my school. The reading I am doing will certainly influence my practice come September and the department’s practice and the school’s practice but it would only happen if I dedicate my own time and my own money into it, rather than having the opportunity to do this as part of an individualised CPD programme for myself within school time.

These thoughts made me consider the work of @ShaunAllison, Durrington High School and their Learning Innovators. Here, staff are given a bursary to carry out classroom based research into an area that staff themselves are particularly interested. The expected outcome is a written piece that details the research completed and the impact that it has had on students’ learning and potentially their outcomes. Examples of these can be found here: https://classteaching.wordpress.com/learning-innovator-reports/ In offering these opportunities, staff are able to engage with an area of pedagogy that interests them and that will have a benefit on improving their practice, the outcomes of the students and potentially the practice across the school. This I feel could be an incredibly powerful CPD model. If CPD time was given over to teaching staff to develop projects around areas that interest them with the dedicated CPD time being used so that staff could carry out their own research, put into practice their work and evaluate the success of what has taken place, a much more exciting and motivating approach to CPD might come into force with staff taking back the control of their own professional development.

Of course, the teaching body have already started to reclaim CPD for themselves. More and more teaching staff have sought CPD separately from their school –engaging with others on social networking sites such as Twitter and attending Teachmeets, funding and attending Saturday courses which have increased steadily over the years – perhaps in response to school’s unwillingness to release staff to attend traditional CPD courses because of the financial implications – and spending their own money on educational literature. The latest addition to this ever-expanding CPD offering, is the online CPD programme offered by TES – something I have already bought into.

Perhaps opportunities like those above reflect what CPD used to be about pre. greater accountability. Perhaps teachers attend / buy into these events because they enable areas of teaching, learning and leadership that are of interest to them to be explored and, therefore, perhaps teachmeets, festivals, Saturday courses are the offerings that keep many teachers and leaders engaged, motivated and inspired to continue working away at their own professional development outside of the school programme which has seen a greater connection to accountability and competency.

CPD time needs to be reclaimed within schools to develop the areas in which teaching staff are most interested and which will then, naturally best support the students in our care. Having listened to David Weston this weekend talk about CPD, I look forward to hearing how the new Teaching College might support and enhance a more individualised professional development programme that is not associated with competency, accountability, and pay and instead continues to inspire individuals to be the best teachers they can be.

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