CPD Curriculum Leadership managing change Teaching

CPD – continuing professional development

Barking up the right treeGoing on a course, INSET or CPD has changed over the decades and, still, it is not always a source of joy.

It seems simple, but does CPD really pass the test of being continuing professional development?

It is worth reflecting on the independence and, indeed, isolation of the teaching experience when I was teaching in the early eighties. After a probationary year, no-one really took much interest in your classroom, your exercise books or the written annual reports.  Short courses were almost entirely the domain of the local authority and schools would allocate attendance as buggins’ turn. In the pre-national curriculum era I recall them as mixture of exam syllabus update and subject-knowledge presentations. They provided an opportunity to meet the local adviser (or inspector) and to share grumbles with colleagues from other schools. Occasionally, a course presented a local angle on a national issue and this versioning eventually became a widespread feature of LA work.

In Kent we had a county-wide branch of the Geographical Association (Kent Geography Teachers’ Association – KGTA) which organised two day-conferences and a fieldwork day each year. This also provided good opportunities for what we now call networking and sharing. At this time, the Annual GA Conference was held at the LSE in London each year and was a relatively easy day-visit by train.

LAs were involved in national projects such as GYSL, Geography 14-19 and the Computers in the Curriculum project. These development groups played a significant part in networking and CPD.

The Kent LA had two residential centres used seven days a week and a further eleven teachers’ centres across the county. All now gone. There was lot going on. I would be asked to run sessions on the computer software we were developing for geography learning. When I ran the Channel tunnel project we had late-night creative sessions on Craft, Design and Technology.

I shouldn’t omit to mention that a few universities offered one-year full-time MA course and the LA even funded secondment to these courses. Generally, the pre-service courses did not interact with schools except for student placements and even that did not require the level of engagement assumed these days. I know these courses and placements have now been transformed.

At some point external training sessions became unfashionable or regarded as lacking in efficiency. There was always more in one full-day session than you could implement immediately and quicker returns were being expected. They became more directive rather than exploratory. It became more school-focused at it was obserevd that there was more variation within schools than between them. One further reason was that post-TVEI and into the grant-maintained era schools became protective and competitive.

Somewhere along the line, much like pupil learning, CPD became more transformative in approach than transmissive.

I thought the Action Plan for Geography struck a sound balance with two sessions, some months apart, with a self-defined task to complete in between. No-one had properly calculated the administration and professional judgements required to read and edit the outcomes. It was a structure I employed with smaller working groups on the Building Sustainable Communities project.

The Secondary Geography Quality Mark

The SGQM has produced a tremendous source of departmental planning and implementation which sits on the GA website behind a password. It has been tested and funded in a more manageable level. I wasn’t involved in setting this up or moderating evidence so I don’t need to declare an interest. I probably remain a little sceptical about kite-marking (just take look at school letterheads) but the process, support and recognition has proved beneficial to those involved. It takes a portfolio approach (not unlike this website) presenting evidence to match criteria. (password required and available on request) The SGQM Award lasts for three years then re-submission is required to retain the status.

It goes beyond what appears in the curriculum plan by asking these reflection and evaluation questions:

  • Why do we do it like this?
  • How do we know it is successful?
  • What is the impact on teaching and learning?

In my experience of project evaluation, teachers are surprisingly reluctant to shift beyond being descriptive of their activities and to become more self-critical and analytical. Although they press children for higher-order thinking, it doesn’t always come as second nature in connection with their own work.

I think there is a good case for structured teacher experimentation – with permission to fail or, at least, not to adopt the practice tested. Clearly, in-school mentoring and modelling is effective but there needs to opportunity to meet alternative perspectives, to be guided and to be challenged. This might not be available within one school or a cluster. External consultants still have a role to play.

CPD needs to be continuing professional development – and continuing, professional and developmental.

Further reading

Evidence on CPD from the Teacher Development Trust

‘CPD How not to do it’ by Andrew Day, the CPD Director of The Philosophy Foundation

The Good CPD Guide

TDA (2007) What Does Good CPD Look Like? TDA
[PDF here: guidance_effective_cpd] [PDF: on archived TDA site]

The Geographical Association – Secondary Geography Quality Mark

Also worth reading

Professional development for teachers: how can we take it to the next level?
Schools should offer more support and time for training, but teachers also need to take responsibility for their own growth, writes Ross Morrison McGill

It’s time to give teachers the skills and respect they deserve
Empower teachers with professional development and a national body to defend them against micro-managing ministers (Tim Brighouse and Bob Moon)

Added: 21 June 2013
Seven deadly sins of teacher development. TES, by David Weston

By Angus Willson

Angus Willson is editor of this site and author of this blogpost.

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