CPD in education – The challenge for 2017
The pressure on teachers is higher than it has ever been with ever-increasing workload demands of planning, marking, data and behaviour management eating into available time meaning that other things can slip. Teachers and leaders around the UK are also battling with the financial challenge that has tightened its grip on the education sector with any ‘non-essential’ spending often being reigned in. This has meant that it can now be harder for staff to access the CPD they need to continue to develop their practice and improve pupil outcomes.
The standards for development in teaching identifies that teachers need “readier access to evidence and expertise to allow them to make informed decisions about their professional development” and that this needs to occur within a framework of learning opportunities that are targeted, rigorous and goes beyond statutory annual courses and events. Most of the teachers we speak to want CPD and are passionate about improving their practice; but that CPD has to be relevant and not just be seen as a ‘box ticking exercise’.
A good CPD programme will (like a good lesson) engage the learner through a combination of audio, visual and kinaesthetic delivery that allows the learner to learn at their own pace and to explore complex concepts in a manner that suits them best. It should combine formal and informal learning, allow staff to receive bite-size insights alongside taught material and give teachers the tools to track and manage their learning effectively.
There are a range of options available to schools to help them to support their staff in ensuring that professional development remains central to the role of teaching and new technologies provide a real opportunity to take a step back and explore how CPD programmes are being delivered in schools and use it as a tool to drive attainment.
Externally led CPD: Bringing in experts from outside of the faculty or school provides the objective challenge that professionals need to re-examine their approach to the topic while allowing innovations in other teaching environments to propagate. Where the expertise is chargeable, it is exceptionally important that the learning outcomes from the CPD are clear, relevant to those attending and monitored over time to ensure they have been embedded to maximise the school’s return on investment. In many cases, experts from other schools can be brought in on a reciprocal basis to provide external insight while minimising the cost of formal training and this can be made even easier with video technology and learning management platforms allowing expertise to be disseminated quickly and cost effectively.
Peer-led training: Most professional educators need to innovate all the time from adapting lessons to the needs of specific groups to finding new ways to standardise assessment; there is a wealth of transferable expertise in most schools which is rarely shared beyond departmental colleagues. The challenge has traditionally been one of time; a colleague cycling from department to department to deliver CPD is unable to engage in their own professional development or other professional duties so it is normally limited to high value or niche activities. With video cameras on every smartphone and experience of delivering messages to an audience, colleagues could record their insights once and share them with all colleagues instantly via a learning platform. This also has the benefit of condensing the time required to deliver the content when compared to face-to-face sessions, removing the “wasted” time of set-up, interruptions and off-topic conversation.
By combining this bite-size approach with a centrally managed library of content schools can make this expertise available on demand (rather than when planned) allowing teachers to draw down what they need, when they need it, increasing the chances that it will be applied in context.
Self-managed learning: Teacher’s engage in a wide range of formal and informal CPD as part of the role; the challenge has been tracking that activity and identifying if and how it has had an impact on learning outcomes. Traditionally only formal training has been recorded and this makes it harder to identify when non-traditional approaches are supporting improved attainment. There are a number of low-cost online tools that can be adopted to provide a central record of learning allowing schools to set mandatory training and CPD activities while giving teachers and support staff the freedom to record their own in parallel.
Current CPD programmes are heavily reliant on face to face, scheduled delivery; tying staff to a standardised programme of content that is often general in nature and managed through planned CPD time. By embracing readily available technologies, schools can reduce the cost of CPD delivery while improving the quality and relevance of the programme to individual teachers. Video technology, professional learning management systems and learner engagement tools can all be used to provide the “ready access” required in the standards and facilitate the “informed decision” for individual learners. Given the current challenges facing the education sector, there is a genuine need for a more effective approach to CPD that both frees up teaching resources while giving them the tools to deliver improved pupil attainment.