Continuing Professional Development (or Continuing Professional Self Development as Ian Gilbert discusses in his ‘Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve got Google?‘ book…
CPD has changed its appearance. Not a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Not at all. But no longer is it about one of the senior leadership team giving out a set of slides for teachers to take notes on or even sitting there in rows listening to an inspirational speaker.
Gone are the days where it was acceptable to tell teachers ‘how’ to achieve an aim from within their own classroom. Effective ongoing professional development has become about creating and nurturing a culture of educators who want to improve; want to grow in their knowledge and above all, want to be actively involved in their own growth as teachers.
How then, does a school unlock the potential that exists inside every educator to become master of their own learning? How can a passion for educating be lit and enthusiasm captured, ensuring that ideas and creativity flow with one main purpose: that of facilitating learning. For teachers – by teachers.
CPD is never going to just happen
There isn’t a quick fix that will fall into your lap. You have to want to learn! So where to start? Try Twitter. Twitter has some of the most innovative, interesting, current, supportive and brilliant practice ideas available when it comes to teaching and learning. Looking for ideas on a certain topic? Get on there and as your PLN (professional learning network) develops, you’ll find that the teachers on Twitter will help you. What better way to learn that amongst like minded individuals who value the open dialogue that leads to improvement. If you want some help, check my blog post on the topic.
No one has all of the answers…
…but together, in a positive learning environment, professionals begin to share and explore. How can this environment be created? Through collaboration and open dialogue. Know your team and utilise the strengths available to improve the weaknesses. Spend time on a regular basis sharing good practice and success stories; openly discuss the use of new strategies and take the time to try them out. Why not create a sharing board for the staffroom? A working space that is continually evolving through trial and error could be an innovative corner of creativity, maximising the impact on improvement almost immediately. Encourage teachers to blog. If they do not yet have the confidence to go it alone, introduce them to the effective forum of Staffrm: an invaluable place for CPD in a safe and friendly environment.
No one likes to fail but as we often remind the students, making mistakes is part of learning. Through failing, we learn how to improve and what not to do the next time around. Try out new strategies and be brave. You know your students and you know your strengths and weaknesses. Boundaries can only be pushed through challenge. Challenge yourself to try something new. If you knew you could not fail, think of all the things you would try…
…to engage in continuing their own professional development alongside yours. Be positive. Learning is exciting! Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places and often where we did not expect it. Go on a learning journey together and be bold. If the teachers have not discovered the excitement of learning, how can they facilitate the same curiosity amongst their students?
Be open to suggestions. A healthy working relationship relies on mutual professional respect. It is a good thing to challenge thought and practice in a positive and constructive way. Provoking thought and discussion will lead to the growth of ideas and a deeper understanding of pedagogy. How can this be a bad thing?
Commit to making development an ongoing journey
There is no quick fix. Learning happens for us all every day. If we commit to the experience and embark on the adventure together with commitment and energy, much can be learnt. Through commitment and vigour, we can establish a zest for learning, making the working environment an exciting one, full of anticipation and energy.
Revitalise CPD in your school through introducing Teachmeets
Celebrate work and practice both in-house and externally. Set up mini-forums whereby the sharing of good practice can take place. Ask each teacher to present an idea to their team on a regular idea. Encourage the team to attend local teachmeets and extend their professional network. The sharing of pedagogy and practice is empowering. If you’d like advice on setting one up, I have written about this a number of times
- My top 5 tips for Teachmeet
- Getting the most out of your first Teachmeet
- And this guide on setting up your own >> What makes a Teachmeet tick?
Share ideas that are immediately usable
Practical implementation is key. Discuss how they can be adapted across the various phases. Teachers are inventors. They create new and exciting spaces. Their very thought processes are often innovative and flexibility is a key skill. Bringing ideas to the table, no matter how big or small, should be welcomed. An idea can only be adapted and developed through thought and trial. Implementation should follow the sharing of ideas. Take on board ideas from Primary. In many cases, Primary outshine Secondary in terms of innovation. Why not visit your local Primary school and be re-invigorated with their amazing ideas!?
Make professional development purposeful
What are you aiming to achieve? Is it a creative use of limited resources? Is it the effective use of feedback and marking? Encourage colleagues to identify areas of weakness and ask for ideas to be shared in relation to these. Being able to identify a weakness is a strength. Being able to strengthen a weakness takes knowledge. To find the answer, we must first ask the question. Your colleagues are the equivalent to a walking version of educational Google! Don’t be afraid to seek out their knowledge and apply it to your own improvement.
Take time to implement and embed ideas
Reflect on their usage and evaluate the effectiveness of the ideas and strategies you have chosen to try. Share your findings. Reflective practice is the key to improvement. Never underestimate the power of drawing on your own experience and sharing it with others.
Share worthwhile reading material
From sharing educational blogs such as Rory Gallagher does in his ‘blog of the week’ to colleagues in his school, to published academic material, there is a wealth of reading for professional learning available. Have a CPD shelf in the staffroom for relevant and useful material. Have a ‘Dip in and out of’ section so that teachers are not put off by the time constraints they face. There is so much on offer, why not share your favourites and ask others to too.
I hope you found these ideas and thoughts useful. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s definitely a place for the sort of work that I do now, but so much of it can be done by developing capacity from within. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Firstly a hat tip to Dave Keeling for me ripping off the title of his fab book ‘A rocket up your class‘ with the title of this post. I’m pretty confident he wouldn’t mind. Secondly thanks to Rory, Ian and Claire for their inclusion in this post.