CPD: Knowing versus doing


SecEd’s resident CPD expert Phil Parker suggests using e-authoring software for procedural CPD, thus freeing up more time to address learning and teaching topics.

According to the Teacher Development Trust (TDT) a total of 0.5 per cent of a school budget is spent on CPD. (Ontario in Canada spends 10 per cent).

Teachers train for a compulsory 30 hours a year. David Weston, chief executive of the TDT, claims a great deal of this time has no effect or leads to poorly understood and superficial changes. Yet Professor John Hattie’s 800 meta-analyses identifies good CPD as a significant factor in raising pupil achievement. 

The Department for Education’s requirement is for “a culture in which all teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching through appropriate professional development”. It adds: “Professional development ... linked to school improvement priorities and to the on-going professional development needs and priorities of individual teachers.”

Notice that word, “individual”. The days of staff gathering together in cold and drafty school halls are vanishing; training this way is not an effective use of time or money and often does not lead to school improvement.

If we are moving towards personalised learning in the classroom, the same needs to be true for teachers. I remember when CPD was my responsibility – I would be beset by people and agencies demanding precious training time for safeguarding measures, improving use of RAISE or the school management system, and the annual favourite – what to do in the event of anaphylaxis shock. Introducing these topics generated the same collective moan you get from kids when you announce their homework.

I have called this article Knowing versus doing because I suggest that’s what good training is all about. You learn stuff, you put it into action and apply that knowledge. I maintain there are two broad categories of training which schools deliver.

  1. Training which aims to improve learning and teaching in order to raise pupil achievement.

  2. Training which equips staff with knowledge to fulfil specific obligations (eg, safeguarding, IT systems, first aid measures).

If we are to personalise these training and development opportunities we should not treat them in the same way. One requires creativity, practical application and refinement. The second requires dissemination of knowledge and perhaps evidence of the experience.

Schools are not the only organisations which confront this training issue, but education appears to be the last area to recognise the solution. In my previous article I wrote of the joys of e-authoring software and how it can be used to “flip classrooms” (See: http://bit.ly/1qwRTGm). The fact is those classrooms contain adults all around this country and the same principles apply to them.

I recently spent a day with an e-authoring software company and its client community. It was fascinating to hear how companies both large and small addressed their training needs using e-authored software and the learning management systems I described last time. 

I met managers of two multi-national organisations who train their tens of thousands of employees in health and safety this way. They know when each employee completes the course, their score, how long it took them to complete it and so on.

I spoke to a manager from an outdoor adventure organisation with 40 centres who trains more than 5,000 employees in issues such as safeguarding, risk-assessment and equality law. Their e-authored training provides each employee with a certificate to show they have completed these courses – with the use of a CSV file and a software system that does all the work. Courses are interactive, with a variety of ways to communicate information, assess knowledge and report it afterwards. And because it is done online, employees do the courses within a timeframe that is appropriate to the individual and the company, so it is personalised.

I told them about the limitations of school CPD budgets and the obligations to the law, health and education. They marvelled at how it could be achieved. In reality it is done using the worst teaching method possible, forcing large groups to share the same experience. Differentiation? Pah!

E-authored software could address “procedural” knowledge to free time (and budget) to address learning and teaching topics. What do I mean by “procedural”?

  • Data protection – how should staff learn about security, relevance, timescales.

  • Exams – what rights do students and their parents have? 

  • Freedom of information – what needs publishing? What doesn’t? What needs to be available? What are the timescales for responses?

  • First aid – what obligations exist? What do you do in a given situation?

  • Safeguarding – what school procedures? Does everyone know them? Can everyone identify what a safeguarding issue is (and what it isn’t?).

  • Equality and diversity – is everyone in the organisation familiar with the policy? Given education secretary Nicky Morgan’s focus on LGBT issues, can everyone respond consistently?

Frequently, I find that senior staff believe everyone understands these issues and knows how to respond. The story is different when you talk to other people in the organisation. This divergence is a result of poor training; a consistent easily accessed means of training is needed. 

E-authored courses communicate information, assess understanding and provide validation. It is a more cost-effective means of ensuring everyone gets the same message. It is what every other occupation is already doing – except education. I suggest we look around at how other trainers are working and differentiate between knowing and doing.


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