Leading a CPD session


It is common for teachers to be asked to lead CPD workshops with colleagues. Sarah Coskeran advises on how you can prepare, deliver and follow-up your CPD to ensure it is effective.

As part of the movement towards teacher-led, collaborative professional development, more and more teachers have the opportunity to lead CPD sessions for colleagues. Leading a CPD session will allow you to share the knowledge and expertise you use every day to support particular learning needs in your classroom. 

Whether you have been asked to lead a session in your own school, a different school, or at a third party event, you will need to ensure your training is focused, relevant and likely to have a positive impact on your audience. Here, we give our advice on the steps you should take before, during and after your session to make sure this is the case.


No matter whether the session will be at your own school, a different school, or at an external event, start by establishing your audience’s expectations. The person commissioning you to lead a session should have a clear idea of what impact they hope it will have and on whom (i.e. specific groups of staff and students) – and why. If they are not clear on this, try and work with them to clarify their need and expectations, while ensuring these are realistic and match the support you are able to offer.

With their expected outcomes and target groups in mind, you should aim to provide tools and guidance to diagnose the current strengths and areas for development. Help them to take a baseline measure of the particular need they are trying to address, using surveys, tests, pupil interviews or any combination of qualitative and quantitative measures to build up a comprehensive picture. Hopefully, they should be able to repeat these measures at a later date to demonstrate progress towards the desired outcomes.

Clarify your session’s desired structure with the organiser. Will your session be part of a longer-term programme of activity and are you expected to contribute? Will you be required to submit a report or feedback after the session?

Build up a profile of the group to whom you will be delivering your session. If visiting a different school, find out about the whole-school context – size, phase, exam results – as well as staff. Has there recently been significant changes in staff or leadership? What is the average experience level? What has the staff’s recent CPD looked like – and their attitudes towards it?

Whether in your own school or another, understanding your audience will help you pitch your content at the right level. Gauge their level of prior understanding and expertise in relation to the area you are covering by discussing with the contact who is commissioning the session and arranging for pre-session interviews and/or surveys of the staff attending.

Logistic considerations are key. Be clear about the length of session and the size of your group, as well as charges, travel and accommodation costs. If your session will be part of a longer INSET day or conference, what will the content of other sessions be and would it be useful for you to attend?

Find out what facilities will be available, as well as arrangements for PowerPoint slides and handout resources. If you are speaking at a third party conference or event, make sure it is listed on the GoodCPDGuide to market the event and collect delegate feedback afterwards. Before the session, consider disseminating preliminary reading to provoke some professional reflection on the topic – but do not assume attendees will have read it before you meet.


When developing your content for your session, remember to make it focused and relevant to a real-world context. Be ruthless in pruning your content and select only a small number of key ideas: focus, where relevant, on supporting a depth of understanding in key areas rather than superficial awareness across the entire topic. Introduce key ideas clearly and come back to them throughout the session, perhaps creating “bite-size” summaries for each.

Ensure the theory behind your approach is accompanied by concrete strategies for attendees to employ in the classroom. Check beforehand for any school-specific terminology or language you might need so that your advice and input relates clearly back to attendees’ own context, and allow for comprehensive action planning around the content you introduce. 

For each idea, attendees should note down an “action point” for a change in their own practice and predict the outcome of this on students: what would “success” look like for specific learners in their class? Attendees can build these points into a cohesive, sustained plan and, if feasible, plot this against a timeline of change.

Shape your content around principles likely to increase the impact of your training: encourage attendees to think of how they can build in opportunities to sustain changes, collaborate with colleagues through a process of enquiry, and comprehensively evaluate the impact on students’ learning. 


As with content, keep your delivery simple and focused. Based on the key content areas you have identified, create realistic targets for the session and share these in your introduction. Be clear in relating all subsequent content to these and structure your session so that attendees engage with the key ideas in at least three different ways, supporting them to move towards the selected targets. 

Avoid patronising your colleagues but do continually check for understanding (without simply asking, “Does everyone understand?”). And remember: keep your slides simple and clear, putting additional detail into separate handouts.

Make sure the session is meaningfully interactive. It is good practice to provide some opening guidance or “ground rules” for discussion – make sure everyone understands that peer critique and challenge is welcome, but only when done sensitively and constructively. 

“Spot check” questions can be useful for opening discussion by encouraging attendees to share their own context in relation to the subject matter. 

Frame your session around opportunities for dialogue: offer examples for discussion and periodically ask attendees to summarise or apply the key ideas – though have prompts ready in case people are reluctant to discuss their own practice! 

Use flip chart paper or a whiteboard throughout and remember to photograph these at the end of the session for future reference. Provide on-going feedback on key discussion points and use attendees’ own comments to guide the group towards the desired learning goals. 

Plan comprehensively, but be flexible in your delivery. It is possible that you will come up against some resistance or negativity: “That’ll never work here”, “We’ve tried this before”, “We don’t have time for this”. Do not dismiss such comments: they stem from valid and real concerns. Show you have listened (writing the comment down, if appropriate) and empathise with the speaker. Open a discussion in which you breakdown the issue into constituent parts and work together to consider possible solutions.

Delivering your session with enthusiasm and passion is key to engaging your audience. When faced with any possible resistance or concerns, show empathy without echoing or pre-empting negativity.

Be aware of possible energy dips and overcome these by refocusing on the value of the discussion, taking a short break and re-engaging those who seem to be “drifting” or quiet. A cheery disposition is essential but be careful not to become overbearing: do not be afraid to allow for silent “thinking time” where necessary, and use humour, but carefully!


After the event, follow up with the necessary resources including slides, links to further information and a write-up of the discussion if relevant. Make a note to get back in touch with attendees roughly three months after the event to check on impact measurements, discuss their on-going learning and offer any further support .

Collect feedback via a follow up phone call with whoever commissioned the session. Ask if attendees enjoyed it but also if it matched their expectations, challenged their thinking and appears to have had an impact on practice. Take this opportunity to give your feedback, too: how you felt the session went and your recommendations for next steps. 

Take time to reflect: watch any video footage back, consider the feedback from attendees, think carefully about what did and didn’t work. 

When getting back in touch with attendees at a later date, ask for any impact data they have collected and study this against their baseline measures. Use this, and your reflections, to shape your future work. Ask delegates to write a public review on the GoodCPDGuide too.

  • Sarah Coskeran is GoodCPDGuide programme manager at the Teacher Development Trust, an independent charity for teachers’ professional development.

Further information
The Teacher Development Trust offers on-going support and advice to CPD providers and facilitators via the GoodCPDGuide.com, an online database of CPD resources. Find out more about this and the TDT’s other work at www.tdtrust.org


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