CPD: Ideas to get staff on board

Written by: Katie Tiller | Published:
Image: iStock

It is vital that staff see the value in and feel part of their CPD. Katie Tiller sets out five practical strategies for encouraging staff to throw themselves into whole-school CPD

Is there any greater challenge than trying to persuade someone to do something they don’t want to do?

Teachers and school leaders may be used to dealing with opposition from pupils, but when resistance comes from experienced colleagues, it can sometimes be trickier to address.

The majority of experienced school staff are very committed to developing their own and others’ practice. However, you might know one or two who are generally unenthusiastic about the school’s CPD programme – perhaps they are confident in their practice and uncomfortable with being challenged, or maybe they don’t expect the session to be sufficiently differentiated to suit their skills.

It is essential to get these colleagues back on side. Negativity can drain energy from a training room, but more importantly, as pointed out by Professor John Hattie, teaching experience does not necessarily equate to expertise.

Even when it does, in the words of Professor Dylan Wiliam, “all teachers need to improve ... not because they are not good enough, but because they can be better”.

With this in mind, how can you encourage the more reluctant among your experienced staff members to engage enthusiastically with whole-school CPD? Below are five ideas from our network of education experts and some of the speakers at our recent CPD conference.

Valuing all staff

Make experienced staff feel valued. If you are leading CPD, emphasise to your more experienced staff that they have lots to contribute. Ask them to share examples from their own classroom, briefing them beforehand if they might not enjoy being put on the spot. During the session itself, show you value their input by giving them extra tasks, such as chairing group discussions or co-presenting. Having additional responsibilities tends to increase engagement levels, and newer staff will really benefit from the insights their experienced colleagues can offer.

Integral CPD

Make CPD a performance objective. During appraisals, schools should set an expectation for all staff that they actively develop their own practice and support others to do the same. Line managers could ask experienced staff how they will contribute to school-led CPD in the coming year and make planning and/or delivering an aspect of the programme one of their performance objectives.

Explain your CPD

Present the “why” behind the CPD session. All staff, experienced or otherwise, need to understand what’s in it for them if they are to “buy in” to CPD. Why have the topics in the programme been chosen? Why are all staff expected to attend the sessions, and what will they gain?

Although the answer to these questions may be clear to you, be sure to clearly communicate the “why” behind your CPD programme to your colleagues. For example, have certain themes come up in staff surveys or skills audits? Are particular groups of pupils underachieving? Has a key area been identified in the school improvement plan?

When explaining the reasons, differentiate the message for different audiences, explaining what the benefits will be for staff with different levels or areas of experience as well as for the school as a whole. By setting out the vision of what you want to achieve and what success will look like, you will give all staff a clearer understanding of how the sessions will be relevant to them and a more compelling reason to engage.

Mixing it up

Mix-up activities and groups. Spending an hour listening passively to a presentation provides the perfect opportunity to daydream about marking or dinner plans, especially at the end of a long day. If you’re running a training session, wake up the room by getting participants moving around, creating things, writing ideas down, or working against the clock.

When planning the session, ask yourself “how would I feel if I was a participant? Would I find this relevant and interesting?”. Seek suggestions on activities proven to get everyone in the room involved (colleagues, Twitter and education blogs can all be useful sources of inspiration and ideas).

Consider, also, how you will group participants for different tasks: try arranging the room in different ways, separating colleagues from the same department, and pairing reluctant staff with more enthusiastic ones. This should stimulate discussion and bring out a more co-operative side in anyone who might have been less likely to participate actively.

Ideas to take away

End each session with “a take-away”. To transform single CPD sessions into on-going, sustained development, challenge everyone (including experienced staff) with follow-up tasks, differentiated according to skills and experience, which require them to put into practice some of the learning. Set a deadline for staff to report back to their colleagues on how their task went and what they learnt from the experience. The outcomes of such tasks should convince any sceptics of the real potential for impact that lies in school-led CPD.

  • Katie Tiller is a researcher at The Key, which provides leadership and management support to schools in England. Find out about the new CPD Toolkit from The Key at www.thekeysupport.com/cpd


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