Five ideas for boosting your CPD in 2017

Written by: Bridget Clay | Published:
Image: MA Education

Will you make CPD a priority in 2017? Bridget Clay offers five new year’s resolutions for your CPD – whether you are a teacher, a middle or a senior leader

Despite the cold and dark, January can be a good time to reflect and plan for the rest of the academic year, but also for 2017 as a whole. Whether you are a teacher, middle or senior leader, below are some suggested small tweaks, and bigger changes, you can make this year in your own and your school’s professional learning to help pupils and practice in 2017.

But why focus on professional learning for the new year? Why should staff development be a top priority for you and your leadership team? First, great development and a supportive environment can reduce staff turnover, improve morale and reduce stress. By investing in support and development, you can reduce long-term costs and the headache and stress of recruitment.

Second, schools that offer a more supportive, developmental environment will not only find it easier to retain their best staff but can also help to recruit the top talent. The LKMco/Pearson report, Why Teach?, identified that opportunities for development and career progression are particularly important for recruiting and retaining younger teachers, while all staff look for schools that prevent excessive workload and help them feel competent and confident in their jobs.

Finally, and crucially, staff development can be one of the most effective school improvement approaches. The Developing Great Teachers report noted that “professional development opportunities that are carefully designed and have a strong focus on pupil outcomes have a significant impact on student achievement”.

And Professor Viviane Robinson was involved in conducting a research review – School Leadership and Student Outcomes – of what the most effective school leaders do to improve attainment and found that “headteachers’ leading of and active participation in professional learning and development had the largest impact on student outcomes”.

Five CPD resolutions for teachers

  1. Collaboratively plan a lesson. Joint planning is something that can slip down the list of priorities and not happen as often as you would like. Ensure that it is as beneficial as possible by focusing on a few key pupils, or particular pupil needs, and plan in detail what strategies you would use for those needs, what you would anticipate happening and why.
  2. Start every CPD activity with two or three pupils in mind who you would expect to benefit. Professional learning has the biggest impact on pupil outcomes when we identify those needs before the process, and then formatively assess and evaluate the impact of any change in practice on those needs. By taking a couple of minutes to identify those pupils, you are much more likely to take forward the new knowledge into your practice and classroom.
  3. Observe a colleague’s lesson. But don’t observe the colleague, observe how the pupils are responding to different approaches. Perhaps observe a class that you teach in another context, or a class learning a lesson you are due to teach. This pupil focus will help you identify how pupils respond to different strategies and how you might want to use or adapt them.
  4. Engage with some research. You might have a colleague who can help you with this in school, or perhaps there is some being shared on social media. It is important to be external, looking for new ideas that you might take forward into your practice, and it is also important to ensure practice is evidence-informed. When you have engaged with some research or research summaries, perhaps see if you can share and discuss it with colleagues in your department.
  5. Identify what success would look like before you try an idea. It can be quite tempting to see an idea and want to try it out straightaway. Before you change your practice, take a moment to identify what it would look like if it worked. Be as specific as you can. This will help you to ensure your practice is focused on benefiting pupils, but will also help you evaluate and adapt how it works for your classroom.

Five CPD resolutions for middle leaders

  1. Join a subject association. Effective professional learning includes exploration of subject-specific pedagogy. By joining a subject association, you can access dedicated resources for your specific subject, useful to you and your team.
  2. Include pupil work in meeting time. Department meeting times can often get eaten into by administrative tasks. Make sure yours include a key focus on teaching and learning that is subject-focused and specific. It can be really helpful to look at particular examples of pupils’ work and then discuss different misconceptions and strategies for addressing these.
  3. Enable some challenge for your team. Effective professional learning includes some constructive challenge, enabling new knowledge and ideas. When reviewing your plan for the year, reflect on how many of your staff will learn something new and be challenged by your plans. It is, of course, important that this challenge is done constructively and within a safe and trusting culture.
  4. Reflect on your line management conversations. Annual appraisal conversations can become quite far removed from day-to-day practice and are often not focused on specific practice or pupils as they have such a broad remit. Try and build in more regular discussions about how things are going, how their pupils are progressing, and any support needed.
  5. Encourage innovation. An important part of developing practice is the freedom to try out new ideas, combined with evaluating the impact and refining those new ideas. Ensure that colleagues are encouraged to try out new ideas and evaluate the impact of those ideas.

Five CPD resolutions for senior leaders

  1. Model your own professional learning. How much do you talk about what you’re working on in your practice or your classroom? For professional learning to be a priority, this needs to be visible at all levels of any organisation. It’s particularly powerful when you lead in a potentially vulnerable process. For example, by volunteering for your own lesson to be observed or videoed for sharing with colleagues.
  2. Review the professional learning opportunities for support staff in your school. It is not uncommon for professional learning in schools to be particularly focused on teaching staff, especially when different contracts and timings are taken into account. How often do your support staff have appraisal conversations? How often are they able to meet to share practice and collaborate?
  3. Plan sustained and iterative time for professional learning. Time is one of the most precious things in a school. That precious time needs to be spent on aspects that are going to benefit pupils and staff. Consider how much time is given to professional learning and how it is allocated. The most powerful professional learning is sustained over time with iterative opportunities to reflect, collaborate and refine practice.
  4. Facilitate engagement with external expertise. Despite restricted budgets in schools, it is important to ensure that there is still engagement with expertise around professional learning. Perhaps through external organisations or other schools, ensure that your colleagues are able to work with experts and have the time to put those ideas into practice and evaluate the impact.
  5. Gather feedback on what the priorities are for pupils for future CPD. Many schools collect feedback and data from staff to plan for their CPD. The best schools include some focus group discussions alongside these surveys and they also focus on what pupil needs staff feel are most urgent. Alongside staff career development and interests, and perhaps any external changes, it is important that CPD plans are driven by pupil needs, to enable powerful professional learning that helps children to succeed and teachers to thrive.
  • Bridget Clay leads the TDT Network at the Teacher Development Trust, a national charity for professional learning in schools. Follow her on Twitter at @bridget89ec and the charity at @TeacherDevTrust

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