Throughout my teaching career I have always strived to share ideas, examples of strategies and initiatives that have worked for me and my students. I was lucky enough to be given these opportunities at an early stage of my career and thus qualified as an Advanced Skills Teacher in Learning and Teaching. (Remember when labelling it as that way round meant more!?)
I have continued to share, mainly via my Twitter feed coordinating those ideas into my personal website; www.trythisteaching.com. I have also been extremely grateful to have been invited to speak at various TeachMeets across the country. Which has then resulted in being invited into schools to deliver more extensive ‘training’ to hundreds of teachers, nationwide.
During this time of delivering workshops, CPD, INSETs or whatever you want to call it, I have always reflected on what value the time away from doing the ‘busy’ things was for the teachers I have spent time with, training. I always think, if the teachers I am training would have been better off marking, writing their reports, doing their displays, contacting parents and so on.
But, then I stop and think as a profession, how do we get better, as an individual how do I improve? How do we improve? I mean, we tell our students, amongst many things, that they must read around their subject, they must practice, self test, interleave their learning to get ‘better.’ If they are a sportsperson, they must attend practice, training and get fit. Endurance for them is vital. They would be expected to go home and watch games, analyse performances, look at subtle improvements.
So, what about us, as teachers?
We have seen there has been hundreds of news stories about budget cuts and I have personally spoken to many Head Teachers who are simply saying there is no money. So, what could be on the pile of things to cut? CPD? The chance for teachers to improve? I am not suggesting that if school’s can’t afford to get somebody, some ‘celeb’ trainer in to deliver training that CPD will stop completely. Many schools work with partner schools, have a team of internally led ‘trainers’ or run carousels for example.
According to the General Medical Council CPD is…
The GMC states that despite doctors achieving their qualification to be able to deliver an effective service they must update their practice.
So as teachers, how do we ensure we must maintain and improve our knowledge to improve our performance? We ALL know, we are/were sold many ideas during our initial teacher training or even our teaching careers, that have only recently come to light as being completely wrong! Brain Gym with VAK anybody? So, how do we ensure we develop our knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours across all areas of our practice? What we going to do?
I would like to reference what the Chartered College of Teaching states, rather than the GMC. However, at the moment I can only find which in principle looks exactly like some of what teachers are in need of. However, when I click on the link there is an error code. (I have let Dame Alison know.)
So, I come back to the question, again, how do we improve? How do we get better? Of course we can, read ‘edubooks’, but which ones? Do we read the books of authors we are aware of, or of ideas and concepts, totally new to us? How would we know, which to select, which to work on? We could spend many hours of a day reading about practice, about research, studies, and outcomes. Will this help us to improve?
We could go onto media platforms such as Twitter, but then who should we follow to improve our practice? How would one know the difference between a RT to a HT?! You could follow people that tweet similar to what you would/may do in your classroom, or you could follow people that may be the complete contrast to you. So, what will you learn? Many people claim Twitter has been the best CPD they have ever gained. Is it because, they are in charge of seeking out the information that is relevant to them? Is it because it is only accessed when the teacher has time, and it is not forced upon anybody?
So, again, I come back to the idea of how do we improve?
If I am ever out of school out delivering training to teachers, students ask me, Sir, where were you yesterday? I always say,
I was out working with teachers. Helping them reflect on how to improve their teaching.
Students are such perceptive souls! They usually say wild things like,
Were you making them less cr*p
Were you teaching how to teach?
Sir, some teachers, just can’t do it!
I always reply with an equally ‘clever’ remark, but it does again make me wonder. Students automatically think training for teachers is how to make them nicer, less strict, or more fair! They also think, generally, it is about how to help them ‘control’ their classes more.
Not one student, has ever asked me if my training involves, improving the teachers ability to deconstruct complicated content into manageable chunks which thus becomes accessible to them all!
Teaching, the craft, the art, the science of it and what it involves is somewhat subjective. We could be crude and base ones ability in teaching effectively on the outcomes of their students. However, what about the teacher before, what impact did they have on current students outcomes? What about the other teacher, teaching an accompanying course, alongside the current teacher? Have the students sought their advice with more importance and rigour? Therefore, without wanting to judge or evaluate a teachers ability by their outcomes, or any other means, how would we even be able to judge performance to then ask the question of, how do we ensure we equip teachers with the items needed to improve?
I am worried that with the ever dwindling budgets and a reorganisation of priorities we will leave teacher development at the bottom of the pile. Probably, because, if they are there, in front of a class, teaching students, as a subject expert, a school is probably in a much better position than many hundreds of other schools.
However, lets not forget, all teachers need the chance to improve. It could simply be by receiving some ideas to try out in their classroom. Some reading to digest or a video clip to watch. It could be that they are in need of some important information, guidance and access to what they need to know or be able to deliver. It could be that they simply need time to reflect on their current practice, evaluate their practice alongside the evidence that suggests what works. But what should this look like?
Throughout my experience the credibility of INSET falls on several factors:
- Who is delivering it? Are they currently teaching? What have they achieved as a teacher?
- Is the trainer, like them, the staff, the students?
- What is the session about? Is it relevant to them, all?
- Does it require the teachers to do more work? How much effort will it be?
- Can everybody hear/see the trainer?
- Who the teachers are sat with/next too
- Is there time to reflect and discuss what is being taught
- Is it too cold, hot and is there enough food/drink! (Seriously!)
How do schools ensure they get these right?
I think there is a growing movement right now of current teachers, like myself, going out and about delivering ‘training’, trying to get these things right, seeking feedback from thousands of teachers and working to get these factors spot on to help make CPD and INSET worthwhile.
If we leave having given teachers low effort, high impact ideas to try and refine into their classroom, I think it will help enable them to ‘control’ their classroom. (The support of an effective behaviour management policy and SLT is also vital in this!) However, it is important to note that these ideas should be followed up with further information, more details to practice and hone those skills needed. They should not be seen as a bolt on to current methods.
Sometimes, teachers simply need to be reminded of how amazing they are. They also, sometimes just need to be shown why they went into teaching, again. Lets not just save this time of CPD for NQTs only.
Every teacher should be allowed the experience to improve. This does not need to look the same for every teacher. Teachers should indeed be responsible for knowing what they need to improve, however, thats what good leaders can support with.
Knowing your staff is as important as knowing your students.
There is something amazingly collegiate in training, learning and working with one another.
So, a plea, don’t freeze your CPD budget, consider the following ways to get your staff a variety of methods to help them improve as a teacher.
John Hattie’s synthesis of 800 meta-analyses puts CPD as a large effect size on pupil achievement of 0.62, in the top 20 of all the practices analysed!
- Set up a Edu book club/library/bring and share/swap shop
- Provide time for depts to have time with each other
- Organise a way to get teachers to be able to film themselves
- Run a TeachMeet- internal/external
- Get a speaker in/run external workshops- which provide, focus, intensity and repetition of key ideas
- Run a speed dating event/carousel of CPD
- Set up lessons studies
- Organise a way to record teaching to then be reviewed
- Protect time on timetables for CPD coaching
- Allow your staff a day off timetable to go and visit other schools
- Place them on relevant courses/accreditations
- Base CPD on student/internal needs not external pressures
Sustained change in practice is the key to effective CPD.