Much has been written about the frustrations surrounding PD or INSET in schools, from the quality of the training delivered, to the lack of opportunities to implement ideas effectively. It has been recognised that effective CPD needs a longer term focus¹, with opportunities for consolidation and support provided to staff.
So how can we go about introducing such a process into the already hectic schedules of teachers?
One possible approach is the ‘drip feed’ method, where teachers receive regular training throughout the year. This does not need to be massively time-consuming, nor full days devoted to the subject.
What teachers need is a single, focused concept to work on which they can revisit and discuss weekly as they implement it in the classroom. A school I worked in introduced three thirty minute sessions a week, where each teacher would be covered by their colleagues during registration and assembly while they attended. The idea was to allow regular, ongoing weekly PD or INSET and effective support for teachers as they learnt new skills and implemented new strategies in their teaching.
While thirty minutes a week might feel like a luxury, any period of regular and ongoing PD or INSET can be effective. One school we work with allows two minutes a week for staff to learn a new Firefly skill, the concept is presented in a staff meeting and then made available as a video for staff to review in their own time.
The advantages to such an approach are numerous. Initially, it makes information manageable and immediate for teachers, they are able to take what they have learnt, apply it over the week and then reflect on its impact in the following session. Sounds eerily like effective teaching to me!
Secondly, the burden on the individual teacher feels less. They are not required to give up large periods of time in order to attend training and yet, over the period of the year they will have received a considerable amount of learning time or official CPD. This could be somewhere in the region of 20 hours in a standard academic year.
Furthermore, strategies can be introduced in easily digestible amounts meaning they are more likely to be implemented effectively. Anyone who has given a half-time team talk knows that you concentrate on only one or two points for the team to work on in the second half. Any more than this and the message starts to become diluted and less effective as a result. CPD is exactly the same - make sure that the focus of the training is kept tight and teachers are more likely to remember and implement the ideas.
Finally, senior management is demonstrating the importance of ongoing professional development in the school. Hattie puts the impact of effective CPD on pupil achievement in the top 20 of all the practices analysed, so it would be fair to say that developing teachers should be a priority for schools. If CPD is part of every teacher’s working week, the school gives a very clear message about the importance of staff development. In turn, teachers that see their development is important will feel valued and able to reflect upon their teaching.
Ultimately, the strategy a school uses for CPD will depend upon their particular circumstances. However, if we are use PD or INSET effectively and make sure that teachers are given the time to explore their classroom practice, then we in turn need to look critically at how we support the ongoing development of our teachers. They are our most valuable resource in education and as such it is vital that we help them to flourish in the classroom.
¹ “Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development”, Teacher Development Trust 2015