Professional development is most effective where modes of delivery and engagement are varied. If you always do things in the same way – you can expect to always get the same results. We know this from teaching children, and yet the delivery of many CPD programmes is dry and predictable.
Teachers should be supported to engage with a variety of CPD activities including but not limited to INSET. In the last few years the internet has enabled teachers to access support and development when they need it and many teachers are grabbing this opportunity and embracing it.
Twitter (and other social media platforms) enables teachers to explore classroom strategies and ideas and gives them a forum for discussion. Many teachers choose to attend TeachMeets outside school to share good practice and pick up new ideas. And huge numbers of teachers enroll on online courses or download educational podcasts – which they can access at convenient times and revisit when they need to.
Despite being surrounded by people all day, teachers can feel very isolated. Everyone in school is always busy. Everyone has their own priorities and issues. As a teacher, if you are struggling to manage a class or if you are unsure about how to raise the achievement of your learners, it can keep you awake at night. It can even make you ill.
Many teachers are wary about speaking honestly about the issues they are facing in case it triggers multiple observations and talk of competencies. Good CPD gives teachers opportunities to address issues and get support. It builds teams, strengthens relationships and acknowledges the fact that all teachers are still learning their craft.
Some teachers are entrenched in their ideas. They shut their classroom door and dust of the lesson plans they’ve been delivering for the last 15 years. These teachers are a case for CPD to be a requirement. How can we expect children to value learning if we, as adults, close ourselves off to learning new things and teaching in new ways?
It is easy to forget that good CPD can excite us as teachers. It can motivate and inspire us. Learning about teaching and getting excited about teaching reminds us why we chose to do this job in the first place.
Whole school staff development sessions are also crucial in establishing a consistent practice. Collaborative agreements can be made and vision can be shared.
Good staff development needs to be personalised. Whole school INSET days should be mixed with other forms of CPD. Experienced teachers know what professional development they need and they should be supported in undertaking it. Less experienced teachers should be given access to CPD programmes that support and challenge them.
We set up Pivotal Education in 2001 because the training we received ourselves as teachers was so dreadful. Our mission has always been to raise the standard of training and professional support. Dry spouting of lists of standards and endless slides delivered by PowerPoint monkeys have made INSET a dirty word for some. But live INSET when genuinely inspirational can shift and transform the practice of a whole staff body fast and with great enthusiasm.
CPD is vital. Invest in the teachers and the learners will also benefit.
Ellie Dix is a member of the panel for ATL’s pre-election debate on professionalism, “Meeting the learning needs of future generations - is CPD for teachers an entitlement, requirement, necessity or just a distant dream?” which takes place in London on 27 January.
In this, the third in a series of free discussions about key education issues, our panel will be asking questions about the role of CPD in teachers' working lives.
There are limited number of places still available – to find out more, see the ATL website.
By Ellie Dix, Director of Pivotal Education.