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CPD, Leadership, Redesigning Schools

Upside Down CPD: R and D Communities

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers often tends to stem from whole school priorities around raising attainment and achievement, improving teaching and learning including assessment or responding to various local, national or Ofsted agendas.  These whole school priorities tend to monopolise the resources available including funding, access to external courses and use of INSET Days.

I’ve read blogs and tweets that liken INSET days, with training on these whole school priorities from external consultant, headteachers or members of the senior leadership team, to a little bit like the proverbial being dumped on teachers from on high.  Suggestions about people leading the CPD, particularly when it is about teaching & learning, include things like mirroring the strategies (the two hour talk on actively engaging students is a classic misjudgement) are important but miss a key point.


Part of our human nature leads us to enjoy and engage with issues that we have a particular interest in or ownership of.  If we really want to personalise CPD for staff then we need to shift the power in the decision making process from school leaders and external pressures to classroom teachers.  It is not simply improving the delivery it is moving the decision making by tipping it upside down and distributing the authority to make decisions about their own professional development to teachers.  This is not an either or – too often in education in England we take an extreme position and then seek to defend it – it’s about rebalancing CPD so that teachers’ particular pedagogical and curriculum interests are afforded time and resource alongside whole school priorities.

I’ve blogged before about setting up some new Research & Development Communities in the post “Improving Teaching Not Simply Measuring It” and the proposals are now in.  The basic structure behind the R&D Communities is:

  • A R&D Community can be set up to develop and embed best or emerging good practice within the College.
  • A R&D Community can be used to take forward an idea, innovation or approach by a group of staff that will lead to improved standards of attainment, levels of achievement, student well-being or student personal development.  A R&D Community can be set up by any member of staff.
  • Each R&D Community must have a named leader who will be responsible for the community, its outcomes and leading a group of staff between 3-8 people in size.
  • Funding of £100 per person in the R&D Community will be made available to fund the community’s work, the leader will have their teaching commitment reduced by one period (periods are 100 minutes in length) per fortnight and supply vouchers for use by community members can be bid for.
  • Funding will be released following the R&D Community’s idea and success criteria being accepted.
  • Approximately half termly a voluntary meeting slot will appear in the calendar for R&D Companies that may be used if some/all of the company members wish to.
  • Applications can be submitted in April/May each academic year, but no later than two weeks before the late Spring Bank Holiday and the funds will remain in place for the following academic year.
  • Student research and developers may be useful additions to the R&D Community.

R&D Communities for Next Academic Year

What impact does using SOLO taxonomy in peer assessment have on the quality of formative feedback, and learner responses, over one academic year, on an English writing assessment at KS3 and KS4?
Our R&D community wishes to look at various elements of technology in teaching and map them onto the SOLO taxonomy.  Similar work has been undertaken by various teachers globally with Bloom’s taxonomy which shows which tools are most useful for developing each skill area, and we would like to do the same for SOLO, providing a pedagogically sound platform for implementing the use of various technologies/web 2.0 tools/apps across the College.
How can we embed SOLO success criteria into the classroom in a way that encourages pupils to take ownership for their learning?
How far can student attainment be improved by implementing a ‘flipped classroom’ within their daily teaching and learning environment in order to accelerate their deep learning over a one year period?
The group would aim to carry out action research exploring ways by which students develop their moral awareness and “proclaiming, worshipping, service and civic duty” can be developed within the college.  Initially, the group would look to identify key moral threads from the PSHE / Citizenship curriculum that could be developed and lead into delivery via the peer mentoring ‘plenary team’ introduced this year.  The main vehicle for development would be through peer mentoring across Key Stages 2, 3, 4 and 5. 

Narrowing the Gap for FSM students: Improving achievement through participation in enriching experiences.

I’m not sure what you think about the different proposals and the good news is it doesn’t matter.  They are of interest to the staff groups that devised them.  All of them could potentially “develop and embed best or emerging good practice within the College” and that was the key requirement.  CPD has been flipped and turned upside down in this particular instance.  Teachers have decided what interests them and been given the resources to pursue it.  This is part of an increasing blend of different learning opportunities including INSET days, Thursday afternoon CPD and external and internal courses that staff may choose to go on.  The R&D Communities add a dimension we have never had before and fills a gap in provision.  All proposals were accepted.  The SOLO Taxonomy features heavily and this is something that has been a consistent theme of development for the past three or four and there are a couple more posts on this blog about using the SOLO Taxonomy to increase challenge and how we have sought to spread and embed it.

Produced by Pam Hook (@arti_choke) http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process

Produced by Pam Hook (@arti_choke) http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process

The total funding for the six projects involving thirty four staff – thirty one teachers and three support staff – is £3,400 though I don’t think the actual spend will be anywhere near that.  Teachers aren’t that great at spending money at school.  In addition, one hundred and twenty three cover vouchers have been asked for.  The use of the cover vouchers will need to be monitored as we won’t be able to release a large number of teachers all at once but leaders have been very clear that a number of cover vouchers will simply be used to keep staff “free” and our cover supervisors will support the release time for staff.  I can almost hear people shouting about the missed classes but this cover equates to about one day per member of staff per year.  This is equivalent to a one day course each, which often has no impact back at school, against what may well end up being about one hundred and fifty days equivalence of collaborative planning, lesson observations and peer evaluations with this deliberate practice developing staff’s pedagogical knowledge and skills.

The six R&D Communities are being led by two teachers who are currently Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in their first year of teaching with us, three staff who have other middle leadership responsibilities and a part time main scale teacher.  It’s a wonderful mix and I just think a fantastic opportunity to develop leadership skills.  One of the responsibilities of the R&D Communities is to capture and transfer knowledge so I will be blogging about the successes, failures and lessons learnt by each group during next year.

What would you want to research and develop with a group of colleagues if given a £100 of funding each and a bit of time?


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