#SLTchat is a source of endless blogging ideas. The question – about the best ever Continuing Professional Development you had experienced and why it was so great – had a real life root to it. Whilst I think the professional development we offer is very good we want and need it to be even better. Thanks to @andyphilipday for choosing the question and to the twitterati for their response. The ideas in the responses – all contained in the Storify below – will be used to help move us on.
When I tell people I work in Blackpool, they tend to put their head to one side and let out a sympathetic kind of noise and then tell me how brave I am or how they would never want to work there. In fairness, the town doesn’t have the best educational record or reputation but it is where I was called to work and where I continue to choose to work. Blackpool sits at the end of the M55 and has the sea on 180o of its perimeter. The Irish Sea isn’t that well populated and nor is it the best source of staff. If we want to be the best school we can be for our students then we need to attract the best staff and then retain them. Our CPD offer is a crucial part of this work.
We start with some real strengths, identified in our NTEN CPD Audit, including:
The first strength identified is possibly the most critical as time is the issue raised again and again as one of the key challenges of implementing an effective CPD programme. From students finishing slightly early every Thursday to create a two hour CPD/meeting slot for teachers to the use of cover vouchers we strive to make time available – we commit this time as we recognise the importance of developing people.
It Made Me Think
One strand of the twitter responses linked to the level of challenge contained within CPD for staff. Whilst it needs to start from where each member of staff is it also needs to challenge each member of staff. In a teaching staff of 90+ then not everyone is in the same place so pitching CPD is a real issue.
This creates a challenge for us identified in our recent NTEN CPD Audit. There is a wide variety of voluntary CPD courses available to staff but within our directed time CPD time choice is limited.
What would be the impact of a more differentiated and challenging CPD? How could we achieve it? What would we lose? Would the benefits be greater than the costs?
It Met My Needs, It Met the School’s Needs
This led neatly into another strand of tweets which encapsulates an ageless dilemma for those making decisions about the CPD offer in schools. To what extent should it be differentiated, in fact, personalised –I’ll be more engaged in CPD which interests or excites me – versus the benefits of whole school CPD – we can be mutually supportive of each other in terms of planning, implementation and evaluation.
There isn’t a good or a bad here just a tension to manage as there is only so much time available. I covered some of this ground in a post, The Jerusalem & Babylon of Professional Development. As a slight aside here, an interesting line of tweeting developed around the benefits of a school’s own staff delivering INSET, as part of their own professional development, to help up skill them.
Each year, during the Thursday afternoon slot, we have four or five sessions which tend to be one offs on a particular issue, for example, PSHE, ICT and a couple which teachers have in lieu of attending training from a variety of different sources – webinars, the Fylde Coast Teaching Schools’ CPD calendar or the voluntary training we offer on a Monday afternoon.
There is clearly the possibility to pull these sessions together and then utilise the time for staff to follow one particular strand in a more focussed way. This would also have the advantages of the learning being spaced and revisited over time by a group of staff all with a similar focus. There are also additional benefits here in terms of increased social capital. People often comment on some of the best learning going on in the breaks, lunches between sessions or the bar if it is a residential course – learning has a social dimension.
What would be the impact of a more differentiated, challenging and focussed CPD? How could we achieve it? What would we lose? Would the benefits be greater than the costs?
It Involved Other People, Other Schools
The benefits of working with others within the same school and from other schools shouldn’t be under estimated. Coaching, mentoring, #TeachMeets all featured in many people’s tweets as did learning from practice in and from other schools.
The opportunities to engage in Professional Development have never been greater and social media – twitter, blogging, Facebook, webinars – has added greatly to these opportunities. Maybe moving forward the blend of CPD each member of staff engages in will become more and more varied – blended – as each person takes on a greater control of her/his professional development allowing for even greater personalisation.
What would be the impact of this more personalised, challenging, focussed and blended CPD offer? How could this be achieved? What would we lose? Would the benefits be greater than the costs?
It Was a Process Not an Event
Should the continuing part of CPD take on a greater priority in terms of continuing with a particular element of practice that interests a colleague, in a way that gives her/him time to really practice and hone the application of the new learning? There is a real danger within our current frenetic education system that we do not give teachers time to develop a new practice before moving on to the next new thing. I know I’ve been guilty of this too often.
I wonder whether the issues at the heart of this is the failure to evaluate the impact of the CPD teachers undertake? This was one of the big areas for development, for us, following the NTEN CPD Audit last year. In fact as we were completing the audit this gap in our practice just screamed at us. This evaluation of impact would help us discern whether it is timely to move on or whether more time and work is required to embed a practice. Obviously it would also help us identify what doesn’t work and we should stop spending time on.
It Had an Impact
This is the crunch moment and question, What Impact?
Professional development needs to have a positive impact. The use of lesson study has started to have an impact on how we look at professional development and in particular how we seek to measure its impact. There is still more work to be done on developing a simple, not overly bureaucratic system to follow up on the impact of the various in-house programmes and external courses staff take part in. The new development plan puts this work, with an idea for a Professional Development Department, at the core of a Multi Academy Trust we intend to form from the 1st September 2014.
In trying to set up the Best CPD Ever would the following be a basis for the success criteria against which the professional development would be evaluated?
CPD should … make me think … meets my needs and the needs of the school … be part of a process … involving other people and if appropriate other schools … that has an impact on me, my team and ultimately my students.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the #SLTchat debate on the 18th May 2014 – sadly, far too many to quote and include everyone in a single post. Twitter, the Best CPD Ever?
It Needs a Balance
I sent the tweet out at some point during the #SLTchat session and it seemed to keep getting retweeted. If you are interested it comes from
which I have quoted from below:
The campfire… For thousands of years, storytelling was a mechanism for teaching. While it was not the onlymechanism, it was (and is) an important one. Through storytelling, the wisdom of elders waspassed to the next generation.
The watering hole… Just as campfires resonate deeply across space and time, watering holes have an equal statusin the pantheon of learning places. Virtually every hominid on the planet has, at one time inits historical existence, needed to gather at a central source for water. During these trips to thewatering hole, people shared information with their neighbors … The watering hole became a place where we learned from our peers
The cave… The learning community of the campfire brought us in contact with experts, and that of thewatering hole brought us in contact with peers. There is another primordial learningenvironment of great importance: the cave — where we came in contact with ourselves.
The final critical space is the Life Space which is where we apply our new learning.
If you are interested in reading more about the changing face of professional development this is a post based on my presentation to NTEN ResearchEd, at Huntington School, York, in May 2014:
If you are responsible for organising a professional development day or event then the #5MinCPD Plan I co-authored with @TeacherToolkit:
If you want to think about the impact your work is having in the class room the following may prove a useful starting point:
This is turning out to be quite a weekend. In a forty eight hour period, I will have taken part in my first ever ResearchEd Conference and hosted #SLTchat, also for the very first time as well. I can’t see very much work being done on Monday. Continue reading
In a previous post “Consistently Good to Outstanding” I described my views about outstanding teaching following interviews with a number of teachers at St. Mary’s Catholic College, Blackpool who had been consistently graded outstanding in lesson observations.
I finished with these thoughts:
The following table and the thinking behind it attracted quite a bit of interest:
The lesson plan
I’ve set myself the challenge of trying to develop a CPD programme to help teachers move from good to outstanding “#OutstandingIn10+10”.
I want to put a note of realism in here, this is not about producing outstanding teachers but rather helping them take the next step on an evolutionary journey. Working with teachers who have consistently been graded as good, and are utterly frustrated that they have never got the coveted outstanding lesson grade, I want to see whether in twenty weeks (10+10) they can achieve an outstanding lesson with a bit of structured support.
This blog and the process is fraught with problems, I’m going to acknowledge them but move on regardless. They cannot be allowed to paralyse me into no action. Dylan Wiliam has spoken about the need to have six observers cross referencing their judgements to gain a level of reliability in grading lessons by observation. This makes sense but isn’t a reason for not supporting colleagues, I just need to recognise the process is far from perfect.
The actual notion of taking a continuous variable, think of this as measuring the quality of a lesson from 1-100, but then treating it as a discontinuous variable, only four grades – inadequate, requires improvement, good and outstanding, is clearly madness. If you think about the difference between a lesson that is just good compared to one at the top end of good it is far greater than that between a top end good lesson and one that just makes outstanding. I acknowledged this but staff still deserve help and support to become better teachers. To not help and support is even greater madness.
Some scientists suggest the process of evolution is very dynamic, that is, there are significant periods of relatively slow evolutionary changes followed by short periods of dynamic change. What I want to try to produce is one of these short periods of dynamic change that will then require an extended period of slow evolutionary change. The first outstanding lesson observation is followed by the long, hard years of deliberate practice that leads to consistently outstanding teaching and then the outstanding teacher whose work is reflected in the outstanding outcomes of their students.
Ross McGill’s blog post #GoodinTen – Requires Improvement CPD Programme is the starting point for my work. I’m currently enjoying doing some collaborative work with Ross and I’m of the age that it makes me smile to think you can collaborate with someone who is not in the same room as you! I’m also going to try my first bit of collaborative blogging by later on asking for suggestions to add to a CPD programme.
Outstanding Teachers Think Differently
Absolute clarity of how knowledge and understanding are vertically integrated in your subject and helping students to work at a conceptual level.
The graphic below is my attempt to capture the thinking of outstanding teachers. They focus on the learning first and foremost.
Starting with the big picture they have absolute clarity about where they want the learning to go. They often work backwards from this point to identify the key learning points for students, the “stickability” bit. You can read more about this, “So what is #Stickability? by @TeacherToolkit and @Head_StMarys” (@head_stmarys is my original twitter handle that I now use only for school tweeting). To emphasise this point about the teacher being totally clear about the learning I have included a section on challenging learning gains, breaking this down into: knowledge and understanding, subject procedural skills and attributes & skills of a learner. These will be familiar to staff at St. Mary’s and I would recommend that you look at the SOLO Taxonomy as a way of organising your thinking about knowledge and understanding. All of our outstanding teachers referred to it as a tool they use. Two blog posts that might help are:
Whilst this seems rather pedantic it will form a key part of the programme. Teachers must be absolutely clear about the gains in learning they are seeking as an outcome of their teaching until this is second nature for them. It is for outstanding teachers.
Outstanding Teachers Work Differently
Keeping the lesson plan “loose” so that you can respond to the learner as s/he makes their learning visible to you at the beginning, during and end of lessons.
The next section looks at making students’ learning visible. Teachers need to be clear about what success looks like for students who are making the required gains in learning and so do the students. This requires a teacher to think through both success criteria and some very efficient ways of seeing what students’ had learnt. Their assessment techniques were very simple, unobtrusive and permitted the lesson to keep flowing.
QUICK RANT: I want to start a national campaign to get rid of traffic lights in Assessment for Learning. I wasn’t a belligerent or awkward student rather I was pretty compliant most of the time. However, with five minutes to go to break, and a game of football with my mates to look forward to, the idea I would ever give anything other than the “green light” would be ridiculous. Risk an amber or red and be invited to stay behind for further explanations, no chance!
The last bit is to look at the flow of the lesson, not too detailed as you may need to change the plan or go through various elements at a different pace to what you expected. Outstanding teachers focus on the learner and respond to their learning.
This is deliberately blank. Outstanding teachers keep the lesson plan loose. Just a few simple branches about possible different strategies: teacher led, peer to peer (group or pair work, on-line collaboration, peer assessment), favourite strategies and crucially ways of making students’ learning visible. Nothing prescriptive, nothing required just great pedagogy of their choice.
It is important to recognise that outstanding teachers have honed their skills through deliberate practice. I’m wondering whether they possibly use fewer strategies than good teachers but use them much more effectively. A key part of the CPG Programme #OustandingIn10+10 must be teachers choosing effective, proven strategies to work an and hone through effective practice.
The first ten weeks of the CPD programme is going to involve some shared lesson observations, facilitated sessions around the thinking behind and the use of the two simple tools above and starting to practice the methodology with one chosen class.
Since I’m hoping to work with three teachers, my intention in the second ten weeks is to get them to work as a teacher learning community to support each other on their evolutionary journey.
I’m hoping to possibly do some collaborative work with Ross, @TeacherToolkit, to customise the planner and pedagogical toolkit so it may be more widely used and also to pull on his experience of the #GoodInTen CPD programme to build this one in more detail. He may be too busy but here’s hoping.
I want to include a series of blog posts that teachers involved in the programme will be required to read to extend their thinking. I have mentioned a few above and others in the “Consistently Good to Outstanding” and have started a list:
I would be interested in your help and thoughts about what other blog posts you would suggest are included. There is going to be some great stuff out there I simply haven’t seen or have seen and forgotten. Please leave me a comment. If a lot of people leave suggestions I simply won’t be able to include them all but if you wanted to replicate the CPD programme in your own school then you can obviously chose the posts yourself.
If you would like a copy of the planner or toolkit please find the link below:
I’ve now turned this into a CPD Programme #OutstandingIn10Plus10.