When you were thrown off your university course, and expected to teach, there would have been a sense of trepidation, fear, joy and loneliness as you approached your first teaching position. Did the university prepare you for all the challenges ahead? What about future changes to the curriculum you may be expected to teach? What about the reality of facing real idiosyncrasies in pupils (and their parents), compared to the theories studied and limited experiences you would have tackled in training?
This is where Continuing Professional Development (CPD) kicks into action but this, in itself, is undergoing a mammoth transformation as budgets are squeezed, local authorities support disappears, with schools and teachers scratching around trying to fill the gaps to develop practice. Shaun Allison justly distinguishes this in his book Perfect (Teacher Led) CPD, exploring the challenges and opportunities which teachers now have developing their own professional development.
Within the book, Allison recognises that staff need a range of CPD opportunities that will engage, enthuse and motivate them with traditional channels of training evolving into a more personalised set of needs identified by teachers themselves. School leaders need to challenge their training models with a useful collection of key questions to challenge thinking and future steps. As the book highlights, teachers are highly reflective (and critical) when it comes to their own practice and want to be the best they possibly can be, but also teachers want to progress by working alongside peers to learn best practice and ideas which they can implement into their own classroom.
The book progresses, sharing chapters in how settings can best implement CPD for the benefit of staff and the school as a whole: 15 minute forums are a great idea, and react very well against unengaging staff meetings; coaching -” in a supportive and progressive approach; Learning Development Groups -” groups of teachers meeting together to share ideas, challenges and practice; Action Research -” usually via professional programmes; Professional Learning Visits -” visiting another school give you a great insight to different perspectives; INSET days and staff meeting -” clear focus needed; Lesson observation reviews and reflection; Lesson studies -” collaborative lesson building with other teachers, and reflections afterwards; and student-led CPD -” yes, feedback from those who consume the lessons you deliver -” scary, but can be insightful.
A lot of personal responsibility with CPD can be gained by visiting TeachMeets (click here to see our events page for information if there is one near you soon) and although it can be a little daunting to present at one of these events, they are a great opportunity to pick up ideas, resources and meet other teachers who will be in a similar professional position to you. We were interested in the -˜Social Media' chapter, as Allison recognises twitter becoming an important source of CPD for teachers, with many using it to share ideas, resources as well as discuss issues and initiate a range of collaborative projects. #ukedchat is one of the many qualities mentioned in the book, however blogs and chats are recognised as a great evaluative source. Get connected.
With the changes mentioned earlier, it is now up to school leaders and (more importantly) individual teachers to take responsibility for their own professional development. Shaun Allison offers a great range of options which are easily accessible, engaging and manageable for all to develop professionally to support improved teaching and learning practices which can help to benefit all involved in education.