‘Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.’ Dylan Wiliam.

Last year, a set of standards were published by the DfE aimed squarely at schools, the teachers and leaders they house and CPD providers. The panel behind the standards is filled with people I have respect for when it comes to effective CPD. I’d be stupid to ignore the standards just because they weren’t labelled for Further Education use.

At an away day with my team, I set aside some time to explore what the standards might mean for our practice. We completed a reflective activity where each of us rated each of the standards as to where we felt our whole College was operating currently (4 being high, 1 being low). After some discussion together, this is where it ended up (the first number from the summer and the second as a recent review):

Part 1 – Professional development should have a clear focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes

Professional development is most effective when activities have a clear purpose and link to pupil outcomes. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Has explicit relevance to participants. This means the activities are designed around: individual teachers’ existing experience, knowledge and needs; the context and day-to day experiences of teachers and their schools; and the desired outcomes for pupils (2 – no change).
  2. Ensures individual activities link logically to the intended pupil outcomes (2 – no change).
  3. Involves ongoing evaluation of how changes in practice are having an impact 
on pupil outcomes (1 – no change).

Part 2 – Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise 

Professional development is most effective when informed by robust evidence, which can be from a range of sources. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Develops practice and theory together (2 – no change).
  2. Links pedagogical knowledge with subject/specialist knowledge (1 – no change).
  3. Draws on the evidence base, including high-quality academic research, and 
robustly evaluated approaches and teaching resources (1 – increase to 2).
  4. Is supported by those with expertise and knowledge to help participants 
improve their understanding of evidence (1 – no change).
  5. Draws out and challenges teachers’ beliefs and expectations about teaching and how children learn (1 – no change).

Part 3 – Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge 

Professional development that aims to change teachers’ practice is most effective when it includes collaborative activities with a focus on the intended pupil outcomes. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Builds-in peer support for problem solving (2 – no change).
  2. Includes focussed discussion about practice and supporting groups of pupils with similar needs (2 – no change).
  3. Challenges existing practice, by raising expectations and bringing in new 
perspectives (1 – increase to 2).
  4. Includes support from someone in a coaching and/or mentoring role to provide modelling and challenge (1 – no change).

Part 4 – Professional development programmes should be sustained over time 

Professional development is most effective when activities form part of a sustained programme, typically for more than two terms. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Is iterative, with activities creating a rhythm of ongoing support and follow-up activities (2 – no change).
  2. May include complementary one-off activities as part of a wider coherent package (1 – increase to 2).
  3. Includes opportunities for experimentation, reflection, feedback and evaluation (2 – no change).

Part 5 – Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership 

Professional development is most effective when it is led well as part of a wider culture of evidence-informed reflection and discussion of teaching practice. In particular, effective leadership of professional development:

  1. Is clear about how it improves pupil outcomes (1 – no change).
  2. Complements a clear, ambitious curriculum and vision for pupil success (1 – no change).
  3. Involves leaders modelling & championing effective professional 
development as an expectation for all (1 – increase to 2).
  4. Ensures that sufficient time and resource is available (1 – increase to 2).
  5. Balances school, subject and individual teachers’ priorities (1- increase to 2).
  6. Develops genuine professional trust  (1 – increase to 2).

We had already known that staff development wasn’t anywhere near in the kind of position we’d want it to be in. It wasn’t seen as being of value to managers or staff and it certainly wasn’t translating into impact on our students and stakeholders. This activity had helped us to identify some areas we wanted to prioritise; some key areas in which we felt we might be able to have significant impact.

What have we put in place already (some highlights)?

  • Into all of our guidance, forms and evaluations, we have embedded reference to ‘impact’ with some indication of the aspects to be considered. This is one way for us to begin raising the level of awareness when it comes to ‘impact’ for staff evaluating their CPD activities (see one example below). I’m not happy with it yet but it’s a beginning.

  • We’ve turned a pilot into the Big Learning Project; a self-directed relevant, reflective and sustained approach to CPD that encourages engagement with evidence as well as measuring of impact; encompassing a number of the standards at once.
  • We’ll be piloting at least one lesson study group this term which we hope will be another way in which we can meet a number of the standards in one go.
  • We have ensured that there is always suitable follow-up activity after any developmental activity so that no event occurs in isolation of any other developmental work.
  • The College has introduced a set of online ‘Expectations’ units along with a new approach to Developmental Observations that leads to coaching conversations and shared dialogue about Teaching and Learning.

 

So, what next? 

My hope is that through our efforts and actions, more of the scores will be higher than a 1 or a 2 this time next year. I’d like to revisit these standards again with @helenhayes and and the newly inherited Digital and eLearning Team in the next couple of months to place the standards back on the radar and renew an effort towards meeting them. The Big Learning Project encompasses so many of these standards (…almost all of them in fact) and so it’s important for me to figure out a way of making it become more of the way we do things with regards to development, rather than an additional project staff can choose to participate in.

Being able to meet so many of these standards is heavily reliant upon other individuals in the organisation, other teams, College-wide strategies and approaches that it means I need to think more strategically about how I can influence the development of these areas; such as the creation of meeting slots and a shared focus on and ownership of the measuring of impact. With a staff exceeding 1600 in total, it’s certainly not a job for me alone. Harnessing work already taking place by other teams and within curriculum teams themselves will be of paramount importance.

Sharing the following expectations of teachers (tied up with the ETF professional standards) somehow may help in communicating the importance of CPD and what makes it effective to teaching staff:

As the most important profession for our nation’s future, teachers need considerable knowledge and skill, which need to be developed as their careers progress. As the Teachers’ Standards set out, teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. The Teachers’ Standards set out a number of expectations about professional development; namely, that teachers should: 

  • Keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and be self-critical
  • Take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional 
development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this has an impact on teaching
  • Have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas
  • Reflect systematically on the effectiveness of lessons and approaches to teaching
  • Know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas

I’m hoping that tomorrow’s day of sharing practice with @TeacherDevTrust will shed some light on how the standards can be met and what we might still be missing.

Click here to read the full standard for yourself. I’d be interested in hearing how your own experience of or leading of CPD measures up to these standards. My own belief is that they will challenge a great deal of current and stagnant practice in the education sector for the better.

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