Working with ‘Novice’ and ‘Expert’ Teachers – David Weston

This is a rather delayed write-up of my notes and reflections on David Weston’s (@informed_edu) workshop at The Telegraph Festival of Education. Having heard David speak on several occasions, I felt certain that he’d live up to everything good CPD should and I’d leave with disrupted thinking and things to be curious about. I wasn’t disappointed.

Within a few weeks, I had shared my new learning with senior colleagues as well as fellow leaders at College. This has been learning that has locked itself firmly in my thoughts and will hopefully lead to more effective CPD approaches for colleagues.

Many of us used to facilitating CPD or introducing fresh approaches in our colleges and schools will be accustomed to colleagues often presenting with the rolling eyes of,I’ve been teaching for 20 years. What will be different about this new learning that I won’t have experienced before?’ And why blame them? Much of education policy seems to take a cyclical motion. Something experienced 6 years previously appears again but those crafty politicians have disguised it to look like something else, assuming that we’ll all be fooled into thinking they hold all the answers to our prayers. Alas, we are not as stupid as we clearly appear and we can see through their thinly veiled attempts at revolution. So when teachers pitch up at yet another workshop or coaching session claiming to ‘revolutionise their practice’, there is little surprise many present with an initial cynicism. 

So how can we approach teacher learning in a way that lands with novices as much as it does with experts?

I mean, apparently the inclusion of a brain or the word ‘science’ could get us pretty far…

But seriously, what answers might science hold for us?

Please excuse any inaccuracies in what follows and please feel free to leave feedback on anything you think is scientifically awry. It’s not especially my strong suit and it’s new learning for me!


The images used are ones I created – I’m sure David Weston (@informed_edu) wouldn’t appreciate you thinking they were his handiwork!

Schemas formed the basis of the first part of David’s exploration of teacher learning. For those of you who don’t know what these are, they’re essentially ‘packets of information that help us anticipate what we’ll find when we encounter a certain concept, category, person, or situation.’ (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Psychology)

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When we encounter a new situation, our senses pick up on aspects of this new situation and add to the packet. For instance, we learn at a young age how to tell if things are hot and how best to respond to this situation in the future – ie. don’t put your hands directly into fire. In fact, remain a safe distance from it.

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It’s important that things are discarded from the packet or placed in a different packet at times though. For instance, when we learn what a dog is, we recognise it has ears, 4 legs and a tail. As we come across more dogs we learn that they’re furry and bark. But what happens when we come across a cat? They’re furry, they have 4 legs, they have ears and a tail. But they don’t bark… If this information were to be added to the existing dog schema then it may cause some considerable issues… Luckily, we check this thought with those around us and they confirm that what we’re seeing is not a dog. As we learn and form schemas, there is a continual adjustment to what our senses are presenting; causing equilibrium and disequilibrium as our schemas adjust and are formed.

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So, our brains respond to sensory information and begin to form associations; constantly causing this shifting movement as our schemas form and adjust based on our responses to the environment we find ourselves in.

Let’s translate this to the teaching environment then. Think back to being a brand new teacher. How did it feel? An assault on the senses? New things, faces, people, process, approaches, knowledge… You can see where this is going! A serious sense of disequilibrium and one can easily imagine the impact this might have on our learning.


When working with ‘novice’ teachers, it’s important that we help them to navigate the choppy seas and their feelings of being overwhelmed by the assault on the senses and their confused attention trying to make sense of everything they’re coming across.

How many of us when we first started teaching (especially in Further Education) were plunged straight into a classroom on day 1 with no training and a full timetable (my hand is up!)? How many of us were sent to observe more experienced colleagues to see how they did things? How many of us left those observations thinking all teachers were gods with magic powers and presence we couldn’t work out how to get our hands on?

This is the point at which I realised that what David was sharing could be absolute dynamite for the profession if we all took it on board.

Novice teachers have few relevant schemas already formed and no real clear idea of what a good lesson looks like. Lessons lead to confused attention and there is a sensory overload but they struggle to make connections and associations as they have no existing schemas in this area to help. It’s an exhausting experience and their working memory becomes overloaded as what they’re experiencing is in a brand new domain of expertise.

Novice teachers are unable to make sense of what they’re seeing in a more experienced colleague because they don’t have existing schemas yet. They see students engaged, attentive and working well. They see a teacher in command of the room and seemingly effortlessly involving each and every student in answering questions. The novice teacher sees only the end product and conclude that there’s just something magic going on or they try to piece together what they’ve seen based on little knowledge of teaching and form incorrect schemas.

If they were to have a colleague or mentor with them whilst watching the session then that colleague could act as the translator of the effective practice- ‘They’re reacting in that way because of the teacher’s position in the room, their stillness, the routine they’ve established with the ‘do now’ activity and meet and greet at the door.’ ‘She’s getting every student involved and boosting their confidence by taking a look at their work first, and spotting which ones have the answers before asking them to share with everyone else.’

You get the idea. It’s essentially a walkthrough of what a teacher has achieved so that the work of a teacher is demystified for a novice and made to seem far more achievable. That it’s not just down to experience. Most things written by Doug Lemov achieve this kind of thing perfectly, see this example of cold calling. (I might be a little obsessed by Doug Lemov at the minute).

The dangers that exist if we leave novice teachers to their own devices is that they begin to form schemas that won’t lead to effective practice in the future or a continued sense of being overwhelmed that ultimately leads them to leaving the profession.

So what might help?

Well, the paired observations would go far to support the formation of effective schemas. As a result of a paired observation, novice teachers could then benefit from clear procedures to follow for just 1, 2, or 3 aspects of their practice at a time so the disequilibrium is reduced. We shouldn’t be asking them to develop all aspects of their practice at once or expecting them to; this will only increase their feelings of being overwhelmed.

After recalling my own start in teaching, I feel some of these approaches could have seriously reduced the negative impact of being thrown in at the deep end. When I recalled what I’d heard from the Head of Michaela earlier on in the day speak about how their new teachers receive feedback on specific aspects of their practice 4 times a day, I made the immediate connection and my schema about effective CPD for novice teachers had expanded.

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So what of expert teachers?

As experts (experienced teachers and not necessarily effective ones), we have a lot of relevant schemas to make use of and we can therefore direct our attention effectively to whatever needs it the most. What we choose to pay attention to is easily decided upon as we’ve become accustomed to the classroom environment and have well-established schemas to help us respond.

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The issue with well-established schemas is that ‘unlearning’ is not easily achieved and whilst learning something new, we are easily drawn back to old habits and existing schemas. We demonstrate bias and reject the unfamiliar. Learning and change becomes a much greater challenge.

What biases should we look out for in our ‘expert’ teachers?

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Most leaders, coaches, mentors, and facilitators of CPD will undoubtedly recognise some of these biases in colleagues they’ve worked with at one point or another.

This is the curse of ‘knowledge’. We have an inability to remember what it’s like being an overwhelmed novice.

So what might help?

  • Get ‘expert’ teachers to articulate existing thinking- ‘What are you doing now and why? How does it impact your students?’ (In order to change or at the very least challenge their existing thinking).
  • Leaders being more transparent about their learning and the journey taken, including their own biases they had to challenge along the way. All the better if they can demonstrate, too, their evidence-based decision making proving that whilst their experience had taught them to make one decision, they routinely choose to check this against what other sources of evidence have to say.
  • Encourage expert teachers to gain a new perspective on existing thinking by following a student around for a day to see learning through a different pair of eyes, a different lens. A colleague to join them help them reflect on this experience would surely help them to correct and form new schemas just as it would for a novice?
  • As a leader, use social connection to change and overcome resistance. Form connections and make relationships. Admit your own failures and reassure them.
  • Experimentation, a sense of agency and high quality feedback are all essential.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about expert teachers is that it’s vital to sustain the change over time on order to suppress and replace incorrect or ineffective schemas. Short interventions mean that existing schema will just reassert themselves so it needs to be continuous.

Once more for the cheap seats…

Development must be continuous for expert teachers. One offs can even be actively harmful for experts as they might reinforce schemas we already have- ‘It looks similar to something I already do so I’ll just continue doing that as there’s nothing long term to influence my thinking in any other direction.’ There’s no depth to one off experiences and so the learning has all the stickiness of a sticking plaster ready to fly off at any moment.

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Novice to expert is the journey that we want and we want it in its most effective form. Just repeating procedures won’t make us great teachers. We need a higher level of expertise than that. We need an adaptive approach. Responsive teacher learning will support this so that a teacher’s learning is pursued based on the classroom happening in front of them.

This session from David at the festival has seriously disrupted my thinking about teacher CPD and, along with the online Match Education course on coaching, has already had impact on my practice and approach to working with teachers.

Now that’s the level of impact we want from CPD.

If only it could all be great as this.

I believe it can be.

We just need to listen to David!

How to Build a Culture of Professional Learning-Bridget Clay- #EducationFest

Seeing Bridget Clay was the first action of the first day of this year’s #EducationFest. Whilst some slots during the Festival posed a next to impossible choice, this one was easy. Bridget Clay it would be.

I’ve long since been interested in the work of the Teacher Development Trust and have heard David Weston speak at several events. Their work resonates with me and my role and so what better place for me to begin the two days of my packed Festival experience?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast


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This is why one approach to CPD that works well in one context, won’t work in another. A culture of ‘professional learning’ is far more crucial for long-lasting culture than ‘doing CPD’.

A  vital component of this culture formation and development is explicitly connecting CPD to the needs of students; it should, after all, be inextricably linked if it’s to have long lasting impact but it also supports a culture of professional learning. In a culture where CPD is for the staff and for their learning then it will more quickly drop off their ‘to do list’ and it will feel as though it’s on a to do list to begin with- this is not where we want learning to be. We should be working towards a culture of professional learning where staff see that the actions they engage with can have real payoff for their students; their confidence grows from this and they can see and feel themselves becoming better practitioners.


In a school or college culture where there is a significant drive for consistency and drastic improvement (for instance- although not exclusively- where Ofsted have made a judgement of ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’), staff feel less confident to experiment and innovate. Professional learning is clearly affected as a result as they place less worth on it and this is certain to have an effect on the quality of students’ learning as a result over time.

What leads to a high quality teacher environment where students are making good progress?


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  • Culture
  • A shared vision
  • Resourcing
  • Relationships and trust
  • Evidencing and monitoring

Useful questions to reflect on- Staff view of professional learning

  • Do your colleagues value professional learning? Does it sit separately to their normal job and not at the heart of what they’re doing?
  • Do your colleagues understand what high quality professional learning is? Are they checking impact for themselves? Are they discerning?

Useful questions to reflect on- Leadership plan for professional learning

  • Is adequate and suitable time and space provided for professional learning to take place? Has workload been considered so that it doesn’t encroach?
  • Is it iterative throughout the year?
  • Is the time for professional learning preserved? ie. timetabled learning spaces for staff are completely protected and are not replaced by anything else. We need to demonstrate the importance we place on this time and space for them to engage in their learning.
  • Whilst it’s important to generate ongoing learning opportunities for staff to engage in their learning with colleagues, we must not forget the part that external expertise may have to play in this iterative approach.

It’s the (not so) small things


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All leaders should consider the following points as aspects of developing a professional learning culture-

Tea and toast can help the development of a culture for professional learning. There’s little evidence to indicate how effective it makes the learning taking place (action research project anyone) but its incorporation sends an important message- we value you enough to feed you. We value this space for you to learn and we encourage you to spend time in this space.

Staffrooms are important and recent years have seen us lose them. I can testify to offices rather than staffrooms in colleges for years now and staff in schools are spending more and more time in their classrooms and far less in the staffroom. They’re important for wellbeing as relationships and downtime are essential throughout the school day but they also aid collaboration as well as conversation about practice. It is here that a culture of professional learning can formulate naturally and informally; developing the kind of honesty and trust that makes more formal forms of CPD run much more smoothly.

Modelling professional learning is a significant action for leaders to take. We know this already from Vivian Robinson’s work, citing that the single most effective activity a leader can participate in (above Planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum, Establishing goals and expectations, Strategic resourcing, and Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment) is Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development (Robinson, V, 2005). As part of this modelling, are leaders modelling vulnerability? I’ve heard Professor Robert Coe refer to this as ‘reciprocal vulnerability’. Being vulnerable is a central part of learning and if leaders are able to model their vulnerability then staff are encouraged to so the same. In doing this, they’ll be sharing their own learning journey- what aspect of their role are they looking to develop, how are they going about this and what misconceptions have they already begun to address and feel challenged by? I believe this to be about sharing the facts and detail of the journey but also the feeling- learning is often uncomfortable and it’s important not to just run around how great learning is- sometimes it’s damn difficult.

Engaging with evidence and not basing all of our decisions and approaches on it but certainly using it as one aspect of being informed. Through this, and explicit sharing of this approach with staff, we’ll be modelling for them how we’d like them to engage in more evidence-informed practice. I once heard Dr Gary Jones speak about evidence-informed decision making for leaders where he spoke of the need to use multiple sources of evidence so as not to lead by bias too heavily.


If staff can see leaders operating in this way- regularly questioning things, challenging themselves and each other and being open to checking the evidence- then it helps them to do the dame; aware that we don’t have all the answers and we need to work hard to challenge our thinking. On the other hand, how damaging might it be to a culture of professional learning to make decisions they think is right, relying on nothing but gut and actively dismissing all evidence to the contrary? So- when making decisions, think about how you’re using an evidence-informed model AND consider how you’ll be making this process more transparent to staff in order to generate a culture of professional learning.

Assessing teachers is a particularly significant of the professional learning culture of a school or college but it’s difficult to do reliably, so what’s the answer? What’s the purpose of teachers being assessed? It should lead to continual adaptation, refinement and improvement if it’s effective. Most schools and colleges now understand that high stakes observations don’t lead to development and have removed grading but what next? How can we get to the point of our staff requesting an observation to support their learning- stating, ‘I’m trying this out in order to see if it will impact x students in y way- could you come in to provide another perspective of how it’s going?’ How does it become ‘done with’ rather than ‘done to’, even if we have moved away from ‘done in’?

The myths about performance management need to be understood by leaders attempting to generate a culture of professional learning. It is often an annual process with humongous targets and numerical outcomes. This clearly doesn’t aid development. Imagine sitting with a student at the start of the year and setting 5/6 large targets for them to work towards. Leave them for 4 months and then have a review- how’s it going? Well, they likely won’t remember what the targets are and will find it difficult if not impossible to identify progress towards them as they had no measures to check against. This is no different for any of us. We need narrower targets, clearly linked to students (not necessarily numbers) and receive regular feedback. This leads to longer lasting impact and higher engagement in learning as staff know what they’re working towards and how they’ll know they’ve got somewhere… or not- and not is ok too as this generates learning also. How about something more experimental that will develop a love for learning as well as have impact on students? I’m currently concerned about these students for x reason, I’m going to improve the quality and quantity of work they’re producing. The how will change as the experiment takes place and the teacher engages with various modes of learning to inform their practice. Reviews of these are always future focussed with the intention to build on the learning that has taken place.

Click here to read, ‘Re-Engineering Performance Management


CPD has become more about fixing problems.


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This is not helpful for the development of a culture of professional learning, in fact, it’s actively damaging. We need to focus on a more optimistic model for development centred around effectively meeting the needs of the students in front of us.

No-one asserts the concept of ‘every teacher can improve better than Dylan Wiliam

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

“I think the only way that we can improve teacher quality is to create a culture of continuous improvement. That is given lip service in many districts, but nobody is really facing up to what it really means in practice. You see, I think that every teacher needs to get better. In many districts they target help at the teachers who “need support”, who need help, who are having difficulties.

Every teacher fails on a daily basis. If you are not failing you are just not paying attention. Because we fail all the time.

Many of you will walk out of this room absolutely convinced I said stuff I know I didn’t say. As teachers we fail all the time. We teach these brilliant lessons. We take in the notebooks and look at what the kids have written and we wonder what planet they were on when we were teaching the stuff.

Our daily experience as a teacher is a failure. Which makes it the best job in the world. Because you never get any good at it. At one time, André Previn was the best paid film-score composer in Hollywood and one day he just walked out of his office and quit. People said ‘why did you quit this amazing job?’ And he said – because I wasn’t scared any more. Every day he was going into his office knowing his job held no challenge for him.

This is something you are never going to have to worry about. This job you’re doing is so hard that one lifetime isn’t enough to master it. So every single one of you needs to accept the commitment to carry on improving our practice until we retire or die. That is the deal.” (Wiliam, D, 2014)

Click here to watch the video

Plan for Culture


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So often, when planning CPD, we dive straight into the end point we want to reach; professional learning communities, peer observations, reflecting on videoed practice together, lesson study…

We need to plan far more effectively to build the right kind of culture for this to take place first.

If we want to get to lesson study for instance- what might we need to do first to build the level of trust required for it to be a success?

  • Sharing practice on display boards for a period of time
  • 15 minute lunchtime forums for the sharing of practice
  • Tip of the week to test out in practice
  • Paired peer observations and/or walkthroughs
  • Journal clubs to engage with evidence

Doing some or all of these things incrementally might help to build a firmer foundation for effective professional learning to take place than just diving straight into the end point.

  • We want to get to here
  • Are we ready for that?
  • What might we need to do to build up to it and get staff ready to engage?


What next?

I have always been committed to ensuring that my learning turns into action that can influence the staff and students I work with. Bridget’s session has most certainly confirmed some ideas for me and introduced a new emphasis for the coming year. I have shared some of her messages with our Senior Leadership team and now also our middle managers. Whilst I’ll inevitably be incorporating as much of my learning into many aspects of my job, I have highlighted, in particular, the need for our leaders to model their professional learning more and I’ve been less mulling this over.

Investing Time in Development Part 1- Ideas Meetings

December of 2015 not only meant a new job for me but also a new city, a new house and staff to line manage for the first time.

The line management aspect of my role has meant that I’ve encountered a great deal of expected and unexpected challenges, joys and experiences. I’m still learning all that I might be able to offer as a leader of my team but one thing I felt from the start that I might be pretty good at was our development.

In my previous job, the more than fabulous curriculum coordinator for the sixth form, Liz Lang, helped to launch a CPD offer for business support staff, before continuing it with a variety of events, initiatives and workshops. The main challenges we always faced were that the same people always contributed. Where were the rest? It became increasingly apparent that even staff who were interested in participating had been prevented from participating by their managers. What were the reasons? There was too much work to be done. They were far too busy. The time couldn’t be spared and ultimately, it was felt and stated that development wasn’t what their staff should be spending their time on- they needed to focus on doing their job well.

As anyone who knows me will be well aware, I’m of the ethos that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. To do a job well, I’ll certainly need to dedicate my time to it. To continue doing it well, I’ll also need to learn new skills, knowledge and engage with alternative perspectives. The thing is, that also takes time and with the best will in the world, if I don’t dedicate time to it then it just doesn’t happen. An investment in myself must be made. But this investment has many more benefits besides just helping me to do my job well: it helps me to be happier at work and this feeling should never be underestimated or viewed as a ‘desirable’ rather than an ‘essential’.

I have long since been a proponent for staff engaging with their development and taking ownership but their managers can be integral to this. I don’t believe that staff can feel empowered to invest time in their own development unless their leader invests in their own development AND actively encourages staff to set aside time for their development too.

My new job meant I had a business support team in front of me and I certainly wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. When it came to development, I wanted to demonstrate the importance of investing in yourself by sharing my own learning experiences and by making sure that time was set aside for us to learn together.

One of the ways we’ve achieved this is through our ideas meetings.

In these Friday afternoon meetings, I share a video or blog that will encourage reflection and that would hopefully lead to the emergence of new ideas and solutions. We spend some time in the week (whatever time we committed to putting aside) to engage with the resource and make some notes for discussion. What drives our notes is always, ‘What is interesting?’ but also- ‘How might this interesting thing translate to us, our work, our team? What might we do differently now?’ During our meeting, we share reflections before moving to the possibilities. We don’t always firm up future actions but, quite often, we do. For the purposes of writing this blog and sharing what we’ve been doing, I asked both Chris and Helen to make a few short statements to summarise their main thoughts about each of the resources we explored.

Simon Sinek: Start with Why

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The Limbic brain reference was very interesting, made sense of why gut reactions happen and are often right! Using ‘Why’ is a powerful way of making sense of what we are asking staff to do for training and other purposes and also in the wider areas of your life.’

Helen: ‘The WHY concept. Why gut reactions happen and why it’s often the right decision Using WHY in everything we do (NLP).’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Staff Development is now using the ‘Why’ concept in all communications to staff, which is having a very noticeable positive effect.’

Helen:Incorporated the WHY concept in messages to staff. Using the ‘WHY’ to encourage staff to take ownership of their own training/learning. Return rate of evaluations drastically improved since we told staff ‘WHY’.

We can’t totally measure the impact of adding the ‘why’ YET but there are some really positive indicators so far:

  • Our new staff who have accepted an invitation to the next induction has gone up by more than 50% since we added the why
  • Our evaluations used to trickle in when we sent out reminders until we added a why and we’ve made a leap of more than 100 evaluations across the college- increasing our % of development activities evaluated by 10%
  • We sent out reminders about essentials training without a why and received 25 in return. We added a why and in the week that followed, we received 73.

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘It has made such an impression on the way I think, that I am conscious whenever ‘Why’ crops up. It makes me question how I approach my role and how I communicate with people – ‘Why’ am I making the request?’

Helen: ‘Continue to incorporate the WHY in Staff Development. Question WHY I do things, how I do them and when I do them.’


#ldcuk16- Unconference

Click here to access this blog

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘A completely different way of viewing a conference. A way of making the day fun and meeting new people. I thought the laws were interesting: being given permission to not to have to stay and listen to conversations that were of no value to you or boring. Would be interesting to do a Development Day around this theme.’

Helen: ‘The whole concept of no agenda/structure; just basic rules to work by for the duration. Icebreaker of creating your own name badges. Make your own breakfast!’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Could be a Development Day activity or for teams to use for the Local Day. Cross College teams sharing information/best practice.’

Helen: ‘Possible Development day activity Team/department activity. Circulate to other teams/departments throughout the college.’


David Weston- Unleashing Greatness in Teachers

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘David Weston made the subject interesting and inspiring. Gave clear guidelines of how to develop trust from learners. This was interesting even from a non-academic perspective.’

Helen: ‘All of it!! Insightful commentary, made the talk interesting to listen to. Spoke in such a way a non-academic could understand the concept.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Problem solving for myself and others. Collaborating and working together as a team. Understanding (Google a bit more!)’

Helen: ‘Looked for new ideas to use within the team (add-ons for Docs/Sheets/Forms etc like Autocrat, Choice eliminator etc). Frequent collaboration within the team and colleagues in another department (asking Online College for assistance when needed). Problem solving – working to find solutions (not giving up when trying to find the correct formulae in Google sheets). Understanding/Diagnosing (Google).’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Look at future CPD for both staff and myself to encourage knowledge and perception to make a skilful working life more joyful.’

Helen: ‘Future CPD opportunities for self and staff to increase knowledge and skills in job role which in turn increases the spirit and joy in practice.’


Daniel Pink- The Puzzle of Motivation

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The candle problem was interesting as was the fact that rewards narrow your thinking and hinder creative thinking. Engagement is better for creative thinking (self-direction). FedEx day – deliver something overnight was an interesting concept. Interesting that staff are trusted to use their 20% time constructively.’

Helen: ‘Mis-match between ‘what science knows and what business does’. The candle problem (blinkered view), which can inhibit your problem solving processes / way of thinking. Incentives / rewards – narrow the focus and restricts possibilities. Management was invented. Engagement – self-directed (take away rewards but give recognition. If/then rewards destroy creativity.’

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Management -vs- Engagement? Better to do things because you believe in them than to be directed. Agree that carrot/stick method is outdated and that 20% time would be more productive.’

Helen: ‘Agreed: 20% time – self directed = increased creativity and productivity. Carrot/stick method outdated – Motivators/incentives should be tailored to staff/department rather than the organisation as a whole.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘20% time – for reviewing the videos and collating findings. For making use of the concepts discussed.’

Helen: ‘20% time thinking up new concepts in order to assist the smooth running of the department and provide robust information for other teams.’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘By using self-direction and the 20% time to review working practice and how we approach training and the implementation of new ideas for staff.’

Helen: ‘Continue 20% time.’


Rinsing the cottage cheese: making CPD meaningful

Click here to read this blog

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Disagreed – with rinsing the cottage cheese, it is too indiscriminate – takes out the best bits as well as the worst. Staff who just do not want to be involved seem to be missed out – should the ‘Why’ be part of addressing this?’

Helen: ‘Agreed; One size fits all does not work. Disagreed: Layered approach does not capture everyone.’

What are the next steps for our ideas meetings?stairs-man-person-walking.jpg

A review of the format and frequency and perhaps a change of name too.

Last term, Chris and Helen had already begun to share find of the own and this will be sure to continue as it contributes to my learning too; taking ME away from things I would ordinarily encounter, and you know what they say about your comfort zone, learning’s best when you’re out of it.

I’d like to incorporate some live hangouts with writers of blogs, creators of videos and thought leaders so that we can question them and interact with their ideas more directly.


How about you?

If you’re a member of staff who isn’t supported by your manager to engage in your own development then get proactive:

  1. Share this blog with your manager as well as some of the research into the importance of CPD: click here for some links. State how valuable your CPDis to you, the team and your work.
  2. Bring along interesting things you’ve found to your team meetings and instigate some discussion yourself.
  3. Send interesting materials to your manager and colleagues; sharing your ideas and you’ll begin with connecting with like-minded individuals.
  4. Arrange your own lunchtime sharing groups with colleagues.
  5. If all else fails then raise the issue with your staff development department and/or a senior leader for some support.

If you’re a manager (business support or otherwise) and you’d like to try ideas meetings for your team:

  • Integrate the activity as part of a meeting you already hold.
  • If meetings are difficult then why not create an online community and share resources there?
  • Allocate the responsibility for finding a resource to a different staff member each time.

A rather wise person (Ian Grace, Motor Vehicle Lecturer) once recommended this really great book to me and here’s a little quote from it:

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#ShapingCPD – The Keynotes

After this event a couple of months ago, I recorded my initial reflections about the day and subsequently shared an account of the best CPD I have ever participated in. What follows are notes on the content of the keynotes part of the day. I’m rather later than intended in typing these up but returning to them after the event has been beneficial for my learning.

Continue reading “#ShapingCPD – The Keynotes”

#ShapingCPD – Initial Reflections

A detailed blog will be on its way but in the meantime, here are some initial reflections. I duly accepted a Periscope challenge, set by my manager, Graeme Hathaway. Until I can make this more freely available, a short written summary of my thoughts about the #Sharing CPD conference shall have to suffice:

Continue reading “#ShapingCPD – Initial Reflections”

CPD, but not as we know it

Our CPD Journey until now

Over the last three years, I have been part of a team leading and facilitating CPD across Reading College. We’ve experienced great successes and we’ve largely achieved what we set out to: Continue reading “CPD, but not as we know it”

Professional Development: what works?

Working in a development role at College, this debate would be more than relevant for me.

The debate was shared by Rod Bristow, from Pearson, who shared a couple of videos from John Hattie to stimulate conversation.

Fergal Roche

Government have been obsessed with choice and autonomy.

Choice came about from Tony Blair’s government.

Encouraging schools to work within their local context is vital- not just having autonomy but making the most of their context in line with their autonomy.

Consistently good teaching= outstanding

We have a culture of resource being poured in at the start (not as much as in Finland) and then teachers tend to plateau

We’ve got to keep the inspiration teachers had at the start of their careers. Constant inspection and development as a result.

A&E= saving lives. Teaching= developing lives.

School leaders have to up the ante and get excited about the profession.

David Weston

We’ve maxed out on autonomy in our education system

It ain’t what you do but the way that you do it.

We don’t want people to be busy with change imposed from the outside but we want them to focus on their day-to-day practice- retention is improved as a result

Development of career routes for teachers and a ladder of professionalism

Philippa Cordingley

CPD and learning should be the focus.

School leaders learning in public has a huge effect on their staff: promoting the model of learning themselves is vital.

Parents, school, teachers and students aligned with what learning means in this decade.

What do we mean by impact? When we work it out, this must be shared with all of the above.

Students love sport because they know what success looks like and they know they need to out effort in.

Joint planning in light of the impact evidence they’ve collected

Hero teachers with their private kingdoms have no place in education- great leaders need to encourage all teachers to work towards goals in a collective way.

Q. To what extent should teachers have autonomy?

David Weston

They should have autonomy in the classroom but they should be held to account for decisions they make, the learning they engage with and the impact they have.

They need to be held responsible for keeping up-to-date with the latest evidence base- their own learning is their responsibility in providing the best experience for their learners.

If teachers can’t support their decisions and ideas with rigorous evidence then this isn’t acceptable.

Shallow accountability is damning to the profession- especially if watching teachers through a small lens for a short burst of time and then disappearing off having made a judgement, graded or not. These kinds of judgements have also been proven to be ridiculously unreliable.

Benedick Ashmore-Short

He walked into a school where they had been judged inadequate three years in a row.

Those same teachers are now teaching good and outstanding lessons- he filled them back with love for their profession

Educators live in a climate of fear and are scared to take the risk

Staff meetings were spent talking about logistics- pedagogy is now the ONLY conversation. Lesson study takes place and teachers need the space to become self-reflective.

Trust that the data will come as a result of this approach.

Time is given every week for teachers to explore a blog where the best practice and latest research is collected.

Q. What are the best ways of scaling up interventions?

Tom Bennett

Through the success of science and its arrival into the public consciousness, social sciences was born and it was treated in the same way.

Educators are paralysed by evidence as our relationship with it is new.

Difficulties of scalability with education research.

It’s immature to think that educational research that indicates certain interventions work in a certain context, will work in every single context and will have an impact on every single learner.

Intervention x has impact y in context z. The context z is vital.

Eleanor Bernardes

Evidence-based and evidence-informed is very different

Time needs to be given, without the accountability pressures to research fully

Fergal Roche

Short lessons every day and teaching more students at once

Structure schools to do less teaching but in less depth

More time for researching and informing their teaching

I then stopped paying attention as I’d decided to ask a question, in a room full of people: my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty. I was about to follow my own advice and make my voice heard…

The time for questions had arrived and we were told there would be time for just one question. There was no way, after all of this adrenalin, that it wouldn’t be mine. My hand shot firmly straight up into the air. There was another arm floating in front of me but it was way too limp in comparison – it could not compete with my uncharacteristically assertive arm! The lady in the middle of the room was pointed at- It was me! I was really about to do this!

I asked something along the lines of, ‘What would your advice be for teachers and middle leaders to persuade school and college leaders and governors that development needs to be further up on the agenda in the face of all the funding and data pressures they face?’

The panel members nodded vigorously and I was told it was an excellent question! 🙂 Proud is not the word. I hardly ever do things like this but I really had done it! 🙂

Vivienne Robinson Curee research was referenced

And, I think, this too.

The hazard of asking a question is that I was so busy feeling proud of myself that I don’t think I entirely took in all of the answers given…

A thought- leaders need to be learners but this needs to be explicitly shared with their staff all of the time. They need to be the example and they need to make space and time for CPD to occur. Actual space and time. They need to be brave and put CPD ahead of all else; trusting that the data will come.