We have come a long way in our understanding and experience of CPD. When we began teaching, our experience of CPD was sitting in a bare, draughty hall at the end of the school day, preparing to be enthralled by whatever speaker the head had decided we were going to listen to for an hour and a half. Since we didn’t know any different, we attended these sessions dilligently, taking notes and trying hard to maintain focus for what seemed liked an eternity. After these CPD sessions, we would come back to work the next day, scan over our notes and vow to try out the latest thing we were told would make us outstanding teachers – except we never did. This thing called ‘teaching’ got in the way, and besides, no one ever seemed to check to see if we were following up on the CPD we’d received so it fell to the bottom of our pile of things to do.
Once or a twice a year, we would be lucky enough to go on a course. We always tried to get ourselves on courses run by Osiris. First, they always had the best presenters and, secondly, they had great lunches. N.B. Never underestimate the power of a great lunch to make teachers choose a certain course provider! We have been lucky enough to experience fantastic CPD led by thought-provoking and knowledgeable educators: Jackie Beere; Andy Griffith; Zoe Elder and Claire Gadsby to name the very best. These were always great days out and we would return to our schools brimming over with ideas and determined to implement them with gusto. However, there are serious drawbacks to these one-off events. They are expensive (and there is precious little money left at the moment in most school budgets) and it’s still a version of sitting in a big room listening to someone tell you how to be better with the aid of a whizzy PowerPoint.
So that led us to our next CPD model: twilight sessions. When we were working together, our school got rid of INSET days and opted for after school twilight sessions that staff could sign up for and attend throughout the year. The school championed this as ‘personalising CPD’ and giving teachers ‘autonomy’ over their teaching needs. On the surface, this model seemed much better; groups were smaller, teachers had chosen a particular session so they were semi on-board already and there was much more discussion amongst teachers. However, we couldn’t help but have this nagging feeling that something was missing… Eventually, we worked out that there was still no way to judge whether teachers were getting anything out of these sessions; in jargon-speak, we couldn’t ‘measure impact’.
After spending a long time sitting down and thinking where we could go from here, we decided on establishing a group of Lead Learners. These teachers had been chosen because they were excellent practioners who were always happy to share their ideas with others and wanted to seek out new ways to develop their practice. We looked at the school’s development plan and decided that we would focus on the following areas: AfL; Stretch and Challenge; Marking and Feedback; Inclusive Classrooms; and Independent and Collaborative Learning. The idea was that teachers would sign up for one area run by two Lead Learners, stick with it for the year and track their progress by experimenting with different strategies with their classes.
Although we were much happier with this model of CPD, it still felt like CPD was something that happened a few times a year and could be ticked off to show you were meeting your performance managament targets. We were looking for something less top-down, less formal, more frequent. And then we found Twitter.
Twitter has been a revolution for the pair of us. At first we felt a bit hesistant: ‘What do we do?’ ‘Who are we allowed to tweet?’ ‘How can I say what I want to say in just 140 characters?’ ‘What do these hashtags mean?’ We are eternally grateful to our former colleague Aisling Cowan @CaldiesEnglish who persuaded us to dip our toes into the world of Twitter. She said we wouldn’t regret it and she wasn’t wrong there! So far, we have been on Twitter for just over two weeks and we have not felt this level of excitement for a long time. We can’t wait to read the blogs of @LearningSpy, @Fullonlearning, @ICTEvangelist, @shaun_allison, @HuntingEnglish, @Joe_Kirby and @TotallyWired77 to name but a few. There are literally thousands of great ideas being shared by teachers for no other reason but for a love of teaching and wanting students to get the best possible educational experince. There is something rather humbling about being part of this Twitter community.
Back to the original premise of this post: what is the future of CPD? We believe that teachers are missing a trick if they’re not on Twitter. Schools should be actively encouraging all members of staff to sign up and receive free, daily inspiration from like-minded professionals. There is still a place for more traditional forms of CPD but there is also plenty of room for quick bursts of CPD provided by Twitter. Twitter has also led us to Pedagoo and TeachMeets. We are looking forward to attending our first #TMLondon in May and putting faces to some of those names on Twitter!
Finally, the notion of the Flipped Classroom is being discussed by many teachers at the moment. The larger question of what role technology has in improving learning is asked by tweachers every day on Twitter. What we would add to this discussion is what role technology has to play in teachers’ CPD. Perhaps we should be flipping CPD and offering videos and other multimedia resources to our staff. After all, students appreciate being able to pause and rewind the videos as many times as they so wish – we’re pretty sure a library of videos made by teachers for teachers would be much appreciated for those who may just have nodded off for a brief moment at the back of the room after a long day in the classroom!!! – [Check out our new sister site for this, TeachMeet TV! Ed.]
Although we don’t have all the answers on what constitutes as influential CPD, we are confident that those teachers who find inspiration on Twitter, talking to supportive colleagues across the globe, will ultimately be getting a lot more out of their CPD than those who are sitting at the back of the hall waiting for the slideshow to begin.