I teach maths and PE at a relatively small, LA controlled secondary school in a rural area of the South East. It’s a friendly and reasonably unpressured environment in which to work – the school is currently rated as ‘good’, and seems likely to stay that way; the SLT is supportive; and I get on well with both colleagues and students. I’m happy in my job, then; but recently I have been feeling that I really should be striving to progress, even though I have no ambitions to move into a leadership role myself. Does CPD necessarily have to lead to promotion? And if not, what kinds of pathways should I be looking to explore, and how?
This is a great question, and one frequently pondered by educators. Empowering teachers to grow their professional knowledge, refine their practices, and model life long learning is critical to our profession. Pursuing and extending your learning does not have to mean a pathway to formal leadership, but is an exciting journey to invest in your expertise as a classroom teacher.
There are a number of wonderful resources for teachers in the UK, such as Massive Open Online Courses – otherwise known as MOOCs. Many are free for teachers, and offer a wide variety of content options; try Coursera, MOOC-Ed, FutureLearn, EdX, or Open2Study. Other options include starting a professional book club - enjoy tea after school with colleagues and dive into a rich educational dialogue over The Teacher’s Toolkit by Paul Ginnis, and other inspiring works.
Additionally, PLCs are worth researching. Check out the work of Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker – experts on Professional Learning Communities (PLC) to sustain learning for teachers. Research studies demonstrate that PLCs help teachers set higher expectations for students; empowering students take more ownership of their learning. Teachers in PLCs report increases in quality classroom pedagogy and student achievement – ultimately, PLCs allow teachers to connect with their greatest resource: other teachers!
In September 2015, I will take up a new role – as head of KS3 science at an academy in North East England. At the school’s last inspection, we were graded as RI, and one of the areas identified, as needing attention was leadership; especially in terms of providing focused professional development for all staff. It has been made clear to me that this is something I will need to tackle within my department, and in a way that will ensure maximum impact, as quickly as possible – with clear evidence that we can present to Ofsted on their return. What would you suggest as my first steps, and what can I do in advance of officially taking on this position?
You are wise! Professional learning is a critical pathway towards the goal of increasing achievement.
Some quick tips:
- Ensure your PD reflects educational research characterising high quality adult learning experiences.
- Impower your teachers to have ownership and choice in their learning process.
- Attend the PD with your staff to model its importance.
- Collect evidence of progress.
- Collaborate with your team to understand their needs; prioritise a learning plan, target critical areas of need; and provide teachers with the time to plan, implement, and reflect.
Don’t forget to consider outside experts. When looking at PD providers, look for one with experience, that listens carefully to your needs and can design a professional learning plan that reflects the needs of adult learners. One model is working with a PD expert to engage a small cohort of teachers to develop specific skills that can be shared with other teachers across the school. The cohort of teachers can develop mini-lessons to share with their colleagues. This is an efficient and manageable, collaborative process that has a positive impact on teaching and learning. Best wishes in your new role – and don’t hesitate to call upon me to lend a hand!
About the expert
Susanne brings 20 years of experience to Discovery Education as a superintendent, curriculum director, principal, and teacher. Susanne leads Discovery’s UK Partnerships by helping schools integrate digital content, technology, and effective instruction increasing student achievement. For more information about Discovery Education’s Professional Development Programme and other services and resources, visit www.discoveryeducation.co.uk