Small CPD ideas to make a big impact

  • Small CPD ideas to make a big impact

There’s little more satisfying than watching someone learn and flourish. As teachers, we love helping our students develop and increasingly we’re prioritising the development of our colleagues. When time and money are tight, professional development is the sort of non-urgent yet vitally important activity that is tempting to cut. However, by making some tweaks to your approach you can instead maximise the impact of the budget that you have and make its value clearer. All of the ideas outlined below have been gleaned during our CPD audit process of schools who are members of the Teacher Development Trust Network.

1. Talk to colleagues regularly about what you’re currently reading, discussing and learning about. Freely admit how you’ve learned from mistakes and failures. Be publicly curious about how things work. Ask questions, promote debate; and encourage colleagues to do the same.

It’s great when the whole senior leadership makes a point of doing this, but when every colleague makes a point of it then the school culture is transformed.

TIP: Take space in your regular email bulletins in the department, team or even whole-school, for sharing what people are reading and learning.

2.Build in a pause before any CPD activity. Give yourself time to ask the questions: “how will my students and my colleagues benefit if I’m successful in my learning?” and “how will I be able to tell if this happens?”

TIP: Make this part of the booking procedure for any external courses and refer back to it in follow-up evaluation.

3. During every CPD activity, or any discussion about teaching and learning, pick out two students as ‘case students’. As you learn, consider ‘how will these two students benefit, and how would I have to adapt my practice to make it work for them?”

TIP: Ask participants to record their case students and reflections on booking forms and in follow-up sheets.

4. Before you begin any CPD activity, put a note in your diary at both three weeks and three months from now that you need to review your learning, reflect on the impact you wanted to have, and find an opportunity to try out what you’ve learned.

TIP: Remind training participants to update their post-training forms after three months with their reflections.

5. Build discussions about professional development and career development into every appraisal meeting. Make time to discuss what staff members need to progress and develop, as well as reflecting how they progressed and developed this year.

TIP: Add a standard question to the appraisal checklist and run an annual session to help appraisers and line managers feel comfortable with how to effectively conduct this part of the conversation.

6. Make five minutes (or more) in every department or year team meeting for professional development. You could bring a test/exam question and ask “what are the common wrong and right answers” and also “what are the best ways to teach the deep understanding of this topic?” Alternatively you could bring a lesson plan or tutor-time activity and have a brief discussion about how to run it well and/or improve it.

TIP: In team work areas (e.g. staff rooms) post up a test or exam question every few weeks and leave post-it notes for people to write up common misconceptions or teaching ideas, to be discussed briefly at the next meeting.

7. Prepare for any lesson observation (peer to peer, or as part of an appraisal) by observer and observed discussing work examples (e.g. exercise books) and data (e.g. homework or test scores) that identify a specific challenge for one or two chosen students. Discuss how the lesson is intended to address these issues and then ask the observer to feed back on how these students engaged with the chosen strategies.

TIP: Add this element into the standard lesson observation sheet.

8 Before booking any course or consultant, compare what is on offer against two other similar offers from other providers to check whether:

a) they offer value for money
b) they are delivering best-practice content with a sound research base
c) they can offer extended support over time and/or follow-up
d) they can help you evaluate the impact they are having in your school.

TIP: Use to check for reviews and conduct comparisons.

9. Get your school to join a network like the Teacher Development Trust Network in order to audit your CPD practice against other schools and engage with other teachers and school leaders who are passionate about improving professional development.

TIP: See for more information. These ideas could spark a revolution in your practice. Ultimately, professional development needs as much deep reflection and thinking as student learning, so begin with these ideas and explore more of the research in this area at

About the author

David Weston is the Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust, the national charity for effective professional development in schools and colleges. He is Chair of the CPD Expert Group for the Department for Education in England. Follow him on Twitter at @informed_edu.