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Bringing CPD Back into the Classroom

11 Jul 2019
Inset days being a barrier to success
Thinking back to when  I took part in Inset days, I got the impression that the whole thing was a bit of a scam, I mean, more often than not I set off on the day valuing the wrong things - later start, no marking, the chance for a little less accountability. There always seemed to be a delightful decision to make about the kind of lunch that needed to be chosen. On reflection, and having had the opportunity to think about professional development from the point of provider, rather than consumer I realise that those sessions were never going to be as effective as they could possibly have been. Though the content might well have been interesting, it was always difficult to see how relevant it was going to be to me and my situation, when a) the information was being delivered in broad enough strokes to cater for the needs of the whole school and b) I was being asked to think of ways to shoehorn it to fit my pedagogy and the needs of my class. On reflection, the chances for the staff to come together at a point where they were not exhausted from teaching were so few and far between, that there were ultimately better uses of that time. 

Arbitrary CPD
It’s what I found most frustrating, the time I spent completing sessions of perceived CPD that weren’t designed for me actually tainted my view of what CPD is supposed to be. In the recent TALIS survey, there were around 98% of teachers in the UK who described themselves as having taken part in some form of CPD over the last year. An impressive number - but just how much of that has actually become a sustained change to classroom practice? Potentially, in some cases when a great deal of money has been spent on facilitating a day and the impact needs to be measured in the SIP then a concerted effort is made to for each teacher to demonstrate the impact of the session on their practice, or at least, a whole school metric, such as progress. In that case, the process of professional development has become stale, undervalued. 

That ticking of boxes
But it goes beyond that, with teachers not only receiving professional development that doesn’t quite hit the mark, but losing sight of that effective CPD actually looks like. When it becomes simply an exercise in ticking a box at the annual performance management meeting, lost in talk of progress and the like. How are teachers expected to move beyond the pressures and strains that they see in front of them, dealing with wearisome workloads and relentless expectations. If they’re not able to see the value in the one thing that’s there to help them fight back against the pressures of the job, then what hope it there?

Putting the personal in CPD
This outpouring of admitted negativity towards the current CPD progress for teachers and schools is not a cry for help though, but justification for what we have done. That is, looked to create an alternative. The ambition is simple - putting the personal into CPD. To be honest though, I had always thought the ‘p’ did stand for personal, because why wouldn’t it? Development should be personal, intended for you. We’ve made an effort to bring CPD back into the classroom by providing hundreds of examples of action-based research to draw upon. It’s a perfect platform for making a change, looking for inspiration or even, fighting back against the frustrations of the job. We’ve provided the tool, but it’s up to the teachers to bring CPD back to the classroom. 

Graeme Forth spent six years on and off in primary school classrooms, with a stint away to complete a masters in education. He now works as part of the Innovation Team at Twinkl, testing and developing products to make sure they bring value to educators around the world. 

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