Even when a training session is well received and sparks a great deal of reflective and creative thinking, there is often little follow through into practical implementation. I have been a teacher, trainer, consultant and coach in the FE sector for over twenty years and I think several big questions arise:
1.How will the training be implemented in practice?
Many colleges do not plan the follow up and implementation process in detail at the point of commissioning training. Trainers are asked to deliver a day on stretch and challenge methods for teachers, for example, and when the implementation process is queried, are told that managers will follow this up, but there are rarely specific steps in place or a timeframe to provide focus. A common problem is drift, with patchy implementation at best, and little focused reflection on what the impacts have been on thinking or practice. This seems to lead to lost opportunities for development and a lack of slots to re-visit, review and evaluate the implementation of the training in the working context. I think that it is helpful for colleges to ask for the trainer’s advice about implementation steps and use the trainers as part of that process where appropriate. This can encourage a stronger focus on doing something after the memories of nice biscuits and a day out of class have faded!
- Who can provide helpful follow up and when?
In many contexts, the curriculum manager alone will not be able to provide effective follow up due to demands on their time. When teachers attend training on an aspect of classroom practice, they may then need support, space and time to make useful adjustments to their practice. In my experience, colleagues can provide valuable support and stimulation through professional dialogue and a conversation with a skilled coach or Advanced Practitioner can be powerful in supporting change. Without this focused, personalised, often 1:1 reflective space, many great ideas get lost in the blizzard of everyday life in the sector. It is just too easy to enjoy the CPD day, have good intentions and yet never find that moment to plan putting the training into practice.
Why are we bothering to train people if we are not committing thought, time and effort to following this through into practice?
Why are we expecting over-burdened multi tasking curriculum managers to take on the main bulk of this follow up role?
In most colleges, we now have a group of staff with a developmental focus, who could provide this space, if tasked and guided on when and how to do so. This level of implementation planning is not something I see working well in most of the thirty colleges where I deliver support. Part of this is a reluctance to look at college calendars and meeting schedules with a forensic eye, and prioritise spaces for personalised or team development. Colleges often put other activity higher up their list of priorities and seem to expect reflection and training implementation to happen in the cracks between lessons, marking, admin and meetings. My observation is that it often doesn’t. If we value this work and want it to take effect, I think we need to give it a viable space to grow.
- What are we trying to achieve?
Training on a theme is commissioned, but the impacts on practice and the benefits for staff and learners are only loosely defined, at best. This means that following up what has changed, any impacts on practice, is difficult- the lens we are using is foggy. It feels as if in classroom practice we have become used to thinking about outcomes, changes in learner performance etc but this thinking has not translated into CPD planning. It is more about getting some training on the next hot topic or a key priority on the strategic plan than really focusing on the change you want to create in your context. It is more activity than outcomes focused.
- Some tips for enhancing follow up
At the outset, when commissioning training, I think it really helps to consider:
- What changes in attitude, behaviour, skills or performance do we want to see after this training?
- How can we establish what changes have occurred in practice? (This implies a concept of current baseline, of course)
- Which measures of impact are practical, appropriate and meaningful?
- Who can support the teachers in their implementation and when?
- What will the role of managers be in supporting and tracking the implementation?
- When will be a good time to re-visit key messages from the training and how can we share practice that emerges?
- How could the trainer support this follow up process?
- How much budget do we need to dedicate to planning the implementation process and outcomes tracking?
Reasons to be cheerful
It has made me immensely hopeful to see some colleges bucking the trend this year and establishing slots in calendars for teachers to have a regular developmental space, for reflection, practical workshops, personal planning and sharing of practice via Teach Meets and other activities. A few colleges have made 60-90 minutes per week/fortnight free for all staff, with no provision running. It is not perfect – more time would allow for more extensive reflection and sharing – but this time can be harnessed in useful ways and it is way better than nothing being allocated at all!
I urge leaders and managers reading this to have a look at the calendar and create opportunities for this work so that CPD can make an impact on teachers and learners.
If you need support with planning or implementing CPD training or want to discuss any of the points raised here, I hope you will get in touch: