The landscape of CPD in FE is changing, evolving in response to the pressures on time and budgets, but also as a result of teachers looking for less formal, more flexible and personalised models of development. In the last year I have seen the flowering of CPD that creates opportunities for sharing reflection and practice beyond the institution where the teacher is working, outside the team they work in. Many teachers I know are dipping in and out of these to meet specific, personal areas of interest and using them to tackle their own classroom issues and challenges. When teachers seek to own their professional development, there are now many more resources to exploit and channels to explore and that is an exciting, engaging landscape to exist in. CPD is less done to than chosen by teachers in many contexts – the formal, sheep dipping staff development conference day plays a shrinking role in this picture, raising questions about its validity going forward, I think.
I am hearing about an increasing number of Teach Meets in different parts of the country – short twilight and weekend meetings where teachers link up cross institutionally to discuss classroom practice, research, a theme or hot topic etc. One school or college acts as host, publicising the event through social media etc. What a healthy and exciting model for sharing ideas and picking up approaches you might adapt back in your setting! I work cross sector and can see how much could be gained from greater linkage between colleges and so it is really great to see this model taking hold. This also provides the possibility of FE and Sixth Form staff meeting colleagues from secondary and that can be a hugely productive thing, in terms of learning more about the students’ journey beyond our sector.
In house quickie CPD
In many colleges this year the models of in a nutshell CPD or bite-sized training have really taken root. This is a practical, inventive response to the squeeze on timetabled slots for professional development and can be an agile and responsive way to develop staff. These 30-40 minute sessions are being held at breakfast time, in lunch breaks, in twilight slots and in some cases, evenings with a related social event following on. For me, the challenges here are to structure the session so it is engaging for staff while providing relevant input they can take away and use, so the presenter/facilitator skill set and additional online resources are important. Follow up and the support for putting new approaches into action are also critical, so coaches and Advanced Practitioners are part of this process, where planning is joined up effectively.
Joining the Twitterati
What an increase of great bloggers on Twitter this year and how helpful this is for moving on your thinking from a train, bus or sofa! I am now using journeys to pick up research and policy updates, read reflections from teachers in all sectors about their classroom practice and see how leaders in education grapple with putting a vision into practice. I can be part of this huge sector-wide conversation; I can pick up practical approaches to experiment with; I can get informed of current hot topics; I can make links with other people who I would never have found without this vast network. It is an inspiring, creative, refreshing place to spend some time and you have total control of how much you engage – lurking is fine too! Each week I see more and more teachers joining this network and using it for their own developmental purposes and I think this trend will only grow over the next year.
Sharing practice in college
Speed dating sessions, swap shop slots, show and tell meetings are all part of the landscape in colleges these days. Inventive managers who know that T&L needs to be embedded into their operational processes are adding agenda items on this to their curriculum meetings, to foster sharing of practice, reflection on classroom challenges, trouble shooting and problem solving. Even a short slot, conducted regularly, can affect practice so it is worth the focus and investment of time. In all the colleges where I run training or coaching sessions, teachers are crying out for more of this so a great new year’s resolution for management teams would be facilitating and enabling teachers to meet more frequently, for longer, with useful reflective support.
How can teachers focus on T&L development without some time dedicated to this in their hectic schedules?
What can be more important to driving up learner achievement than this work?
Surely admin and bureaucracy can’t be more significant and a better use of our time……I think most people in FE know this intuitively but need in some cases to stand up for it explicitly, in order to pull action into line with beliefs and values. It is too easy to feel pushed into paper-creating, auditing style activities and then neglect the meaningful stuff. Streamlining the meeting schedules in colleges, looking at tracking systems and how to improve them and prioritising activities that impact on learners can all help here.
I imagine all of these CPD opportunities will develop further in 2015 and other new forms will emerge. It will be interesting to see how online platforms and flipped CPD models will be part of that evolution. Hopefully the rich, human models involving teachers in a room, just sharing, will be a major part of the CPD landscape of the future, despite all the constraints on our time and budgets.