Unfortunately, I think that after a great deal of CPD training, very little actually happens. Research on staff development indicates this and my experience in the FE sector reflects it. In my view, we need to put a lot more focus on the answer to this question, so let’s get started…
What needs to happen after CPD training?
Capturing points to explore further
At the end of CPD sessions, I think people need a little time and space to make an initial assessment of what they want to explore further and/or try out after the session. Otherwise it can just feel like a whirl of ideas, often quite engaging at the time, but quickly forgotten in the blizzard of FE life. No reflection at this point can be a quick route to no implementation at all. Some colleges are capturing this online or on a paper-based form so people can come back to it in subsequent sessions. Some colleges are using Twitter or Padlet to catch initial thoughts. I saw a trainer the other day just ask people to add a note to themselves on their phone.
Identifying space for further thinking
I don’t think I am the only person who needs to put a slot in their diary to review training handouts/ links and have a think about what I want to do with that learning. Scheduling that thinking slot is a good way to make it actually happen as opposed to staying on that vague, lengthy ‘to do’ list we all seem to have. Agreeing to do this with a colleague can be another good way to help it take place.
Creating space for collaborative work
For managers, this means talking about the implementation of the training with individuals, allocating meeting time for reflective dialogue in teams etc. Practitioners can find it helpful to buddy up with a colleague to think about how to plan in their implementation or further research activities. For me, conversations about training provoke thoughts, which provoke actions, so we need to encourage them. Too often in FE, the main approach seems to be hoping that people will take training into practice, without scaffolding that process at all. For teachers this can mean scheduling a time to meet a colleague and discuss something further or arrange a peer visit to their classroom.
Building in a review point
If you have used an external consultant to deliver training, you can help close the loop by asking them to re-visit three or four months later to run review and sharing meetings. They can help refine the work, trouble shoot the implementation glitches and build momentum. I love it when a college realises that this is the way to give training a chance to take hold and makes that commitment to the follow up process. In that context, I know there is a much better chance that initial training will lead to something useful in practice, as opposed to just being an ‘inspiring’ day that had limited impact on the ground.
When this visit is planned at the point of initial CPD delivery, staff are aware that the training is leading towards a point in time, that implementation is really part of the game. It is not just a training day to tick some kind of strategic box, so college can say they have ‘done’ stretch and challenge, for example!
Review points can also involve sharing within and between teams, via teacher talk or swap shop sessions. This is a way for staff to develop professional dialogue skills and reflect on their practice across time. Surely this is desirable in our purportedly learning-focused organisations? In many contexts, there are skilled coaches in situ who can maximise the depth and usefulness of these conversations but few colleges I visit are closing the loop by using them in this way, consistently and effectively. I often deliver training in a college only to be told that no coaches will be in attendance, which limits the potential for follow through after I have gone.
Having a repository for resources
Where will things related to that training go? Is there a central area so that people can share resources and find further links for research? Or is it all just rushed email follow up that doesn’t build anything sustainable for people to go back to over time?
It is as if all the attention is going on getting CPD training in place with little thought to the implementation or how to maximise implementation and subsequent impact. I think we are often wasting valuable resource in this way and losing opportunities for development. Not closing the loop means that some individuals may apply training to practice but many may not and the richness of collaborative reflection and learning together, is lost. It is a ‘hope it will stick’ model of CPD and I think we can help it stick much better than we are doing right now.
For an insightful and fascinating research review of these themes, you can read this report: