Sharing practice to reflecting on practice: A positive move for CPD in FE?

Sharing practice sessions are a staple of CPD programmes in most of the colleges where I have worked as a teacher, trainer and coach and those in which I now work as a freelance consultant and trainer. There seems to be a widespread assumption that sharing practice from the classroom has value in and of itself, whereas I increasingly feel that the benefit is dependent on how it is done. For teachers to gain maximum benefit from these sessions, I think we need to move from simply sharing practice to a deeper and more focused reflection on practice.

Many sharing sessions that I have attended involve plenty of ‘show and tell’ elements, in which teachers describe their classroom approaches or activities and show resources to colleagues. This can become a process limited to basic narrative, telling the story of how teachers used the approach in class. Although it can be practical and useful to know how the activity or approach worked, the deeper professional dialogue comes from talking about how it affected the learners and the teacher and reflecting on glitches and potential enhancements. This deeper level of reflection can make these sessions rich, thought provoking and challenging for teachers. When these conversations have this kind of detail and depth, I have seen teachers debating the very nature of learning and what we can confidently say we know about how to facilitate it. Assumptions are made explicit and there is professional space to examine and challenge them in a respectful way. The session can then go way beyond conversations about how a checklist was used with level one in a speaking task, to the heart of our thinking processes, knowledge and professional practices.

This focus on reflection and professional critique also helps to tackle one of the other pitfalls of sharing practice sessions – the flawed but implicit notion that all approaches shared could be of value to you and worth adopting. Attendees at these sessions can feel a pressure to adopt wholesale some of the practices on show, whereas engagement with them as a critical friend for review, reflection and selective adaptation would be a more appropriate goal.

The way the session is configured can have a significant influence on the tone and style of the conversations that ensue. As the trainer or facilitator, it helps to create a space for high order critical thinking and encourage teachers to ask questions of each other and debate the benefits of the resources/activities on show. When you create a space for analysis and evaluation, teachers seem to feel more comfortable to offer challenges, critiques and even conflicting views, within a respectful professional dialogue. Subsequent conversations about evolving or adapting the ideas on show are so much richer and grounded in the teachers’ own knowledge and context. Without such critical space, I have watched sharing practice sessions stay on the surface limited to narrative, which for me is a lost opportunity to move our thinking on together.

For people who are thinking about ways to foster deeper reflection in their sharing practice slots, here are some food for thought questions:

  • How reflective are the sharing practice sessions in your context? What shows you that?
  • How could you encourage deeper professional reflection within them?
  • What role could coaches or advanced practitioners play in this process?
  • How could pre-session tasks help foster a spirit of reflection and debate in the conversations?
  • What could happen after the sessions, to foster ongoing collaboration and reflection?



Posted in Advanced Practitioners, CPD, CPD for Teachers, FE, Professional Development, Sharing good practice, Staff Development | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lesson observations – quality assurance or quality improvement?

The blog on the link above includes some thoughts on the importance of gaining staff feedback on observation practices and seeing observation as a tool for professional learning and quality improvement as opposed to mere quality assurance.

There is also a discount code for a forthcoming event about fostering professional learning through lesson observations, which I am co-presenting with  Dr Matt O’Leary.

Posted in Culture for Learning, Graded lesson observations, Lesson observations, Professional Development, Ungraded lesson observations | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A collection of blogs about revision skills

There are some bloggers who are able to produce really interesting and useful posts on a regular basis and here are some of my favourites, writing on topics related to revision. Thanks to all of them for their work and generous sharing!

The “Do’s and Don’ts” of Revision from Dan Williams:


The revision collection from Alex Quigley:


Sequencing lessons in the run up to exams by Andy Tharby:


Improving recall in GCSE English Language and Literature: some practical suggestions from Andy Tharby:


Why use visuals from Dan Williams:


Posted in Embedding English, embedding literacy, Exams, Recycling, Revision, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want to set yourself up as a freelancer in education? Blog posts on how to make it happen

I worked in colleges and schools for twenty years and now I work for myself as a sole trader, managing the business side of being a freelancer and also the training/consultancy/coaching delivery into schools and colleges. It is a challenging, exciting, unpredictable and rewarding life so here are some thoughts on making that change in work and lifestyle.

This blog helps you think about what kind of business you want to run and what you can offer to customers/clients:

Here is some advice about the rather dull but absolutely necessary discipline of good record keeping:

Thoughts on using Twitter, Linked In and a website as tools for generating and sustaining your business:

Some thoughts about the pleasures and benefits of working freelance, once you are through the stressful set-up phase:

How to make business travel more palatable!







Posted in Coaching, Consultancy, FE, Freelancers, schools, Social media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The challenges of sustaining joined-up CPD

I am working with Optimus Education to deliver some workshops around creating sustainable, joined-up CPD cycles and here is a link to a blog on this topic, covering some of the common pitfalls and ways around them. Details of the workshops are also included in the link:

Posted in CPD, CPD for Teachers, Culture for Learning, FE, Leadership of learning, Learning Leader, Professional Development, Staff Development, Teaching and learning | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Training on creating a sustainable, joined up CPD cycle

I am working with Optimus Education to present several half day events to help schools and colleges develop sustainable, joined up CPD cycles. There will be plenty of practical approaches shared as well as chances to network with others from the sector. It would be a very useful session for a CPD lead, staff development trainer or Advanced Practitioner/Teaching and Learning Coach to attend.

Here is what previous attendees said about the event:

Brilliant – really useful and time to reflect”
“Excellent opportunity to explore the complexities of CPD and come up with some practical strategies.”

Informative and highly useful”

“Excellent input and discussion around CPD, learned loads! Brilliant input from trainer – thank you!”

“Very practical and thought provoking – good rapport and positive outcomes”

“Informative, great to have opportunities to reflect and network.”

“Informative and reflective. Very practical and useful”

“Thank you – really useful – a lot to take in and back to school!”

The next events in the series will take place in May and June and focus on ways to motivate staff to get involved with CPD and approaches for sharing practice effectively. Details about these two events on the booking link below and non-members can attend for a reasonable fee displayed on the pricing tab:


Posted in Advanced Practitioners, CPD, CPD for Teachers, Culture for Learning, FE, Leadership of learning, Professional Development, Sharing good practice, Staff Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Blogs for teachers and coaches on embedding English

Posted in Embedding English, embedding literacy, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment