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CPD for teachers – ‘DRIVE’ & the challenges of CPD

Illustration of seated audience of professionals about to undergo CPD for teachers

Ed Carlin shares insights on honing teaching fundamentals with the DRIVE model, while Adam Riches explores the real challenges teachers face when it comes to CPD…

by Teachwire
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Go back to basics with DRIVE

Ed Carlin believes the profession should zero in on the fundamentals of teaching and learning – and has just the tool to help…

Imagine the following scenario. While out on his latest driving lesson, little Liam is getting increasingly frustrated.

His instructor’s a really nice guy, often sharing stories that make Liam’s driving lessons all the more interesting and memorable. The trouble is, it’s now Liam’s third lesson with Mr Stevenson, and he still doesn’t understand how to engage the clutch.

Liam desperately looks to Mr Stevenson to ask for instruction. Sadly, he’s met with yet another pearl of wisdom from his guide: “Liam, learning to use a clutch is a bit like music. Pedal in and pedal out, all in harmony with the beat. Rhythm, Liam my boy! Rhythm…

By now, Liam’s sat through dozens of stories, anecdotes and observations, while Mr Stevenson seems to have lost all sense of purpose. Liam is 55 quid down, yet barely able to back out of driveways. Still, ask him about Mr Stevenson’s holiday to Cyprus, and he could probably give you a blow-by-blow account…

Getting from A to B

Our students depend on us to utilise our expertise, knowledge and agency to deliver the best possible learning experiences and outcomes, because they know only too well that there’s an endpoint. Irrespective of whatever the latest learning trends are, their learning journey will inevitably end with some form of assessment or test.

Returning to Liam, he has enough money to cover 10 lessons with Mr Stevenson. He’s anxious about the driving test he’ll sit in a matter of weeks, and has lost all faith in his teacher. The highly knowledgeable Mr Stevenson will doubtless continue to be pleasant company – yet he simply can’t teach, due to him having no concept of planning, implementation and practice. Liam will fail his test. It won’t be his fault.

It’s my belief that we’re wasting far too much time in our schools promoting the notional advantages of rapport, personality and entertainment.

Yes, we must foster authentic and meaningful relationships with the students in our care. However, in my experience, the very best relationships are built on students having faith in their teachers to get them from point A to point B successfully. That’s sustainable rapport.

Introducing DRIVE

Let me therefore introduce you to DRIVE – a creation of mine several years in the making which, at first glance, may seem at odds with the profession’s current trajectory.

DRIVE is a learning and teaching programme that’s all about stripping things back, and restoring a lost sense of purpose to our classrooms.

As we desperately claw at imaginative learning activities, and spend ever more time on ‘getting to know our students’, we move further away from the job at hand – that of teaching excellent lessons, every time. Mr Stevenson had 10 lessons to get Liam through. If Liam was your child, how would you want each minute of those remaining lessons to be spent?

Even the most experienced practising teachers need training from time to time. Hence the existence of career-long professional learning which – if it’s to be successful, at least – will have learning and teaching at its core.

That’s where DRIVE comes in. It’s a structured framework, designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning within a school, that’s built around five key components – Development, Research, Impact, Validate, and Evaluate. Each one plays a crucial role in enhancing both the educational experience for students, and professional development processes for teaching staff.

How it works

Let’s drill down into each element, with illustrative examples of how the programme can be put into action.

1. Development
(Lesson planning and observation cycle)
Teachers engage in a continuous cycle of lesson planning, delivery and observation. This includes creating detailed lesson plans with clear learning intentions and success criteria, while ensuring the use of differentiated activities to promote inclusion and implementing effective classroom management strategies.

2. Research
(CLPL, CPD, leadership)
Teachers participate in continuous professional learning (CPL) and continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities to enhance their teaching skills. They also take on leadership roles within the school, such as mentorship or leading workshops, to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues.

3. Impact
(Attainment and achievement; experiences and outcomes)
The programme emphasises the assessment of student attainment and achievement. Teachers regularly evaluate student progress not just in terms of grades, but also in terms of their overall learning experience. This includes assessing the impact of teaching strategies on students’ engagement, understanding and enjoyment of the learning being provided.

4. Validate
(Learning walks, pupil evaluations, lesson observation feedback)
School leaders and administrators conduct learning walks in which they observe classrooms to gain insights into teaching practices. Pupil evaluations involve obtaining feedback from students about their learning experiences. Additionally, lesson observation feedback is used to provide constructive comments and suggestions for improvement.

5. Evaluate
(Sharing good practice, willingness to change, commitment to improvement)
Teachers and faculties regularly come together to share best practice and successes. This collaborative approach fosters a willingness to change and adapt teaching methods to better serve students. Data from evaluations, including lesson observations and pupil feedback, are used to guide decisions and promote continuous improvement.

Stay focused

The overarching goal of the DRIVE Programme is to ensure all learners receive a high quality educational experience. To achieve this, the programme seeks to address various aspects of learning and teaching, including the development of clear and focused learning intentions to guide instructional objectives.

This then leads to the establishing of challenging, inclusive success criteria to measure student progress, alongside the implementation of engaging and relevant lesson starters to help capture student interest. Over time, the use of differentiated learning activities will come to accommodate diverse learning styles, while teachers ensure that lessons maintain an appropriate pace and level of challenge.

At the same time, there will be acknowledgement of students with additional support needs and appropriate support for them put in place, as well as promotion of positive behaviour management strategies to create environments that are conducive to learning. Alongside this will be the adoption of consistent entrance and exit routines for a more structured learning environment, and the provision of appropriate extension work and homework assignments.

At its core, the DRIVE Learning and Teaching Programme is a comprehensive framework designed to foster continuous improvement in learning and teaching, empower staff to collaborate and innovate, and ultimately provide students with a more meaningful and effective educational experience.

All too often, schools can overcomplicate their priorities and development plans. If, however, we can challenge ourselves to remain focused on our core business – learning and teaching – our schools will collectively advance ever closer to the ultimate purpose of delivering engaging and meaningful experiences and positive outcomes for students every lesson, every time.

Rules of the road

As part of the DRIVE programme, teaching staff will be expected to:

  • Keep up to date with workshop evaluations and adjust their teaching methods accordingly
  • Maintain ongoing professional learning logs to reflect on their development and growth
  • Use ‘commitment cards’ as a tool to demonstrate their commitment to their own professional development
  • Update their professional learning and development records to inform annual review meetings and set future goals

Faculties will meanwhile be encouraged to:

  • Promote the use of DRIVE workshop strategies within their teams to ensure consistency and alignment in teaching practices
  • Support and challenge each other to continually enhance teaching and learning practices
  • Complete faculty DRIVE evaluation sheets to assess their progress and identify areas for improvement
  • Consider pupil evaluations and regularly consult data to evaluate the impact of the teaching and learning strategies within their faculty

Ed Carlin is a deputy headteacher at a Scottish secondary school, having worked in education for 15 years and held teaching roles at schools in Northern Ireland and England.

Why schools get CPD for teachers wrong

As teachers, shouldn’t the process of teaching ourselves better practice come naturally? Alas, that’s not always the case, observes Adam Riches…

We’ve all sat for hours through CPD sessions, but it’s not always hugely clear how much is gained. Balancing the need for professional development and relevancy to staff is a difficult task. Often, the best CPD for teachers is that provided in the right way at the right time – but it’s not always as simple as that.

It’s hardly a secret that CPD isn’t always done well (nor that the person delivering it isn’t necessarily responsible for that). So what does make for a good CPD session?

1. Relevance

Getting CPD right for everyone in the room is an almost impossible task. Making aspects of the session relevant to all, however, is not. Effective planning and careful considerations should ensure that speakers and leaders alike spend their CPD time wisely.

The most relevant CPD for teachers and support staff will be that which is clear, simple to implement and – most importantly – likely to leave an effect on the learning at your school that can be sustained. Ensuring a tentative balance between research-informed content and context-specific application will make for sessions that are valuable to teachers.

If the content is too research-focused, you run the risk of alienating your context. By the same token, if you focus too much on ‘How we do it here’, you risk of creating a silo effect where staff focus on the how and not the why.

CPD that promises to help reduce workload is, of course, universally relevant. With the workload issue now firmly on the radars of most leadership teams, it’s worth ensuring that any dedicated CPD time presents teachers with opportunities to develop ways of managing their existing stress and workload, as opposed to merely adding extra things on to an already stuffed ‘to do’ list.

The days of CPD amounting to whatever information SLT needed to dump on staff and expecting instant results should be a thing of the past. Good CPD sessions are reactive to need, useful for teachers and form a part of the wider school vision.

2. Time

Schools are high pressure environments in which every minute of time is precious. With that in mind, if we want our CPD to be truly effective, we need to think about when the training takes place, and for how long.

Front-loading CPD in PD Days isn’t enough; staff need opportunities to develop their practice all year round. Saying something in a meeting in September, on PD Day, and then expecting to see it done in all classrooms is a non-starter.

You need to plan CPD carefully, and then drip-feed it throughout the year to ensure that staff are able to process, apply, reflect and adjust accordingly.

This process of development is cyclical. Individuals require time in order to effectively implement what you’ve shown them in training sessions.

Morning sessions can be effective in terms of maintaining energy levels and harnessing input. However, a lot of teachers like to prepare in the mornings. Some members of staff may also have family commitments that make it difficult for them to get in early.

Scheduling afternoon sessions that take place after school tends to be the more traditional approach, but that’s where you start to enter the realm of, ‘Are we done yet?. And that’s to say nothing of the battering your colleagues’ energy levels may have taken over the course of the day.

Balance is the key when timing your CPD sessions for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. The sessions themselves ought to be short, sharp and relevant. We’re all hugely economical with our time management when it comes to our classroom teaching. Why should the delivery of our CPD be any different?

3. Speaker(s)

There’s a certain irony in how often current or former education professionals deliver CPD without taking into account any of the research-based theory or advice we know actually makes for good teaching.

Sitting through a session on cognitive load is much more difficult when the speaker pays little heed to the extraneous load of their own information-dense, overwritten slide show presentation!

Effective CPD ought to be based on the same principles that are (or at least should be) in evidence in our classrooms each day. We wouldn’t dream of standing up for two hours and hitting a class with a lecture accompanied by 54 slides, and then expect them to implement what we’ve told them with no modelling or scaffolding. So why would anyone ever think that’s the best way of delivering CPD?

Internal or external?

Then there’s the ongoing debate of whether you should use internal staff or get external speakers in. Having had the privilege of serving in both roles, I can speak from experience when I say that both have their merits and pitfalls. External speakers can reinvigorate staff by presenting new perspectives on familiar ideas. They can propose different approaches to delivery and provide a sense of motivation.

At the same time, however, external speakers will often lack the contextual understanding of school-specific daily routines, styles and methods. Staff may quickly file approaches proven to be hugely effective elsewhere under ‘That won’t work here’. If you’re getting external speakers in, make sure they’ve undertaken the appropriate prep-work of actually getting to know your school first.

Internal speakers, on the other hand, will have an intricate understanding of how the school works. They’ll usually be in a better place to tailor the session content to the school’s context. It can also be advantageous to have existing relationships between speakers and staff who know each other well. This often results in more sustained and honest engagement throughout the session.

This can be a double-edged sword, though. Staff may not value the CPD if they don’t believe in the teacher delivering it. This can be especially true if it’s a member of SLT with a light teaching timetable, and little evidence of them actually implementing the ideas they’re bringing to the table.

If an internal CPD speaker want to be good at what they do, they must be able to exemplify at all times the practice of the ideas and concepts that they’re seeking to deliver.

4. Forward vision

A keen awareness of what your context needs is fundamental to the delivery of effective CPD. You may get this from learning walks, staff reflections or feedback from your heads of department. It doesn’t matter where you get your information from – so long as it’s a true reflection of the climate within the school.

Once you’ve identified those needs, you should marry them up with the school development priorities. That’s when leaders can start thinking about how best to provide their staff CPD, in the most appropriate order and via the most effective structure. Being informed and planning time into timetables for development is important, for both stability and consistency.

That said, leaders must also be adaptable when it comes to their CPD content. There needs to be some degree of flexibility that allows for different responses according to the emerging needs of staff. For that reason, having a firm grasp of your priorities, using that as the bones and then fleshing this out as the year progresses will provide the basis of a good, sustainable CPD plan.

Staff need to see CPD as valuable. Once that mindset is in place, anything’s possible. Showing that you’re prioritising staff by taking CPD seriously can be a huge motivator, and lead to rapid development.

Adam Riches is a teacher, education consultant and writer.

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