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You’re asked to lead CPD in your school. Maybe you’ll take it in your stride, and see it as recognition of your strong performance. Or perhaps the prospect fills you with the same dread as having a whole-school assembly thrust upon you at the last minute.
For most, the feeling is likely somewhere in the middle, a mix of anxiety and pride. After all, you’re no doubt familiar with this kind of scenario – bespoke sessions run by school staff for their colleagues, which is probably the most frequently used style of CPD. Firstly, because it’s the most cost efficient – but, more importantly, because it᾿s also the most effective.
Being seen as someone who runs effective in-house CPD can be very important to your career progression, as it gives your headteacher a strong indication of how you can develop the staff that you would be leading after a promotion. If you have taken up a leadership position in a new school, running a CPD session is a good way of raising your profile, and an opportunity for staff to see that you understand what you are talking about.
1. Take care when structuring after-school CPD sessions
Depending on the culture of your school, colleagues will have mixed feelings about CPD delivered in after-school meeting slots. In some of the primary schools I support, teachers are very positive as it’s a moment in the week for staff to gather together and share ideas. In other schools, there have always been malcontents who just did not want to be there. The later the session ended, the more these feelings became apparent, so twilight training sessions (4pm-6pm) need to be carefully structured to be effective.
2.Keep in-house CPD sessions to between 45 minutes and two hours
You can deliver training in less time than this – we all know the value of a TeachMeet, for example – but such sessions tend to highlight a certain idea for colleagues to go and practice for themselves, rather than providing training to develop a skill.
It is often best if you plan and structure your training the same way you would a lesson. You’re more than proficient in this type of delivery, only this time the ‘class’ is just a little bit older.
3. Make sure you carefully consider the aims and objectives of your CPD
It’s worthwhile checking these with the SLT to ensure it’s what they are looking for, and tweaking them if necessary.
4. As with lessons, ‘the hook’ is often the most important thing in getting buy-in
The worst hook is often ‘We have to do it for OFSTED / SLT / whoever’. Colleagues want to know how this training will benefit them, their pupils or, preferably, both. Use anecdotes of how it’s helped you personally, or the impact it’s had on the pupils you teach.
5. Give your colleagues some knowledge or concrete ideas
I’ve previously witness a trend towards facilitation that some teachers have found quite empty. Of course, an important part of CPD involves sharing good practice – but you need to make sure some ideas are given too.
6. Show the impact the training has on pupils
This can be very powerful, even for the most long-in-the-tooth teachers. If you’re explaining a certain teaching tactic, showing a video of children engaged in said tactic can be really useful, as can interviewing pupils about their thoughts on a particular strategy. Sharing students’ work and the progress they have made is also very popular.
7. The best training sessions give teachers opportunities to practice the technique in question
You can achieve this in a number of ways. You could include an opportunity to plan in small groups, before the ideas are shared with everyone in the room. If it’s a skill, such as marking or using a particular ICT package, make sure there’s time in the session for teachers to actually have a go, and for colleagues to troubleshoot if there any difficulties.
Role play can also work, whether it be in front of the whole group with an opportunity for others to give comments, or in small teams.
8. Reflect on how the session went and how you think you could make it better
Most schools will perform an evaluation of some kind on a training session, but these should be read with a hint of caution. If people can respond anonymously, some colleagues may reply in a negative fashion – though this may be more due to their feelings towards the school’s initiative, rather than your training.
Instead, why not ask some of your trusted colleagues and senior leaders as to their suggestions for ‘even better ifs’ on your performance. If you’re lucky enough to receive an email of praise from one of your colleagues, print it out and keep it somewhere safe. Reading it in the future may just give you a boost before you deliver another session.
Just like those lessons that go horribly wrong, the memory of a poorly delivered training session can feel as though it᾿s engraved on your soul…
The biggest disaster I’ve had was a conference session I gave in London. The night of the training session, my infant son had been ill and I’d probably only had an hour’s sleep. I caught a later train to London and misjudged the walk from the tube station.
I arrived hot and tired, just in time to listen to the second keynote speaker – who, to my horror, covered virtually the same content I had planned.
When my session began, I just didn᾿t know what to do. I was so phased that my delivery was awful. I tried to give additional information to differentiate it from the previous speaker, but I wasn’t able to think quickly enough. When I left the conference I sneaked a look at the evaluations, and on one I saw a comment about me that read, ‘Repeated content delivered with no-personality’. I was mortified.
I was recently asked to deliver an NPQSL session for the Future Leaders Trust. I felt under pressure, particularly as there had been a mix-up with the previous facilitators and the training was almost a term late.
Due to the delay, I organised a day at the academy and met with each participant. I discussed with them the support they needed, then used this information to tweak my approach.
While I was delivering the session, I made sure that I linked points with the projects that participants were developing. I also tried to give them plenty of time to voice their misgivings. It would have been easy to take these personally, but instead I bounced them back as ‘even better ifs’.
When asked for my own advice for dealing with difficult situations, I tried to resist the urge to say “When I was a senior leader I used to…”, but I did use this phrase sparingly, alongside concrete pieces of advice which they could use in their roles.
I received some very positive feedback from the group, and hopefully raised my credibility in that academy.
Paul K. Ainsworth is an academy advisor for a large Multi-Academy Trust and author of Bloomsbury CPD Library: Middle Leadership; follow him at @pkainsworth
The Bloomsbury CPD library helps teachers improve all aspects of their training. The series includes advice on subjects such as supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities, and how to stretch and challenge pupils.
Everything you need for every subject across Key Stages 1 and 2.