The Training Centre
By Aspire
May 3 22

CPD for Positive Change By Mark & Zoe Enser

Phillippa Butterworth

Mark Enser is a Head of Geography and Research Lead and has been teaching for over 18 years. Zoe Enser has recently left the classroom after 20 years as an English teacher, Head of Department and Senior Leader. She is now the Specialist Lead English Advisor for schools across Kent, working with the Educational People.

Both are TES writers and authors of books including ‘Generative Learning in Action’ and the ‘CPD Curriculum’.

CPD, when we get it right, has the power to be truly transformative. The problem is, we so often don’t get it right. We see this every time a polling organisation like TeacherTapp asks for the opinions of teachers on whether they value CPD, and the results show that they do not. We also see it every time CPD is discussed between teachers and we witness that discussion quickly moving to the sharing of horror stories of hours spent sat in a drafty school hall or being asked to engage in ‘ice breakers’. The problem is, much CPD doesn’t live up to its name. Too much of it is not continuous, instead it consists of seemingly random pieces of information being given out according to discussions happening away from the rest of the staff body. It is also not professional, it doesn’t treat teachers as well educated and well informed people able to take theory and turn it into practice, instead it assumes they need to be given a list of prescriptive practices. Perhaps most worryingly, it is not development, it doesn’t lead to gradual improvement in any particular area. No wonder so many teachers are jaded.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It is entirely possible to learn the lessons from creating a curriculum for our pupils and apply it to creating a curriculum for teacher CPD. A curriculum always has a destination in mind, so our CPD curriculum should as well. This destination could be the answer to a question that we want teachers to be able to answer. It could be something like “how do we ensure that learning sticks?” or “how do we put oracy at the heart of the classroom?” or “how can we best give pupils feedback in a way that leads to improvement?”. Our CPD curriculum is now planned around helping people reach the conclusion of this journey.

In order to work out how to take them on this journey we can turn to David Kolb’s research on the experiential learning cycle. This was research designed to help create vocational learning, and applies very well to in-school development. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves trying to base staff development on one of two things; experience or theory. What Kolb’s work suggests is that we not only need both, but that we need reflection and experimentation to complete the cycle between them.

In practice, this might mean starting with abstract conceptualisation. This might take the form of teachers in a hall being presented with some information that is going to help them reach an answer to the big question sitting at the heart of your CPD curriculum. But, after a relatively short period of input they then take what they have heard into the next stage, active experimentation. Here, they might meet with other members of their department and discuss how they could put the theory into practice. They might create, or adapt, lesson plans or tweak resources for coming lessons. They then experience the change, teaching the lesson, before meeting with their department again for reflection on how it went. They can then return to the theory, or to some new related information, and begin the cycle again.

This way of organising CPD gives agency back to the professionals. It acknowledges that they might need some new information, and that we all have more to learn, but it recognises that they are best placed to work out how to put the theory into practice and gives them the time to really plan for its use and to evaluate afterwards. We know from the research of David Berliner that there are differences between novice and expert teachers and we may need to adjust the model to take this into account. Novice teachers, however long they have been teaching, have for whatever reason not yet developed the wealth of considered experience to make secure judgements about how to apply new ideas with as much confidence as expert teachers. Novice teachers may need greater support with active experimentation. However, expert teachers will have developed greater fluency in the classroom, and whilst this can create greater capacity to think about new things, it may make it harder to change aspects of practice. They may need greater support in the reflection phase.

It is possible to use these ideas in many different ways. The same cycle could be used with staff working in teaching and learning communities (TLCs) where they meet, share theory, and plan to put it into practice, through practitioner enquiry, where teachers conduct their own research in how different interventions make a difference in their classrooms, or through coaching conversations. What they all have in common is a clear direction of travel along with an awareness that everyone will arrive at the destination via slightly different routes.

We are optimistic that as a profession we have an appetite for positive change. We just need to make sure that we all have a map and motivation to start the journey.