Four ways to help CPD sessions have a long-term impact
Even when a training session is well received and sparks a great deal of reflective and creative thinking, there is often little follow through into practical implementation.
I have been a teacher, trainer, consultant and coach in education for over twenty years and I think four big questions need to be put at the forefront of planning training.
1. How will the training be implemented in practice?
Many colleges and schools do not plan the follow-up and implementation process in detail at the point of setting up the training.
Trainers are asked to deliver a day on stretch and challenge methods for teachers, for example, and when the implementation process is queried, are told that managers will follow this up, but there are rarely specific steps in place or a timeframe to provide focus.
A common problem is drift, with patchy implementation at best, and little focused reflection on what the impacts have been on thinking or practice. This seems to lead to lost opportunities for development and a lack of slots to re-visit, review and evaluate the implementation of the training in the working context.
2. Who can provide helpful follow-up and when?
In many contexts, the curriculum manager alone will not be able to provide effective follow-up due to demands on their time. When teachers attend training on an aspect of classroom practice, they may then need support, space and time to make useful adjustments to their practice.
Schools seem to expect reflection and training implementation to happen in the cracks between lessons, marking, admin and meetings
In my experience, colleagues can provide valuable support and stimulation through professional dialogue and a conversation with a skilled coach or advanced practitioner can be powerful in supporting change. Without this focused, personalised, often 1:1 reflective space, many great ideas get lost in the blizzard of everyday life in the sector. It is just too easy to enjoy the CPD day, have good intentions and yet never find that moment to plan putting the training into practice.
Why are we bothering to train people if we are not committing thought, time and effort to following this through into practice?
In most colleges and schools, we now have a group of staff with a developmental focus, who could provide this space, if tasked and guided on when and how to do so. Sometimes the lack of follow-up planning is due to a reluctance to look at calendars and meeting schedules with a forensic eye, and prioritise spaces for personalised or team development.
Schools often put other activities higher up their list of priorities and seem to expect reflection and training implementation to happen in the cracks between lessons, marking, admin and meetings. My observation is that it often doesn't. If we value this work and want it to take effect, we need to give it a viable space to grow.
3. What are we trying to achieve?
Training on a theme is arranged, but the impacts on practice and the benefits for staff and learners are only loosely defined, at best. This means that following up what has changed, any impacts on practice, is difficult - the lens we are using is foggy.
It feels as if in classroom practice we have become used to thinking about outcomes, changes in learner performance etc. but this thinking has not translated into CPD planning. It is more about getting some training on the next hot topic or a key priority on the strategic plan than really focusing on the change you want to create in your context. It is more activity than outcomes focused.
4. Some tips for enhancing follow-up
At the outset, when planning training, I think it really helps to consider:
- What changes in attitude, behaviour, skills or performance do we want to see after this training?
- How can we establish what changes have occurred in practice? (This implies a concept of current baseline, of course)
- Which measures of impact are practical, appropriate and meaningful?
- Who can support the teachers in their implementation and when?
- What will the role of managers be in supporting and tracking the implementation?
- When will be a good time to re-visit key messages from the training and how can we share practice that emerges?
- How could the trainer support this follow-up process?
- How much budget do we need to dedicate to planning the implementation process and outcomes tracking?
Reasons to be cheerful
Many schools have established slots in calendars for teachers to have a regular developmental space, for reflection, practical workshops, personal planning and sharing of practice via teachmeets and other activities. A few institutions have made 60-90 minutes per week/fortnight free for all staff, with no classes running.
It's important to think of this time as an investment – by giving staff time to reflect and refine on their practice, you are increasing the chances that they will be able to continually improve their teaching.