As any teacher will attest – we never stop learning. There aren’t many – if any – professions that are exempt from the need to learn new approaches or develop new skills.
The reason for this is simple – processes, methodologies and technologies move on. So no matter what career you’re in, there’s always something new to learn or a way to improve.
This is no different for teachers. While schools have the national curriculum to follow and teachers can develop resources and lesson plans, there is always another way of doing things.
The challenge is teachers are extremely busy which means you’re forced to choose between doing the job or personal development.
There’s also the added complication of not always knowing which course or training programme will be of most use.
Again, because time is such a factor, you’re faced with a choice between taking a course that may not offer any value or doing the job.
However, get a teacher on to the right course and they can discover new teaching methods and approaches that can make a difference to their students for years to come.
Why is CPD important?
CPD helps teachers keep pace with the current standards, best practices and approaches to teaching.
It helps to keep your knowledge and skills current so you can develop better lessons that impact positively on students and pupils.
CPD can also help you progress in your career as you will have deeper levels of knowledge in your subject or specific elements of student welfare.
For example, completing CPD around safeguarding, the impact of abuse and other related courses can help you move into a safeguarding role within your school. You can also train and mentor others in these areas too.
CPD helps you to refocus on your goals and what you want from your teaching career and where you might be able to improve. Equally, it opens you up to new opportunities that you perhaps hadn’t considered before.
It’s also really important that CPD doesn’t come from on-high. The responsibility of a teacher’s development must come from the teacher.
While a head of department or a subject leader can identify areas in which a teacher can improve, the teacher has to be the one to make it happen.
The reason being – we expect the same of students. You provide them with the tools to learn, it’s up to them to go away and do something with that information.
Besides, if the SLT delivers an edict, it won’t feel like you have any control over what you should and shouldn’t be doing. That will make you resistant to the training and less likely to make time for it.
It also flies in the face of recommended government standards for teachers’ professional development from 2016. The standard promotes the need to own their professional learning.
Choosing the right CPD for you
If you’re time-poor, then taking an entire day out to complete a course may not be viable. Or a particularly appealing option. Remember, you need to feel comfortable in your learning otherwise you won’t stick with it.
When you look at an educational CPD course or programme, it’s important to assess its suitability based on the following:
The course should clearly state what you are going to learn. This includes specific modules or areas of study. It should list any skills you will learn or specific knowledge you can expect to gain.
Is it Relevant?
The course should outline the benefits of completing the course. This is important because it needs to be an effective use of your time.
You also need to understand if it meets any development targets you have been set as part of your performance review.
Who developed the course?
When you take a first aid course provided by St John’s Ambulance, you can safely assume the course material has been developed by experts.
The same cannot be said for every CPD course on offer. You need to ensure that any course you sign up to is going to provide you with genuinely useful, insightful information.
How is the course delivered?
This is largely a matter of preference. The course should state whether it is delivered in person or online. Being able to attend a training session has its advantages as you’ll have the benefit of speaking to the trainer.
However, an online course offers greater flexibility, allowing you to complete it when you’re ready. You also don’t have to make the trade-off between developing your skills and staying on top of your work.
Online CPD means you can study anywhere, at any time so you stay in control of your schedule. Or study in your own time if you’d prefer.
Will it interest you?
This is crucial because it doesn’t matter how good the course is if you’re not going to engage with the material.
Of course, you have to manage your expectations. The depth of the material is relative to the nature of the course. So, you can’t necessarily expect practical strategies regarding challenging behaviour if you’re taking a course on lesson planning.
However, research suggests that the benefit to the students is directly linked to the impact it had on the teacher taking the course.
In other words – what you and your students get out of the CPD is directly linked to how much you engage with the material.
Online CPD courses often use a variety of platforms including written copy, videos and audio to deliver the course. This interactive way of learning will help you to grasp the information quicker.
Plus, you can replay a video, you can’t replay a day in a classroom.
Overcoming Budget Restrictions
It’s no secret that school budgets have been squeezed for decades. Schools are having to do more with less every year.
Although – somehow – you manage to educate children in these less than ideal circumstances, it can make other purchases seem frivolous.
But investing in yourself makes you better at what you do. That’s true of us all. The more knowledge we have the more we can apply that knowledge. And when it comes to teaching that’s a pretty powerful thing.
If there’s a CPD course you want to enrol on to then, depending on how the budget looks, you may need to make a case for it. Especially as schools increasingly are being forced to side-line CPD, if it costs money and/or takes a teacher away from the classroom for any length of time.
That means identifying what you believe the course will offer you and how it can be applied to your work. Also, if it meets any identified development objectives from your performance review.
A survey conducted in 2017 by the Teacher Development Trust revealed that 20,000 teachers worked in schools with no budget for CPD.
The average primary and secondary school currently spend just 0.65% and 0.37% respectively of their budget on CPD. This is alarming considering the rate at which teachers are leaving the profession.
Almost a quarter of the teachers that qualified since 2011 have already quit.
If your school has a budget, great. But it’s not going to amount to much so you may well find you have to make a business case for the spend.
An important consideration is personal development reduces turnover. 75% of teachers between 25 and 34 would reconsider leaving teaching if they had opportunities to develop.
Invest in you
While budgets are always going to be tight, the evidence as to the benefit of CPD is overwhelming.
It will help you to do your job better. It will also help you to feel more fulfilled and in control of your career. You can also share your knowledge with your colleagues, which can benefit the entire school.