CPD is an essential part of a teacher’s job. Learning new approaches to teaching, how to support children with different educational needs or lesson planning all enable teachers to excel.
However, it’s important that before a penny of the school budget gets spent on personal development, the course is up to scratch.
This isn’t just because budgets are tight – although they are. But because it needs to add value not just to you but to the school as a whole.
There are dozens – if not hundreds – of courses available that promise to help teachers improve their lessons or broaden their skill set.
But the reality doesn’t always match up to the expectation. Which is a mistake few schools can afford to make.
That is why, before you enrol on any CPD course you ask yourself four key questions. This will ensure that the course you are enrolling on will deliver on what it promises. And you can complete the course having learned something of use.
Remember, the valuable CPD isn’t a one hit wonder, but something that you can continually apply. As well as teach your colleagues to do to further enrich the school experience for your pupils or students.
How will it Help?
The most important thing you need to establish ahead of enrolling on any course is whether it will meet your learning objectives.
In the case of CPD for teachers, that centres around helping you improve your teaching and helping your pupils or students succeed in their learning.
A course provider worth their salt will be able to communicate what the course includes, who accredited it and – should you feel the need – who developed the course.
The courses should break down what you’ll learn and how that will help you to meet your learning outcomes. They should also give you the option to contact a customer service or sales team to ask questions.
Transparency is everything when it comes to learning, so if the provider is withholding key information, alarm bells should be ringing.
It obviously goes without saying that you should always use a reputable course provider, whether you opt for in person training or distance learning.
Knowing the course is provided by a recognised learning institute should give you some reassurance that you’re not throwing your money away.
How can you Sustain the Learning?
It’s all too easy to go to a one-off training day, write lots of notes then forget everything the moment you leave the building.
Your time as a teacher is too precious for those kinds of courses. They have to be valuable in the sense that you gained something from the course but also, it’s something you can build on.
Where possible identify courses that either extend the learning or complements one another.
That way you can continually develop that area of study, growing your knowledge and skills over time.
It is also worth exploring whether or not you can build on that knowledge in your own time – the course effectively becoming the foundation upon which to build.
A major advantage with distance learning courses is the material is accessible instantly so you can download and refer back to that information again and again.
This allows you to both apply the learning effectively but use it to develop a deeper understanding over time.
Has it worked?
Guidelines from the Department for Education state that self-reflection is an essential part of personal development.
Therefore, evaluating the impact of any CPD courses you complete should be second nature.
Any methodology, techniques or approaches to learning, supporting students or the school that you put into practice should be assessed.
You should measure how students are performing after you have introduced a new teaching method. If there hasn’t been an improvement you need to understand why. And whether you’ve missed something or if with your students a slightly adjusted method is required.
Just because you’ve learnt something new doesn’t mean it’ll work every time. Evaluating what you’ve learned and how it performed is essential to determining its effectiveness.
Because you don’t want your colleagues doing the same course at great time and cost to the school, if it’s not going to do anything.
Again, reputable course providers will give you the materials you need to properly put your learning into practice.
Are the courses any good?
Claiming to be an expert provider is one thing but it’s another if they can’t prove it.
You should always carry out some due diligence before you enrol on any course. Legitimate course providers will be accredited or certified by governing bodies.
It is their responsibility to make sure that any course you are offered meets the national standard. Whether that’s an A Level and Access to HE Diploma or a CPD course.
One form of independent quality assurance is you. A review be it on Google, Facebook or the Good CPD Guide are all ways to reassure your fellow teachers that the courses are worth their time.
Social proof – as it is known – serves as a powerful driver for others to enrol on to a course. Or not, if it turns out to be terrible.
So, if a course has a lot of bad reviews then there’s a good chance it’s not going to be all it’s cracked up to be. Although it’s worth noting that no reviews doesn’t equal a bad course either. It could just be a new course.
Regardless, the reputation and accreditations of the learning institute are a key measure so start there first. Then check the reviews.
If everything checks out, then the chances are the course you’re interested in will be of value.
learndirect are a leading provider of distance learning courses, offering a wide range of online CPD, teaching and educational courses for teachers.