Is profesSional Development Valued by teachers?
Have you ever attended a teacher training workshop that felt like a tick-box activity?
Have you ever had to go to a training event that, you felt, would serve no benefit to you or your students... but you had to go regardless?
Have you ever sat in a training event, being talked through a dull power point presentation, feeling like your soul is being eaten and wondered… is this all there is?
Been there, done that.
There are a number of questions around the true value and optics of continuous professional development (CPD) for teachers, here in Ireland and globally. In a world where visibility, bureaucracy and paperwork are increasingly given weight over value, needs and insight; it is unsurprising that CPD for teachers suffers.
Does this matter?
I guess, it depends who you’re talking to but most teachers I know want to support all the students in front of them in the classroom – and do it well!
In any profession, in order to continually develop and improve on the job, upskilling is an essential component. It can be disheartening for valuable time allocated to professional development to be used as an after-thought or subject to poor planning – in the end it is the teachers and students who suffer as a result.
I agree with Teresa Coughlan’s point in her recent blog post with Clara and Rahoo – teachers are the most important people in the school. This statement is not just opinion, but entirely evidence-based.
According to the OECD (2016), after socio-economic factors a teacher has the greatest impact on student outcomes. Often, this reality is ignored and consideration and funding is not funnelled to what matters most – teacher development.
In 2014, the Sutton Trust, launched it’s “What Makes Teaching Great”? report which comprised of researching over 200 methodologies to improve standards in the classroom. The aim was to use the findings to improve teacher learning.
The report argued that significant engagement in professional development was most likely to occur when:
1. CPD was focused on improving student outcomes
2. Teachers receive clear and specific action-related goals to help them improve
3. There was a culture of non-judgement and support, not comparison
4. Colleagues and the professional community encouraged professional growth
5. Professional Development can be discussed in an environment of trust and support
6. School leaders nurture an environment of continual learning for teachers.
Take a moment to think about each of the 6 statements outlined and reflect on your own experience of CPD. Or if you’re a school leader and are planning CPD for your staff, this would be a useful activity for you.
Perhaps use the following questions as prompts:
1. Is CPD (in-school or external) clearly focused on improving student outcomes?
If yes, what is the specific focus?
If no, what is the focus?
2. What tangible steps or actions can teachers take to put the learning into practice post-training?
Will there be a follow-up?
Is there support offered?
3. Are training ground rules established in individual training sessions or across a school to ensure a non-hierarchical and supportive environment for CPD?
Are teachers provided with opportunities to share their area of development and reach out for support, and know that they will not be judged?
4. What culture is in place in your school or professional network?
Is professional growth encouraged, supported and celebrated?
Is communication respectful?
Is the value of professional growth made explicit to teachers and the school community including boards of management?
5. Are feedback and contributions around professional development and teacher needs welcome?
6. Do school leaders positively encourage and support professional development?
On reflection, maybe the title of this blogpost is a little out of place – it might be better to change it to “How Teachers Can Get the Most Value Out of CPD”.
I suppose, the point I’m trying to make, is that CPD time is sacred and should be prioritised, “done well” and protected. I’ve been on both sides of the fence – as a CPD participant and as a trainer. I’ve seen teacher CPD time wasted by inefficient planning, lack of insight into teacher needs and poor leadership. I’ve witnessed staff training events becoming soapboxes for disengaged staff member to complain, rightly or wrongly, about policies, initiatives and their jobs.
The misuse of, what should be protected, time for teachers to grow and develop is devaluing – and ultimately our teachers and students suffer as a consequence.
Because meaningful professional development for teachers matters.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to check out Rahoo’s upcoming CPD webinars for Autumn HERE including “The Marking & Feedback Masterclass” and “A 10 Step Guide to Effective Differentiation”.
Ciara McGuane is the CPD Director for Rahoo.ie.
Her career highlights include being filmed by BBC London teaching in the classroom and guest-lecturing at the Institute of Education in London. She has worked as a teacher, school leader, teacher trainer and initial teacher training tutor prior to setting up Rahoo.
Ciara is passionate about teacher and student potential – and believes accessible, informal and enjoyable CPD is one of the best ways teachers can develop. She currently works with Rahoo and misses the classroom – she will be back someday soon!
Lenses into Learning is the guest post feature of this website. Here, educators spanning a variety of educational sectors share opinion pieces, recommendations and thematic articles to inspire conversation, development and learning.