Sunday, 5 May 2013

Promoting CPD in your schools

This was the title of the third in a series of monthly CPD webinars hosted by the British Council.  You can read more about the programme here.

This webinar was presented by Gillian Davidson and what follows is a summary of what she had to say.


Why do CPD?

Penny Ur said of CPD, 'It's the difference between five years' experience and a year's experience repeated five times.'

Some teachers never develop - they just keep repeating what they've always done. As educators we need to lead by example and keep on learning.

Benefits for teachers
  • Increased job satisfaction; motivating and interesting.
  • Broader knowledge, skills base and ability to self-analyse.
  • Ability to take control of development and career planning.
  • Develop transferable skills.
Benefits for the school
  • Establish career paths, which make us more attractive employers.
  • Enables us to respond to customer needs effectively and promptly.  This means that we can guide teachers in areas where students want changes.
  • Improved student feedback and staff retention.
  • Enhanced reputation leading to better staff recruitment.
What constitutes CPD?
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • training
  • conferences
  • observations
We need to differentiate between training and development.  
Training is required when teachers need to learn a new technique or skill - when interactive whiteboards are introduced to a school, for example.  Training is what you need to be able to do your job.
Development, on the other hand, is what you need to continue to improve in your job.  If you have a school with lots of experienced teachers, training is not such an important part of CPD.
What prevents effective CPD?
  1. Time - everyone is too busy!  We need to make time for CPD.
  2. Money - conferences can be very expensive.  Some teachers are reluctant to do CPD if they consider it to be unpaid work.
  3. Difficulty - genuine and effective self-reflection is very difficult!
CPD activities
  • Teacher conferences (e.g. IATEFL)
  • Local CPD groups
  • In-house CPD sessions - attending and running them
  • DOS observations - teachers working together with their DOS to identify areas for improvement
  • Peer observations - one of the most effective ways to learn
  • Pop-in observations - short observations to see a variety of lesson types
  • Self-observation
  • Reflection - via a lesson journal, for example
  • Online support - blogs, portals, publisher sites
  • Idea sharing groups - in school and online
  • Mentor/buddy system
  • Trial one day a week - find something new to try out in class one day a week and reflect on whether it worked or not
  • Shared board in the teachers' room for lesson ideas - the one-page lesson synopses from the British Council, for example
  • Reading
  • New projects - courses, teaching a new level, etc.
  • Action research
  • Writing articles - if you write about something, you think about it more
Remember, a lot of the CPD is FREE!!!!
What do we need to make CPD happen?
Teachers need to feel excited about development.  We need to create an external culture of CPD in our institutions and, by doing so, we hope to create an internal culture within each of our teachers.  We can't force an internal culture, but we can create an environment which encourages it.
Creating the culture
We can do this by:
  • Incentivising
  • Creating a clear link between a teacher's performance plan and appraisal.  (CPD must be seen to be expected, not optional.)
  • Showing the value of CPD
  • Rewarding achievement (this reward doesn't have to be financial)
  • Leading by example - the manager should be seen to be taking control of his or her own CPD
  • Analysing the beliefs and behaviours of our teachers to help us to help them to make their plans
  • Acknowledging and encouraging
Individual CPD needs
The desire for CPD needs to come from within.  Otherwise, it becomes a 'tick-box' exercise.
  • Performance plans - teachers need to set their own goals.
  • Self-directed - guided by the DOS, but the basis should come from what the teacher wants.
  • Stage of career - a teacher will need more training early on in their career and more development later.
  • Career goals and plans
  • Stage of personal life - there are times when CPD needs to go on the back burner for a while.
  • Feedback - needs to be structured and must acknowledge and recognise effort.
Classifying beliefs, behaviours and performance
If teachers lack confidence, they don't put the effort in because they fear failure. At the other end of the scale, teachers who are over-confident feel they know everything already so don't need to make an effort.  In both cases, performance is poor.  Effort is key to improving performance.  The harder you try, the more you move towards success.
We need to consider where our teachers lie on this bell curve and adjust our approach accordingly.  If teachers have no self-confidence, we need to boost it before setting them free with their CPD plan.  Equally, if a teacher is over-confident, we need to control that before allowing them to plan their own CPD.
Validity of CPD exercises and activities
Any CPD exercises and activities need to be seen to be contributing towards a teacher's CPD.  We can't expect a teacher with 20 years' experience to turn up to a workshop intended for post-CELTA recruits.  They won't see any value in it and they will be turned off when it comes to other CPD sessions.
We need to make sure that CPD plans are individual.  It's very unlikely that we'll run a workshop that every teacher in our school or department is expected to attend.  That would be like running an English class for elementary to advanced students.  We need to consider putting our teachers into 'levels' for their CPD, perhaps by using the British Council framework.

We also need to remember that our recognition as managers of a teacher's effort adds validity to any CPD activity.
Acknowledge and encourage
  • Keep it simple - some teachers are happy to spend time writing self-reflection notes, but others aren't!  CPD should never be something a teacher resents.
  • Give prompt feedback
  • Recognise effort as well as results - not everything you try works! However, something that doesn't work can be just as valuable an aid to development as something that works really well.
  • Reward - by asking a teacher to deliver seminars to the rest of the staff or to mentor a new teacher, for example.  Make sure, though, that this is considered to be a reward and not simply even more unpaid work!
  • Check in regularly - write annual CPD plans, but meet with a teacher every three or four months to assess progress
Tips for implementing a CPD programme
  • There should be something for everyone - one size does not fit all!
  • There should be a system for aiding reflection.
  • It should be teacher driven - the manager can feed in ideas, but the teacher must agree.
  • Performance issues should be kept separate to CPD.  Once CPD is linked to performance, it becomes unattractive to the teacher.
  • It needs to be linked to an appraisal system.
  • There should be regular meetings between the teacher and line manager when they sit down together at an agreed time.


  1. I attended several British Council seminars and learned lots of new techniques and methods teachers use around. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment - it's much appreciated.