When we think about professional learning, our first thoughts might go to all those twilights, courses and INSET days that we’ve attended over the years that didn’t quite work. We’ve all had to sit through hours of training that just hasn’t quite cut it for one reason or another.
Ineffective CPL encompasses much of the following:
- Limited time – for training, implementing, discussion or follow up.
- Lack of expertise – where quite simply the training has not been facilitated well.
- A bang and a whimper – this is often the case when SLT decide to ‘get someone in’. Not only very expensive, they often don’t get the context of the school quite right or their work and thinking is not follow up, so impact is often limited.
- Lack of choice – receiving the same training regardless of where we are in our careers and professional practice.
- Input vs planning – the training can be incredible and you can go away really inspired, but if there isn’t planning time built into the CPL programme, then again impact can also be undermined.
So what we’re looking for then, is a programme that is fully focused on college priorities and development goals, yet sensitive to individual staff needs and choice. For CPL to work we also need to continually evaluate, refine and tweak it. Research also points out that the best professional learning is modelled by all members of the school community, including leaders who take an active role as learners (Kaser & Halbert, 2009). For a professional learning community to grow and not be undermined, we all must prioritise our own professional learning.
This autumn term our CPL has focused on five key areas – modelling, questioning, active learning, feedback and student engagement & behaviour. These areas emerged as collective priorities over the last year – from our own self evaluation and external reviews. Our Pupil Premium gap remains a key priority area. The Education Endowment Fund toolkit suggests these five areas are high impact classroom practices. We also took the time to talk to our students – they also told us that these areas (particularly active learning and feedback) were felt to be key to their success. As a result we came up with this simple addition to our teaching and learning policy. Our CPL has been designed to help grow these individual priorities.
Likewise our lesson visit structure this year has been tweaked to help focus more fully on growing these collective priorities. When we visit lessons this year we are using this updated pro forma to help capture best practice and any development areas emerging from our pedagogical priorities. We then collate the findings and share back to teams as proportional polygons with a summative commentary, which looks like this one from Humanities this past term. The idea is that this will then be shared at the next faculty meeting, encouraging professional reflection and discussion.
Leadership Mindsets (2009) by Linda Kaser & Judy Halbert