Building Teachers’ Skills: The Importance of Continuing Professional Development

Posted By: The Teach Now Team
Building Teachers’ Skills - the Importance of Continuing Professional Development

Teachers in England undertake less continuing professional development (CPD) overall, and are less likely to engage in subject-specific CPD than those in most other high performing countries.

This finding was reported in developing great subject teaching, a report produced in 2018 by Wellcome, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education and University College London.

Quoting a 2013 Teaching and learning international survey, the authors state that just under 50% of teachers in England had participated in curriculum-related CPD in the 12 months before the study, compared with 90% of teachers in Shanghai and 80% in Singapore.

Yet CPD should be a key component of any teachers’ career. As the Department for Education’s Standards for teachers’ professional development states: “Effective professional development for teachers is a core part of securing effective teaching. […] The thousands of professional decisions that must be made every day need to be informed by the best evidence, knowledge and professional wisdom.”

The benefits for teachers and their pupils are clear: teachers are able to reinforce their existing skills and build new ones; teachers can adopt the most up-to-date learning strategies to help students reach their full potential. Effective CPD also means teachers are aware of the latest developments in their subject area and stay motivated and committed to the profession.

At Healing School in Grimsby, CPD is a top priority. There are three training days a year. They focus on cognition and knowledge acquisition, and metacognition (getting pupils to think about their own learning) and self-regulation (where the pupil knows their strengths and weaknesses and can motivate themselves to engage in learning). Every faculty has a teacher learning working group, which also looks at teaching- and learning-related training that’s relevant for each faculty area.

Richard Burrows, assistant principal at the school, describes how CPD is geared towards the school’s requirements: “It’s very much moved away from the old-fashioned ‘getting key speakers in from outside’. Now it’s more to do with what our school needs and how we are best going to deliver it to our staff, especially at the moment with the money as tight as it is.”

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the way CPD is carried out. “It has completely changed the way we do CPD now,” says Burrows. “Because obviously you have to be aware that staff will be self-isolating at times, and nothing’s quite set in stone any more. If a member of staff is self-isolating, the training sessions are recorded and put online so they can access them at home.”

Last year, Healing School started working with the National College, an online provider, which allowed staff to undertake a variety of training while they were in lockdown. Remote training sessions were mixed with some key videos from the college.

It’s also important to ensure staff are on board with the training. Burrows states that staff’s research interests are taken into account, “then it means everyone buys in.”

He adds: “Whatever CPD we deliver, it’s got to impact on the classroom and if it doesn’t impact on the classroom, it’s really not doing its job. You’ve got to make staff inquisitive and be part of it.”