A Personalised CPD Model by Katie Small

This year at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC and The Studio School we are implementing a personalised CPD model for our teachers.  The model focuses on developing our teacher’s through deliberate practice using an evidenced based approach.  We are aiming for habit change over time therefore our teachers are being given the time needed throughout the academic year to make small, incremental improvements in their practice in order for improvement to be sustainable.  To do this each of our teachers have been assigned an expert in their chosen area of development to work with developing their practice.  Our expert teachers form our teaching and learning forum and have taken the time to become experts in their chosen area and immerse themselves in the latest research evidence to ensure their mentoring enhances teacher development.

The aim of the personalised CPD model is to give our teacher’s the time to develop areas of their practice they feel they could improve, thus improving the quality of their teaching and consequently of their students learning.  We were keen to move away from the traditional model you find in many schools up and down the country where staff are required to spend an hour after school one evening hearing from a colleague about an area of teaching and learning that they may already be good at.  We feel that it is time to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach and to allow teachers the autonomy to carve their own path to development.  We recognise that teachers are at different stages in their careers and, depending on their subject specialisms, will need to focus their attention developing specific areas of their development.  This is particularly true for teachers in fast-moving industries such as, gaming, engineering, computer science and programming who need time to familarise themselves with the latest technologies. We recognise that the training involved is often time consuming but essential for teaching and learning in their subjects.  We want our teachers to be experts in their disciplinary fields but accept we need to allow them the time needed to remain experts and enhance their skill base.

We felt the need to assign an expert to each teacher as this allows teachers to collaborate and reflect on their practice rather than just ‘going it alone’. As an NQT (now Early Career Teacher ECT) we have the luxury of being assigned a mentor who, as I am sure all teachers out there will agree, are invaluable in those first few months in the classroom.  Yet, despite the need for this being recognised by many as essential to development, after a year we are expected to just ‘go it alone’.  Here at the UTC and Studio School our teachers are not abandoned.  The personalised model provides all our teachers with the support they need to enhance their practice.  All our teachers are supported to make sustainable changes to their classroom practice over time, whilst simultaneously developing the mental models needed to use these new techniques appropriately and ensure they are effective in the classroom.

How do we find the time to ensure all our mentors work with our teachers throughout the academic year you might ask?  We use IRIS Connect as a tool to record segments of lessons and share our reflections with our mentors who will offer feedback and suggestions for next steps to improvement. This offers a collaborative approach to improving practice and highlights our appreciation of the quality of teachers we have in the building and value their expertise in this non-hierarchical approach.   For example, in my role as Assistant Principal I am being mentored by our curriculum leader for Maths.  The teaching staff have wholeheartedly welcomed this model and love that their continued professional development is interleaved into their day to day practice rather than the traditional ‘add on’ CPD session teachers so often receive in schools at the end of a long teaching day.

Developing teaching and learning at the UTC and Studio School is at the heart of everything we do.  The research identifies teacher quality as the most important predictor of student achievement and success and while we recognise we have little control over other variables our students bring to school we can have control over the quality of our teaching and learning.  We recognise that there are many crucial aspects of teacher quality that can never be captured by qualifications or even experience which some teachers need to develop, such as, creating and maintaining environments that are conducive to learning, fostering good student-teacher relationships and to work well with colleagues and parents. All too often CPD programmes focus on feedback, assessment, the science of learning etc. but we would be foolish to forget about the other aspects needed to make great teachers. Our Closing the Circle selection (see diagram) covers all aspects that make our teachers great and it is from here our teachers select the areas they want to focus their attention on and develop.

“It doesn’t matter very much which school you go to, but it matters very much which classrooms in that school you are in.  And it is not class size that makes the difference, nor is it the presence or absence of setting by ability – these have only marginal effects.  The only thing that really matters is the quality of the teacher.”

Dylan Wiliam, March 2010

Our teachers accept their professional obligation to continually improve their practice.  Our teaching and learning website provides our teachers with easy access to resources and pedagogy in many key areas of development.  As the Assistant Principal in charge of teaching and learning here at the UTC and Studio School for the last 7 years, this has been the most exciting year, launching our first personalised CPD model. We have teachers developing their delivery focusing on challenge, assessment, questioning or feedback. Teachers improving their use of vocabulary and oracy opportunities in the classroom. Teachers working on improving their relationships and communication.  Teachers working to improve their planning and delivery for SEND students while others are focusing on creating the right environment for learning.  In addition, we have a number of our teachers working on subject specific areas of development allowing them to upskill themselves as forever changing new technology emerges and improved ways of working are embedded into modern developmental practices.  This will allow delivery of programmes to be consistent with industry requirements.  Our aim is to continue to implement this model of CPD moving forward and ensure our teachers have every opportunity to be the best they can be to enable our students to learn, achieve and succeed.

Lastly, research indicates that teachers who have job satisfaction are not just more likely to remain in the profession, but also more likely to remain at the same school.  Giving our teachers the autonomy over their own professional development is not only investing in their careers but also in our students success and achievement.

“Increasing teacher autonomy, particularly over their professional development goals, has great potential for improving teacher job satisfaction and retention.”

Worth and Van den Brande, Teacher Autonomy, p.3

Katie Small, Assistant Principal