Every teacher needs CPD. Even the best of teachers can benefit from new ideas and techniques, I’m told “there is always room for improvement”. Unfortunately the demands of modern teaching mean that CPD delivered in INSET days is often linked to school improvement priorities (or worse, isn’t developmental in nature). Even if you see a course outside your institution and your school can afford to fund it, you are often asked how it links to school improvement plan and if it doesn’t you can’t go. To cut a long story short, teachers find it hard to get out of school for CPD.
With the school out of the equation it is down to teachers to take back this control. Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need any – even the act of meeting other (science) teachers and the networking that comes with it can be a source of ideas and inspiration.
Join Twitter and look for twitter groups and chat that is linked to your subject – e.g. #ASEchat for science teachers, and get networking for ideas. Many people prefer to keep a separate Twitter account for this whilst others (like myself) prefer to maintain a professional manner at all times.
Next I would recommend you join a subject association and look for the courses they run. Quite often you will find that they are available to members at a heavily subsidised rate. Speak to your school coordinator about being released to attend the courses they run – you are more likely to be released for courses run by subject associations. Some associations run events on a Saturday which means teachers can attend if prepared to give up a day on a weekend. Experience of organising regional events for the ASE tells me that many teachers are prepared to give up time on a Saturday but getting word to them about courses proves to be very difficult (so make sure you sign up to any mailing lists to keep up to date). Science teachers check out the conferences organised by the ASE here – you don’t have to be a member to attend (although you get subsidised prices if you do!) Speak to your school about them paying for you to attend weekend courses if you go down this route – many of the courses are far cheaper than a paying a supply teacher for a day.
Yesterday I attended a teachmeet/tweet-up where a group of science teachers came together to share ideas. Members of this group had three things in common
- Most were members of the same subject association – the ASE
- Many were known to each other in cyberspace through Twitter
- All were prepared to give up a day (or longer) of their holiday for the chance to get together and exchange good practice (and spend some time in the local pub as well!)
Teachmeets are less formal/structured but free – and vary in location, duration and subject content. Many are advertised on the teachmeet wiki and others through subject associations websites/newsletters. Not only are they a brilliant source of ideas but they also provide an excellent opportunity to network with like minded teachers. Exam boards often have network or hub meetings which can serve a similar purpose, although these tend to be more one-way.
So there you have three ways that you can take control of your CPD to help you develop as a professional but the I can’t finish without a word of advice to fellow school leaders.
- Set directed time aside to allow teachers to take part in CPD. Even cancelling the odd meeting would go some way towards easing the time pressures that teachers face and be seen as a measure of good will.
- Don’t insist on all CPD being linked to school improvement priorities. Yes this is where you might target the bulk of your resources but think of the impact of a course that moves a teacher from being a good teacher to being an outstanding teacher.
- Set up a teachmeet style sharing session in your own school and get teachers sharing good practice – if you aren’t sure what a teachmeet should look like then send someone out to do some research.