Simplifying and Taking Control: The Power of Clarity in CPD

In her second guest post, Director of Improvement and CPD, Zoe Enser, discusses how CPD can be used to let teachers take the power back.

When the tempest rages, when the thunders roar,
and the lightnings blaze around us
it is then that the truly brave man stands firm at his post.

Martin Luther

Working in a school which had faced a number of challenges made us vulnerable in a number of ways. Often we were buffeted by the winds of LEA initiatives, battered by the pedagogical tempests of the DfE and vulnerable to even the slightest gusts from passing exam boards. As result, CPD could sometimes feel removed from the day to day practice in our school and it could be difficult to have a cohesive strategy on which to hang the ideas. Teaching staff and leaders were exhausted trying to anticipate where the next barrage would come from and which direction it would leave us facing.

Pillar priorities

On being given the focus for whole school CPD just under three years ago, my first aim was to look to provide clarity and structure to firmly underpin what we wanted to achieve with teaching and learning in our school. Reflecting on feedback from external visitors, discussions from with other leaders, as well as what had proven successful in other schools such as Durrington High inWorthing, I devised a series of ‘pillars’on which to base the work of the coming years. This was led by subject knowledge and pedagogy, the key focus in all we do; stretch and challenge, one of our most pressing issues; independence and resilience, something which would undoubtedly make our job much easier and a prize much sought after; and feedback and marking, an area we knew could be powerful but one which was currently drawing a lot of energy from staff with little obvious yield.

Having devised these pillars, I worked with the teaching staff to explore what these areas currently looked like in their areas and what they would envisage them to look like all things being perfect. A range of activities allowed teacher to work together both in their subject areas and across the curriculum, to explore how others were developing these areas. This included some staff sharing their good practice across the whole staff in longer INSET sessions. Alongside this research from beyond the school was introduced so teachers could see what was working elsewhere and how this could be applied in our context where appropriate.

Staff were beginning to see how CPD could be driven and controlled by us and a culture of change began to take place.

Over to you

In the next phase, following discussions with a United Learning Colleague who had been part of a Dylan William EEF research project, I introduced Teaching and Learning Communities (TLCs) into the school. The pillars remained and were focused upon in Department areas, for example with subject areas specifically exploring feedback and marking and devising their own policies relating to this, but as a school the TLCs took the focus of stretch and challenge. Eight sessions a crossthe year shared key research into how topics such as ‘metacognition’ and‘questioning’ could be employed to stretch and challenge all students. Staff read or watched the research provided, discussed how it could relate to their own context and agreed a focus with their TLC partner. This partner would then come and observe this in practice and this first part of the next TLC allowed the two to feedback, discuss and reflect, using a series of prompts.

The eighth session took the form of a ‘teach meet’ and each TLC group fed back to the wider staff body their experiences across the year,including what hadn’t worked as well as what had. We don’t want to continue doing something which is not having an impact. Every member of teaching staff contributed to this, regardless of experience or position in the school.

Next Steps

This year the TLCs have continued with a longer term focus.Staff signed up to their area of interest at the end of the previous year, in discussion with their line manager to ensure that staff were sharply focused on what they wanted to develop and why. The areas were selected to build on what we had looked at previously and linked to Rosenshine’s principles of effective instruction which I had also begun to explore with the staff body. Each group maintained this focus for the first two terms of the year, again with research supplied by me, but increasingly with others bringing research to the table,feeling more confident in how to access this. The same model applied and lots of peer observations were undertaken. The forth session was again a teach meet format, and each group shared more widely across the school their experiences and next steps.

Following on from this staff have returned to their subject areas to explore how they can now embed some of the best practice seen in these discussions within their teams. Smaller departments, such as computer science and RS, joined with sympathetic subjects, to enable then to have richer discussion of the topics. This also built upon a cross school INSET which had focused on subject areas developing effective instruction across four schools.

Over the past two and a half years, this has led to a culture where people are focused on discussing teaching and learning as never before. There is clarity in what we are all trying to achieve and staff are afforded the time to have discussions about what does and does not work in their classrooms. Time is built into our directed time budget for this to take place, and even allows for feedback from observations so staff are not trying to snatch a few minutes over a hurried lunch to talk. It is important that people actually really sit and reflect.

More recently I have narrowed our focus as we become clearer on what is working in our context and we are given the space to refine it. The pillars are still there and additional time has been given to subject teams allow that first pillar of subject knowledge the gravitas it deserves. All meetings have CPD at their heart and admin is consigned into an email where it belongs.

Now it feels like we are in a much stronger position to stand firm against any prevailing winds. There is always much more to do but staff are braver when talking about why their practice works, and indeed why some things don’t. We won’t be shaken from our vision of good, research informed practice, even when faced with the Anemoi of OFSTED.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!

Rage, blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!

You sulfurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,

Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once

That make ingrateful man!

King Lear

This case study features in Teach Like Nobody’s Watching, a Guide to Effective and Efficient Teaching. Available for pre-order now. 

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