In all of my fourteen years of teaching I’ve never known a time when workload was such an issue for me. Perhaps it’s an age thing; perhaps I just don’t have the energy to cope with what I used to be able to do. More than likely though it is the increased expectations of a new curriculum, with new courses to adapt, when nothing else appears to be slipping from the table. So at no other time has Professional Development been more important for a workforce which, at times, seems to be approaching breaking point. But, what exactly makes effective CPD?
It is not often the expert who schools buy in at considerable expense to speak to whole staff gatherings. I have listened to some wonderful speakers on Education over the years – and some not so wonderful – who have both entertained and moved me with stories of effective strategies and wonderfully inspiring classroom experiences. But, though I often leave feeling much better about myself, I am no further forward in implementing whatever they we’re supposed to be talking about in the first place. Transference is a hugely difficult thing to achieve. There are so many factors to contemplate when we adapt change in the classroom.
It is not often the Local Authority ‘official’, chosen to attend an In-service Day to impart the latest wisdom on LA target setting. Sitting on uncomfortable chairs for an hour, watching someone talk me through every word of a Powerpoint Presentation rarely teaches me what they want me to learn. I generally become more understanding of the way we expect our pupils to learn, though, and can comprehend exactly why we can bore them with uninspiring delivery. Perhaps if they convinced us why it is important rather than simply telling us that it is, we may reap more benefits from days like these.
I would even go as far as to say that it is not often the ‘course from the catalogue’ which we decide might interest and inspire us when we get back to class. We can all remember the time when we’ve sat in a seminar on something incredibly inspiring, determined to go home that night and construct a series of lessons around it immediately. More often than not the reality of our day-to-day business results in that folder going on a pile of folders we may never get to. In time, that great feeling is forgotten and you can’t remember what you were thinking about in the first place. So what might work then?
It seems to me that the way we ensure our development has impact – and surely that much mean better learning for the pupils in our classrooms – then we need to be convinced that it will have impact. We need to recognise the shortfalls in the abilities of our pupils and, as a result, recognise the deficiencies in our own teaching. Then, perhaps, Professional Development will achieve the sort of outcomes we’ve been missing. I can look back on countless hours of wasted development time and would weep if I wasn’t so busy. We need to remember that Development Days are not merely a day out of the classroom. They are Development Days. What exactly are they developing?