Why teacher CPD should be a marathon, not a sprint

Much like someone taking up running, you need CPD that will support you to change your teaching habits in a sustainable way, writes Megan Dixon
15th November 2019, 12:05am
Professional Development Is A Marathon
Megan Dixon

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Why teacher CPD should be a marathon, not a sprint

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/why-teacher-cpd-should-be-marathon-not-sprint

A friend of mine has used the NHS Couch to 5K app to help her get into running. Over nine weeks, she has built up her stamina in small, carefully calibrated steps with a clear end goal in mind. She has been given advice, support and encouragement that has helped her to keep going through the tougher, darker, lonelier moments.

Now she is running 5km three times a week, with every intention of maintaining this for ever. She has broken an old habit (of not running) and developed new ones (knowing that she should run, knowing how to run, knowing how to enjoy running and understanding how it helps her).

There are interesting parallels between her running story and teachers' professional development. CPD is all about helping us to change our teaching habits and learn to be comfortable with something new.

Unfortunately, developing professionally can be psychologically explosive. In order to develop, we need to uncover and accept our incomplete understandings, false beliefs and naive renditions of concepts (Bransford et al, 2000). It is not surprising that powerful CPD can - and probably should - make us feel uncomfortable, unsettled and challenged.

So, if we are looking for programmes and training that will help us to exchange old habits for newer, more targeted practices, what makes the difference? The Couch to 5K app gets a lot right.

A systematic review, recently published by the Education Endowment Foundation looks in detail at how the structure of CPD supports learning.

In pursuit of habit-changing, professional learning, it suggests we should be engaging in programmes that last for a sustained time (over two terms at least), with regular opportunities to explore new content. And we should be given frequent nudges and support to translate the learning into practice.

The review also recommends that the content and outcomes of the training should be clearly explained, and it should include opportunities for active participation and reflection with regular ongoing assessment of learning. There should be a clear relationship between the content, the delivery and the expected outcomes from the training, too.

Finally, we should be asking questions about who is delivering the training, how they are accredited and if the evidence and content used is robust and reliable - free from commercial bias or favour.

The days of listening to someone who reads from a series of PowerPoint slides, then rides off into the sunset leaving behind a series of instructions about what to do, should be gone. The impact of any professional development programme should be measured in the quantity of learning it nurtures - learning for the school and wider community, the teachers involved and, most importantly, for the students.

Megan Dixon is a senior associate at the Education Endowment Foundation and director of English/co-director of the Aspirer Research School

Full references can be found on tes.com

This article originally appeared in the 15 November 2019 issue under the headline "Professional development is a marathon, not a sprint"

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