The 5 key rules of effective CPD

CPD leaders are under increasing pressure to demonstrate impact. But with little planning time, how can they deliver?

CPD: What's the secret to delivering high-impact teacher CPD?

Up and down the country, CPD leaders, under increasing amounts of pressure, are wrestling with huge lists of training needs.

With almost no time to plan, too many ideas and an intense demand for impact, what’s a CPD leader to do? 

Fear not. Here two leaders from the Teacher Development Trust share five practical ideas:

1. Turn dull meetings into refreshing CPD

Many leaders have been surprised when they have reviewed team-meeting minutes to find that teaching and learning was consistently placed as the final agenda item, and then repeatedly postponed, or given a rushed five minutes at best. 

Other teams have it as the first item, with the majority of meeting time spent on professional development. To address this, one of our CPD leadership trainees worked with middle leaders at their secondary school to shift hours of briefing out of team meetings, and replace it with follow-up to whole-school CPD sessions.

2. Do a few things well

We’d recommend choosing three key areas to focus upon, and assigning a big chunk of time across the year to these priorities. 

For example, one of our recent leadership trainees focused on: a) building the capacity of subject leaders to lead on development in their area; b) changing the timing of whole-school CPD; and c) improving parental-engagement training.

Choosing three priorities allows you to sustain focus on these areas, and to develop a clearer vision for professional development. It doesn’t stop one-off sessions for other areas, but makes it more likely that your “big three” will have an impact.

3. Gain commitment from colleagues using change psychology

We’re asked to spend a lot of time training leaders to avoid resistance and fizzling out. Here are some key science-based principles of successful psychological change:

Discrepancy: how could you get staff to believe that better is possible and desirable?

Appropriateness: how can you get buy-in and trust in the chosen approach?

Efficacy: how can you get staff to think “I can change” and “We can change”?

Leader support: how do you get staff to believe that you will prioritise and sustain this change?

Self-benefit: how can staff come to see the benefit of this change for themselves?

4. Start with the end in mind

With budgets squeezed more than ever, you need CPD to have visible, positive impact. When we talk about evaluation best practice, we encourage leaders to start planning with an end in mind: what will success look like? 

Several of our participants have applied Thomas Guskey’s five levels of evaluation to their CPD planning. It’s a powerful way to consider what success will look like on the day of training, through changes in staff skills and behaviours, at an organisational level and for pupil outcomes.

Once intentions have been defined, design flows naturally, and it’s much easier to gather evidence of change. 

5. Share the leadership

Some of the most successful examples of rapid practice change occurred when senior leaders involved a much wider pool of colleagues.

One of our leadership participants identified lack of coherence as a key barrier, and invited SLT colleagues to co-design plans. They then gave further opportunities for a stakeholder group of staff to refine and implement these plans. 

By distributing leadership, all staff felt that leaders were trusted and responsive, with a greater shared understanding of goals and motivation to change.

David Weston (@informed_edu) and Bethan Hindley (@bethanhindley) are, respectively, CEO and school programme leader at the Teacher Development Trust. Both teach the TDT’s Associate Qualification in CPD Leadership

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