Why CPD should undergo a bite-sized evolution

This year has shown how we can change CPD – but we need to do more than simply shift everything online, says this leader

James McBlane

Why teacher CPD should be delivered online in bite-sized chunks

"Barely 1% of CPD was effective in impacting significantly upon classroom practice."

This was the headline finding of the research commissioned by the UK government and undertaken by The Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) back in 2010-11.

A decade on and how far have things changed?

Coronavirus: A chance to re-evaluate teacher CPD

I would say not nearly enough. Too much of what passes for CPD still looks like it did 20 years ago when I started teaching. Put your hands up if this sounds familiar:

Staff are gathered in a hall after a long, tiring day of teaching in a ‘twilight session’; or brought together on Inset days to listen to an expensive consultant who hasn’t been in the classroom for 10 years; or they traipse off to a day-long course where information overload meanings that nothing sticks.

But because of Covid-19, we have an opportunity now, as in most aspects of education, to rethink and re-evaluate our approaches and our practices.

You’ll be thinking, "Oh, he means doing it all online."

Well, while this year, like everything, has seen CPD move online, this, in itself, is not enough. We are simply just taking the traditional approach and delivering CPD via Zoom webinars.

Bite-sized CPD

However, I believe there is a real opportunity to take a solid research and evidence-informed approach to CPD and develop a platform and process to deliver engaging, meaningful and impactful CPD for teachers.

And this solution is "micro-CPD" – using technology to deliver content to teachers in smaller, bite-sized chunks in a structured and focused way.

This would mean that we could focus on specific ideas and innovations and their practical applications – and by breaking learning up into chunks we have time to digest and properly consider their practical use in a gradually, sequenced manner, just like how we try and deliver learning to our pupils.

The success and popularity of general platforms such as Coursera and FutureLearn hint at how this could work if developed and tailored more specifically for teachers' CPD.

Time to learn

Gifting teachers the autonomy and flexibility to access learning at any time, anywhere and on any device benefits teachers in numerous ways and frees schools from the impact of covering staff, which could also massively reduce CPD costs.

There are moves in this direction already: the pioneering Guide Teacher Development platform and the more recent Pathway offering from NAHT are both pushing in this direction.

Of course, though, putting the learning to use is the most important bit.

Here, for example, making use of embedded video-enabled technology for reflection and collaboration is just one way that could support teachers in putting their learning into practice.

Here Guide’s platform excels and offers us a glimpse into the powerful potential this offers to support teacher learning through using video technology for self-reflection, sharing, collaboration, coaching and mentoring, as well as, potentially, practitioner research.

In-play feedback

Imagine a teacher’s focus was to make her questioning more effective.

After completing a short-focused CPD course on this she can now focus on putting what she has learned into practice.

The teacher could use the Guide platform to securely record her teaching, use it to analyse her teaching and self-reflect or she can share it with colleagues to collaborate or share it with her coach or mentor to receive support and feedback.

The potential that this kind of technology has is to move CPD and teacher learning from something that is "done to us" to a learning process we actively engage with on a very practical level.

Seize the moment

Overall, we are really just talking about using technology to better structure a more effective, meaningful and impactful learning process rather than what is still too often simply a one-hit wonder CPD 'event' in a school hall or a Zoom webinar.

There is, I feel, a real opportunity to learn from the events of the past year and to harness technology more effectively to really drive a long-overdue improvement in teacher CPD.

The time is right for a CPD e-volution. 

James McBlane is deputy headteacher at the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi UAE, a not-for-profit, 3-18, British Embassy school 

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