3 quick-fire CPD ideas that boost staff engagement

There's a lot to be gained from providing bite-sized teacher CPD sessions - especially if you also offer lots of food

Vicki Rotheram

How bite-sized CPD sessions can help teachers' professional development

Ask any of my classes and one thing they will all agree on is that I love a food analogy. I really do.

Which is perhaps why I like to see the bite-sized CPD provision that we run at our school as a taster menu: if you don’t like a dish then it doesn’t matter, there’ll be another one along soon.

I have attended CPD where drums and ukuleles were played, another where we discussed all the things a stick can be, a third on Sweller’s cognitive load theory, a fourth on risk taking, and many more.

By creating a mix of events, hosted at different times of the day, in different formats and generally running for no longer than 30 minutes, we have seen staff engagement in CPD increase notably.

Bite-sized CPD for teachers

The events are run by a team of 10 volunteers who comprise the Learning and Teaching Committee. They meet at the beginning and end of the academic year to calendar a timetable of peer-led events, often roping in unsuspecting staff.

They review the programme regularly and follow a half-termly CPD programme to trial new aspects of school life, such as coaching, and review published papers and reading material.

The senior management team are on hand to support and organise catering, but essentially we stay out of it.

Over the years these are three ideas that have really worked and that staff return to again and again

1. Learning lunches

We run these monthly, with a team of volunteers leading the sessions with 30 minutes of CPD in an area they are passionate about or an initiative they are interested in.

There are no parameters to these lunches, although we ask that they broadly fall into line with our High Quality Learning Framework.

Anyone is welcome to attend and there is no expectation to sign up to every Learning Lunch. And yes, we provide lunch.

2. TeachMeet – with a twist

OK, this is not an initiative from our school but a worldwide movement where teachers present on an aspect of school life they find interesting.

We're well into our third year of hosting these and what makes ours successful is that we give each one a clear focus so teachers know what they are going to get from it

For example, we hosted one event that was 100 per cent focused on pastoral matters; we had noticed that the stress and anxiety levels of our students were particularly high, so it made sense to focus our energies on solving this.

Another TM was set up for the wider network of Teachers in Bangkok allowing us all to share ideas and best practice and meet colleagues from across the city.

We host TM twice a year as well so it strikes a balance of being spaced out enough not to get repetitive but regular enough to feel like it is part of the school calendar.

3. Pedagogy and pastries

As with Teachmeet, the idea for Pedagogy and Pastries was not initially ours, but started life at King Edward's School in Birmingham, where the former head of teaching and learning lulled her colleagues into an early morning session with the promise of breakfast and a chat over strong coffee.

At Shrewsbury, we follow a similar model but with reading material suited to our context and slightly more exotic fruits served.

For example, in one of our sessions we discussed the importance of the forest schools movement and how we might bring elements of it to Bangkok – not easy when we are based in a huge and sprawling metropolis with minimal space.

It’s a short session but always leaves us feeling as though we have used our brains and challenged ourselves even before school has begun (and we start at 7.30am so the coffee has to be extra strong!)

These sessions take place every two weeks and food is provided by the generous CPD budget.

Vicki Rotheram is an assistant principal at Shrewsbury International School Bangkok Riverside. She leads the newly established Shrewsbury Institute and has taught internationally for six years

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