7 tips for CPD without going on a training course

Going on a course is great – but teachers prove they are proactive by pursuing their own CPD, says Katie Tomlinson

Katie Tomlinson

Teacher CPD: 7 ways to boost your skills without going on a training course

In all the interviews I have conducted in my time as a headteacher, I have always asked candidates about their professional development and how it has impacted on their practice. Without fail, nine out of 10 will reference a recent training course.

While there’s nothing wrong with that answer, of course, I like to see examples of times when teachers are being proactive in seeking out their own ways to develop their professional skill sets, too.

How teachers can carry out their own CPD

There are plenty of ways it can be done – here are seven that can help get you started.

1. Read, listen and watch

From books to blogs, podcasts to audiobooks, there is a wealth of learning material available to teachers. If you have no time to read full books, then short articles online are a great way of gaining insights into a specialist area, widening your experience or simply understanding an issue from a different perspective.  

Of course, everyone is busy and reading widely is not always possible – this is where podcasts and audiobooks are a great professional development tool that allows for multitasking, meaning listeners can use their time much more efficiently.

Try finding one to listen to on the commute to work, for your next jog or to keep you entertained while cooking.

2. Start a research project or initiative within your school

Although you would need permission from your senior leadership team for a new classroom project, most forward-thinking SLTs would welcome something of this nature.

Beginning a research project or starting an initiative within your school will ignite your creative spark, open up relationships within the school team and hone your leadership experience.

You could also publish your findings, helping you to cultivate a well-rounded resume that highlights your hands-on experience as well as showcases your leadership with concrete evidence. 

3. Find a mentor or coach

Many experienced school leaders have a "pay it forward" mentality, meaning they would gratefully mentor and coach a colleague for free in an informal manner, while many coaches need clients in order to qualify for coaching qualifications.

There are opportunities out there to build connections, so have a look online or within your existing network.

Alternatively, you might gain some insight from following a prominent leadership coach on social media or you could even consider paying for a professional coach.

4. Build connections

The motivational speaker Jim Rohn coined a famous saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If he is to be believed, then it’s essential that we learn to keep good company.

Start by evaluating your professional networks. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram can open up a wealth of connections that allow the possibility for engaging conversations and opportunities.

You may not hit it off 100 per cent of the time but engaging the right sort of connections in conversation can help open up new avenues for your career and professional development that may lead to all kinds of benefits you can talk about.

5. Lead development for others

There is no better way to learn yourself than to teach others. We have probably all used this technique in the classroom but don’t always follow our own advice. Volunteer to be a mentor.

Ask if you can lead a CPD twilight course, or assist another leader in delivering training. Step up and help yourself by helping others.

6. Write articles of interest

Writing will make you think about interesting topics more deeply and give you an opportunity to learn while you write. You can write about anything that interests you or ignites your curiosity. Not all of your writing needs to be published, but if you want to have a place to collect your articles then you can start your own blog for free and with next to zero IT knowledge. This can then be shared on your Linkedin profile or shared using social media. 

7. Complete a 360 evaluation

A 360 evaluation can increase your self-awareness, giving you a more balanced view of your own performance and uncover "blind spots" you might not have noticed.

To do a 360 evaluation, you could find a free version online and ask trusted colleagues to complete it for you, or you could construct your own using Google Forms. 

There is a common thread within all these tips: when it comes to professional development, drive it yourself.

There will always be a place for training courses, but teachers need to be learners in the widest sense. That means being active with your own development, and adopting a spirit of active inquiry, open reflection and ownership.

Katie Tomlinson is the head of primary at a Malaysian international school. She tweets @TheLShipCoach, as the_leadership_coach on Instagram and @TheLshipcoach on Facebook

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