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Exercises that up your game

Miranda Fettes asks six teachers about their most worthwhile CPD experiences

Mark Sandison

P5 class teacher, Bells Brae Primary, Lerwick, Shetland

15 years' experience

"The school runs a football league for boys and girls in P6 and P7 after school. I take them for an hour every Tuesday.

The Scottish Football Association had coaches up at Aith leisure centre in Shetland, so I did a one-day course two years ago on how to coach youngsters. We were given lots of training tips and we ended up with a booklet and video on training routines, warm-ups and basic skills: passing, shooting and ball control.

I have used that in my Tuesday night sessions and because it was part of my CPD, funding was available for better equipment.

Going on the course gave me lots of new ideas. Adding games and a bit of competitiveness makes it much more fun.

After the CPD, I started getting more out of it because I was more confident in what I was putting in.

CPD is a different kettle of fish on an island than in one of the cities on the mainland. If you were going to something in Glasgow, you would write off your whole weekend."

Dianne Beharrie

Returner to teaching, Forthill Primary, Dundee

No experience

"I qualified as a teacher back in 1979-80. There weren't many jobs then, so I went and worked in a library. Then I had a young family and took up an administration post in a scientific research institute.

It's long been at the back of my mind to get back into teaching. So I approached the council last year and they placed me on various courses to refresh my knowledge. I did voluntary placements in schools and the council gave me two supported placements with primary school teachers in April and May last year.

I did a "return to teaching" course and learned about discipline and disruption in the classroom, accelerated learning, support for learning and ICT. It updated me on curriculum changes since 1980 and helped with classroom strategies and general changes that have taken place over the years.

I have been teaching a P4 class since August. I found the training helpful, but the most helpful bit was the supported placements where you see the day-to-day stuff that you don't get from a training course. The courses and supported places helped my confidence and made me go for it."

Sheena MacGillivray

Deputy head and history teacher, Nairn Academy, Highland

30 years' experience

"I went to South Africa as a global teacher in 2003 and was asked to go back in 2004 as one of the support team, working in the Mount Fletcher district office.

There you could see how they manage a whole area, how they deal with staff absence issues and so on. You had to consider what makes good management, which makes you evaluate what you do in your own school. It also makes you think about how you teach and how you structure lessons.

The experience gives you insight into many issues, particularly global citizenship.

We now have a link with a school in South Africa, a citizenship committee, an annual global awareness day, an annual citizenship conference for senior pupils and we support Water Aid."

Gillian O'Rourke

P2 teacher, East Craigs Primary, Edinburgh

15 years' experience

"We did sharing classroom experience within the school, which was very valuable. It was shadowing colleagues, an opportunity to learn from each others' experience and methodology in order to improve practice.

Teachers from different departments were teamed up in pairs. We each had cover for a day, so it was quite a cost for the school.

We decided what we wanted to gain from the experience. You could relate it directly to the areas of development you were working on because you chose the focus.

I observed a P5 class. I was looking at organisation and management at the upper level and how it develops.

We each had a 40-minute slot observing the other teaching. We had pulled together a checklist of performance indicators, which gave us something to discuss.

I think people were a bit nervous about having another teacher in the classroom and being judged, but it was a positive exercise. Even the teachers who were apprehensive gained from it.

I was impressed by some things that the teacher did. It gave me things to think about. I got a wider picture of the school and an understanding of how the other department ran. You were sharing good practice.

It was a large investment for the school but we are looking towards more shared leadership and our management team felt it was worthwhile.

CPD is more than just courses."

Gerry Lyons

Headteacher, All Saints Secondary, Glasgow

20 years' experience, 7 as deputy head, first headship this year

"I did a two-day course for aspiring headteachers and senior managers organised by Paul McBride, the management development officer at the city council, at the Keil Centre at Hampden. Everyone was either an assistant or deputy head.

Prior to the event you had to give a questionnaire to your school colleagues on how they think you're carrying out your role. It was good, because it made you realise how people saw your management style.

Actors came in and we did two exercises: one was quite a difficult scenario handling an angry parent; another dealt with a member of staff you had concerns about. You had to manage the meeting sensitively but also address the situation. A senior manager observed the exercises and gave feedback.

Then there were two group exercises - a statistical analysis about the performance of the school where you had to discuss an action plan and a meeting about allocating a budget - to see how you related to colleagues in the group.

You did a personality profile to give an analysis of your management style, as well as a verbal and numerical reasoning test.

At the end of the two days you had a meeting with the person who collected all your feedback. It was challenging but helpful. It identified your strengths and the areas that needed to be developed I have previously been on interesting and quite exciting training activities, but in terms of focusing on my work, how I do my job, challenging me about it and how I can make it better, this was, without doubt, the best course I've done. There was a real sense of quality about it. A lot of time and thought had gone into it. It made me think about different facets of the senior manager's role.

I found it so invaluable in fact that I recruited some actors to come in and do a similar exercise with the staff at my last school, St Paul's High.

I got promoted and wasn't able to see it through, but I want to do something similar here."

Katie Elder

Faculty leader for science department, Tain Royal Academy, Highland

12 years' experience

"Taking part in the Assessment is for Learning development programme, project 1 - Support for Professional Practice in Formative Assessment - was a particularly good CPD experience.

The project required you to participate in an action research initiative. A number of recall days helped to support us through the project, with speakers that would give great tips and ideas to take back to the classroom and try out. There were also many opportunities to discuss progress and issues that had arisen with colleagues from across Scotland.

The support structure was excellent.

The strategy was adopted in my S3 classes of improving questioning and feedback, with the aim of building an effective learning environment in which the pupils could feel more motivated to learn and could take on more responsibility for their learning.

Along with this I developed my practice through co-operative group work and peer and self-assessment. A variety of assessment techniques were also introduced such as "think", "pair and share", "traffic lighting" and "hot-seating". I used teacher and pupil evaluations to assess the outcomes of my approaches and the results were very positive.

The tasks I used in class did not require any extra time to prepare and led to a varied teaching approach that worked well with all the pupils and made learning enjoyable for them. It also helped to make my classroom a relaxed and happy place to be.

The key is variety. By using a wide range of strategies and tasks and sharing the goals of the lesson with the pupils, they are made fully aware of the expectations and outcomes of tasks.

Being involved in this project has allowed me to disseminate information, methodologies and my enthusiasm on this subject to colleagues within the department, school and region." 2005092010541354156

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