Away with the woolly thinking

18th February 2005 at 00:00
The Trainer's Toolkit: bringing brain-friendly learning to life By Kimberley Hare and Larry Reynolds Crown House pound;24.99 CPD Toolkit: everybody's learning By East Midlands CPD Partnership School Development Support Agency pound;50 (discount for multiple copies).

Order on www.sdsa.net, tel: 0116 299 5939

Continuing professional development co-ordinators in schools are desperate.

They have too much to do and realise that being in charge of CPD means more than collating all the fliers for courses. So what do they need? The 30 I asked came up with a lengthy and urgent wish list: how to link performance management, school improvement and CPD; how to make best use of a limited budget; how to ascertain individual as well as whole-school needs; how to measure the impact of CPD; what should be in a CPD policy; how to incorporate support and admin staff into a whole-school professional development programme; finding time for staff to have CPD without disrupting pupils; how to use professional portfolios; what Ofsted is looking for when it inspects the role of CPD in school; the role of the CPD co-ordinator; and how to manage the job when it's constantly expanding.

Phew!

Here are two products describing themselves as toolkits, suggesting that they'll be full of useful bits and bobs for every eventuality. My heart rose when I saw The Trainer's Toolkit. Nobody has ever trained me to train people. Though my skills as a primary teacher have stood me in good stead, I am always looking for new ideas, like everyone who has ever organised Inset. This easy read gave me ideas for holding attention and keeping participants active. The sections on paying attention to the learning environment, subliminal messages, humour and rapport were very useful, but overall it was disappointing. The cartoons of men in suits juggling were corny and I found the numerous catchphrases ("Honour uniqueness", "Keep it real!") irritating. It's intended for trainers (those running courses rather than, for example, coaching) in any line of business, so trainers of teachers will find "brain gym", learning styles and all that, familiar territory, if not old hat.

As teachers, we know the basics. The trouble is that our audience is also skilled at teaching, and can be very critical. Teachers don't like being treated like pupils with low attention spans. They certainly don't like having their time wasted, and after spending their days watching pupils disrupt lessons, they can play up with amazing expertise. The CPD Toolkit answers many of the CPD co-ordinator's needs. It's been produced collaboratively by a collection of experts and practitioners across the nine LEAs in the East Midlands, so it combines up-to-date knowledge with pragmatic ideas of what will work.

A big attraction of the toolkit is that it comes in a ring binder with its own CD-Rom (distinctively coloured, so it won't get lost). Many of the documents are PDF files, but some are written in Word, which schools could personalise and adapt. There are Rolls-Royce examples of statements of CPD entitlement and responsibility for professional learning, something that needs to be brought to the forefront with those who feel that they have nothing more to learn. Schools may need some encouragement to make these their own rather than simply popping the school logo on the documents, which is what happened so disastrously with the DfES performance management "model" policy. Core principles can't be short-circuited.

The audit of CPD activities is a huge list of all the sorts of things that might have been happening under the heading of professional development, such as observing others. Continuing professional development is about more than going on courses. The professional development framework shows the opportunities available inside and outside school for teachers, support and admin staff at various stages. There's a matrix of professional qualifications for the whole school workforce. Although there's no bibliography or index, there's a useful list of abbreviations to help visitors to the new world of CPD, so that you can distinguish your IPDP from your CEDP and your NCT from your NLC.

The seven "needs identification" exercises might overwhelm readers, but rightly emphasise the importance of getting a true picture of what professional learning is needed. It's good to see some information about the judging of the impact of CPD, looking at costs as well as the benefits.

So, overall, this makes for an easy-to-dip-into selection of key items for CPD co-ordinators. I wonder whether there is enough encouragement or instruction for people to pull out bits, adapt others and add bits of their own. If they do, the CPD Toolkit will be a useful living document and have a long shelf life.

Sara Bubb Sara Bubb runs courses for CPD co-ordinators and is co-author of Leading and Managing Continuing Professional Development, published by SagePaul Chapman, pound;18.99. s.bubb@ioe.ac.uk

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