Secret gems of training

4th January 2008 at 00:00
Continuing professional development. Nothing to it. It's a dawdle. Getting stressed about CPD is for slackers. It's only, after all, 35 hours spread throughout the year. It's fine. Why do people get so het up? Come on, colleagues, we're used to it now. It's firmly linked to our annual cycle of review and development.

Yet, according to the research carried out by Lesley Reid of Edinburgh University (TESS, December 7), CPD seems to be causing a bit of a staffroom barney.

There are various camps. Some people are pretty lazy in their classrooms anyway, so they are scarcely going to embrace CPD with alacrity. Teachers who maximise its potential are viewed as the equivalent of the teacher's pet by some of their less-than-enthusiastic peers.

Other shades of opinion include those who feel that some training courses may be too intellectual, weighted to theory rather than practice. So there's quite a mixed cauldron bubbling away.

Official government publications state that the range of experiences which contribute to teacher development is wide. A CPD activity is anything that enhances a teacher's existing skills or professionalism. Defining what constitutes CPD has had many phases, false starts and blind alleys.

Even those of us who have done professional development to a crisp are sometimes stunned by the trivial shenanigans of what passes for it. The other point, though, is that, however hot off the press Ms Reid's research is, there's nothing especially revealing about the findings.

Teachers have never agreed on what defines successful in-service. As a profession, we are probably more disparate than most. A gathering of doctors will probably have similar qualifications, whereas teachers are a motley crew who tend not to have uniform needs.

The CPD cycle goes like this. Stage 1: book the CPD. Stage 2: fight the urge to cancel and start counting the days. Stage 3: feel smug on the day as you're going to a late meeting and your colleagues are going home to chill. Stage 4: find your joie de vivre takes a dive halfway through the presentation as you realise that you could have said it all yourself in a quarter of the time. Stage 5: collapse at home in a pool of frustration and red wine.

For me, the most useful CPD falls into two categories. Marking Higher philosophy has been the most useful activity in terms of understanding the rigour of standards. I unreservedly recommend marking as very quantifiable professional development in terms of visible success.

Professional reading is also a vote winner. The nature of the subjects I teach means that it's vital to keep up to date.

As for the griping in staffrooms unearthed by Ms Reid, some of it at least is caused by the failure of local authorities to apply consistent standards across all their schools.

I knew of teachers who did no CPD at all and no one said boo to them. This causes resentment.

Some teachers are fully engaging in the process and others are just pretending. They are rather like small children munching the chocolate novelties from the Christmas tree while no one is watching and then pretending that they never received any.

Somehow, CPD has to amount to a whole lot more than adding up the 35 hours.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology in Forres Academy.

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