Why give teachers lessons not fit for pupils?

Professional development for teachers is often delivered in rote fashion – pupils wouldn't accept it, says Colin Harris

Why is teachers' CPD so often lacking in inspiration, asks Colin Harris

The government’s latest initiative is for all teachers to receive training to recognise signs of mental ill health.

One could never dispute the need for such a scheme. But will the normal government training model be adhered to? Namely: “We will tell you what to do and you will do it.”

Sadly, I am old enough to have been around when teachers all received training for the new national curriculum in 1988. You would not believe what we went through. For days we played stupid games about the new lingo to be used. 

Did it help us? Well, we delivered the national curriculum and it's still here all these years later, but the training days nearly killed us.

Uninspired teacher training

Over the past 40 years, I cannot name too many times when any training has actually changed either my thinking or my practice. All too often, it is delivered in rote fashion by individuals lacking the verve or drive to inspire.

Teachers, at their very core, know how to impart knowledge, inspire and encourage others, and yet their training often lacks these attributes. Good teachers reflect on their practice, and always want to do better. But being told to change their practice, or to fit more into an already crowded day, is often challenged because of the way it is delivered.

Effective CPD

Training by the one-size-fits-all method, using PowerPoint and accompanying notes with little or no engagement, is outdated and of no use. If we try to do this with our pupils, they soon let you know how they feel. Yet, as teachers, we too often accept it and wait for lunch.

Effective CPD needs to be:

  • Personalised: meeting individual needs;
  • Relevant: so it truly relates to the children in our care;
  • Sustained: so it can be reviewed at a later date;
  • Supportive: in that all staff members are involved; 
  • Collaborative: so teachers actually talk about their practice and how they will change.

The mental health agenda is important but, please, let's deliver the messages in the appropriate way.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories

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