Learning is learning: Perfecting CPD and teaching programmes

Kristy Lundström

Starting out as a Mathematics and Computer science teacher, Kristy Lundström understands the impact effective technology and systematic thinking can have on learning. She has worked as a Head of School for more than 10 years in Sweden, Belgium and the US. In every school, she seeks to empower teachers, support students and build communities. Her philosophy can be summed up by her favourite hashtag:  #unleashpotential

Follow @klundstromatvrg

Website: www.learningatvrg.wordpress.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Learning is learning.
And good instructional design is key.
What’s good for students is good for teachers.
We are all learners.

During the past 20 years, I have been privileged to participate in some great professional development programmes. And some, not so great. I have led professional development where the teachers responded really positively and we saw direct impact on student learning. And some, not so much.

"Learning is messy and does not always follow the school year calendar."

Now, as we finish up another school year and begin to analyze how far we have come and what we want to develop for next year, I am left thinking about – what really works? How can we best organize professional development for our teachers so that they find it meaningful, and are motivated to continue to engage to find the best possible solutions for our students?

One thing I know for sure is what not to do... no moreone-size-fits-all’ programmes. All of our staff members are at different places in their personal and professional development. They all learn differently, are interested in different aspects of student learning and work with different student groups. So, how could we have ever assumed that we could find one program or topic that would interest and engage them all equally?

Another thing I had to let go of was that all professional development should run the length of a school year and be completely done, reported and analysed by summer vacation. Learning is messy and does not always follow the school year calendar. It’s okay if this year’s students didn’t necessarily benefit from a teacher’s new learning, next year’s group will!

Maybe the most important thing I had to let go of... control. I can no longer plan a professional development programme for my teachers based on what I think their needs are. Time and time again when I meticulously planned our staff development in June for the coming year, I missed the mark. At best, I was reaching 60-75% of teachers and I often missed authentic learning opportunities for our staff, because I was too locked into our planned schedule of further education to engage in and address real learning opportunities for staff then and there.

Sound familiar? Enough about what not to do, here is what I have found to be true.

Teachers, like students, want choice of path and pace. They learn differently and at different tempos, and we have to allow this flexibility so that everyone feels included. Teachers like students want to have influence (real influence) over activities and methods used. Teachers, like students, want real and relevant topics that engage them where they can see connections between what they are learning and the whole “world” around them. Teachers, like students, have different workloads during the course of a school year, and want to be challenged, but not overloaded. Teachers, like students, want their learning to be active and social, but at different times and in different settings. Sometimes study circles yield the best result. Sometimes individual reflection is just what we need. Teachers, like students, need a varied approach to ensure that everyone can feel empowered to succeed. Teachers, like students, want to develop their skills through embedded feedback in the form of self-reflection, peer discussions and continual, formative dialogue with their school leaders.

Sound familiar? That’s right. What we have come to know as good instructional design applies to teacher learning as well. Yet, how can we achieve all of these aspects at the same time as we adhere to the union agreements for conference time and ensure fairness between employees?

Our school group has decided (together with teacher representatives) to take a flexible, three-year cycle. Our professional development works like this:

Based on our annual goals, each year’s allocated professional development funds are distributed based on this cycle:

  • During year 1, individual staff members are encouraged to focus on what they need to develop. This could be further development within a certain methodology, new research results, acquiring certification in additional subjects, professional development within the areas of leadership, conflict resolution, etc.
  • During year 2, staff members are encouraged to focus on areas of development for their team. “Team” is a loosely-used term – it could mean your subject team, or your grade level team, or another colleague who shares the same passion as you do.
  • Year 3 is dedicated to full staff development where we, as a group, determine what we want to focus on as a community. This could include school culture, curricula reforms, cross-curricula projects, and so on.

Each year, during the start of the first term, every teacher identifies what would work best for them – what they wish to study, how they wish to study and when they wish to study. Their ideas are submitted for approval to their supervisors. Yet, it is important to note, that we take a very generous and open approach to what is accepted. Basically, if the teacher believes it to be important and can relate their goal to the school’s goals, and also help us understand the connection to student learning – we approve.

In addition to this cycle, we offer an obligatory transformational leadership course to"We take a very generous and open approach to what work is accepted." all tenured teachers within our group where they further develop the skills needed to lead themselves and lead others. This programme focuses on personal development. We also offer two workshop events each year where every teacher from our five schools come together to a professional development day where they choose from a menu of ‘best practice’ workshops (led by our own colleagues). Our workshops focus on inspiring new ideas for professional development and collegial connectedness.

Does this cycle work? Yes and no. We still have the problem of trying to “keep” everyone to the same timeline. And, we still have the challenge of uneven workload balance between administrative tasks of a teacher and the time to genuinely engage in further education. However, we do see a positive trend in how teachers view their access to quality professional development. And, we see increased collegial interaction where the focus is on our students and their learning. I am not sure if we have cracked the code to building professional development. It is always going to be a work in progress that is dynamic, active, continual and challenging.

What I am sure of is this:

Learning is learning.
And, good instructional design is key.
What’s good for students is good for teachers.
We are all learners.

 Do you use a similar cycle in your school(s)? Let us know below!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"