Professional learning communities: Enhancing CPD in schools

Keren Prior

Keren Prior is a qualified secondary school teacher and head of the team at EES for Schools that provides training and development opportunities for the whole of the school workforce. The work of the team covers the whole remit from recruitment support for schools, initial teacher training and early professional development opportunities all the way through to leadership and governor development.

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The main priority of a school is to ensure that pupils are given the best possible chance of achieving their potential, both academically and personally. In the ever-changing world of education, it is imperative that teachers and other staff are as up-to-date as they can possibly be in their subject knowledge, teaching practices, and assessment requirements. It also important not to forget the professional development needs of the wider school community, including your governors.

Therefore, providing access to courses and opportunities to all members of the school workforce means the whole school is operating as a learning community, with teachers focusing not only on the learning of their pupils, but on their own personal development too.

Providing all staff with regular CPD opportunities, relating to the latest developments in education, is a step in the right direction when it comes to retaining staff. It shows them that they’re a valued member of the team and that they work as a part of a professional learning community, and that their continual improvement is a prerogative. But with so many different options available, schools need to be sure that they’ve chosen the most effective CPD opportunities.

A wealth of potential

A school’s approach to CPD depends both on the staff you have and on the school’s development plan CPD. It should not solely be led by external influencers, so creating a thorough long-term CPD strategy and having a funded plan linked to this strategy is crucial for achieving successful outcomes.

Good CPD is always collaborative and evidence-led, so one of the simplest ways to carry out CPD is to encourage your teachers and class-based staff to share and discuss their own practice. It should be focused on developing knowledge of subjects and how pupils learn them, and should empower teachers to be inventive and innovative with their teaching methods, while also holding them accountable for their provision. Peer observation and regular discussions enable teachers to share their teaching methods and areas where they are interested in learning more in order to develop further.

Formal courses, both online and in person,"Good CPD shows them that they’re a valued member of the team." can sometimes be costly and ineffective if not properly researched, in terms of content and also intended impact back in school. However, formal courses offer access to a wealth of professional knowledge and provide a great opportunity to talk and network with other teachers, or members of the school workforce, so including access to these where they are identified as the right CPD option should be part of the overall CPD plan.

Social media has created a wealth of potential CPD support opportunities for teachers, with online forums and sharing sites becoming more and more common. This is an effective approach to CPD that enables teachers to ask questions and receive responses quickly, and gives them an"Social media offers an effective approach to CPD." unlimited archive of teaching ideas. Schools should look out for the latest online communities, forums and twitter chats and inform their staff about the opportunities available online. In a world that is becoming increasingly digital and where everything moves at a dizzyingly fast pace, social media enables teachers to instantly keep up-to-date with the latest methods and approaches.

A significant impact

There is no denying the importance of CPD, but the impact of it should be systematically tracked, with a clear focus on the impact on pupil’s learning, to ensure that any development activity is meeting the needs of both pupils and staff. A long-term approach to CPD is favoured over a short-term implementation of ideas, as it gives teachers the time and space to embed developments effectively into their practice whilst also enabling them to continuously monitor and measure the impact, in order to keep improving and developing further.

During a period of significant change in the education system, having a CPD plan in place that recognises the importance of CPD and implements regular opportunities for teachers, and other staff to develop ensures that schools remain buoyant and prepared, staff are recognised as valuable assets to the school, and the needs of the pupils remain a priority.


How do you handle CPD in your schools? Let us know below.

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