A useful kick off could be with some of the issues I have with traditional approaches to professional learning. Sweet Shop syndrome. I’m fortunate to work in a part of the world, and for an organisation, that really values CPD. A glittering and enticing range of ‘BIG NAMES’ and one-off sessions are offered which is very tempting for staff, but can create CPD junkies who crave the next quick fix. Is this good CPD? I question the impact of this to be honest, as the ad-hock nature of the offer often doesn’t correlate with what we as a school are trying to achieve. As it wasn’t planned for, there is no build up or planned implementation afterwards. Ideas presented as fact. Think about all of the ‘brain scans’ that you’ve been shown at CPD to ‘DEMONSTRATE’ that this strategy or approach works (think Learning Styles). One size fits all. We talk about individual learning plans and personalising learning for kids. What about for teachers? A one-size-fits-all approach rarely acknowledges the expertise or capacity of those in the room. This is where Twitter & Teachmeets have really found their place. Irony-without-irony. It is ironic how many times you’ll be hearing about innovative ways to teach in the least innovative forum of all… a lecture. Often this is due to how – particularly large – events run. This approach often means many in the room are hearing things that they already know, or aren’t in a position to benefit from.
Engage someone who will build a relationship with your school, both prior to, during and after the learning, either in person, online or a blended approach. Relationships are pivotal in student learning. It’s the same for adults. We did this recently with a furniture manufacturer who visited our site to understand what we were trying to do, and we worked together to re-develop some of their range to work for us. Develop your own understanding of what is presented: Some schools have their own research teams, but better still, seek to form a relationship (formal or informal) with a university or other research institution. It’s one thing for leaders to present a vision (preferably one co-designed with the community) but it’s another to dictate the manner in which the vision should be achieved. An alternate approach is to empower your staff to develop their own learning plans in relation to your vision. They need to be accountable, and you could regularly get updates either informally, via an online platform or via a school event where teachers can explore what their colleagues are doing across the organisation. I make reference here to our staff journey to develop and implement our Learning Model; it’s taken on new directions I hadn’t foreseen as it’s devolved to staff to make it happen. HUGE EVENTS... it’s interesting to hear and see the ‘Big Names’ and to attend conferences and the like, but I’m not sure what the answer is to make these more effective. Time. Break out sessions are OK- but at a recent conference in Singapore, Professor Pasi Salhberg (Finnish Lessons) led a day looking (collaboratively) at collaborative learning structures. Dylan William mentioned in a recent session I attended, our plates are full and so we need to not do some good things for other good things to happen. How to choose or prioritize? Leaders need to ensure that there is time for teachers to meet, discuss, design and practice new strategies or approaches.