Are colleagues the best source of professional development?
Teachers often define professional development (PD) as the courses they have attended. However, courses only form one part of PD and there are many other ways to learn and develop within schools.
Over the past two years, I have worked alongside the junior school leadership team to establish our own version of TED Talks, led by staff, for staff.
If you are looking to add something similar to your PD programme, then read on to find out some of the things I have learned through this process.
1. Define the need
Firstly, it’s important to find out from staff what they would like PD on as well as ask for volunteers to lead a talk.
A Google Form or One Drive Form is one method of achieving this. The ideal solution would be to match up staff who are offering to talk on areas which link to those mentioned by staff as a need. Obviously, this might not always pan out but make the links wherever possible.
Heads of School led our first set of talk events. Following those, other staff signed up to lead their own, via the questionnaire and offered public speaking training.
This is an area we are still working on to get right. Our talk events have run after school from 4pm, lasting for around 30 minutes. However, this time has proved to be a challenge for some staff to attend due to extra-curricular activities or meetings.
Finding a time where all staff members are able to attend is key to these events working successfully. Many of the talks have been filmed (with the speaker’s permission) so that staff who couldn’t attend could watch at a later date. These videos have then been shared on our internal learning platform.
We have our usual PD session on Monday after school and staff are released from duties, meetings and extra-curricular activities.
Depending on how big your school is, you will need to consider how to get the message out to staff about upcoming events. It might be as simple as giving a message during a meeting to sending an email memo. You may require a team of people to help promote the events within different departments in larger schools.
I have found that a combination of the above has worked well for us. Success also requires staff to want to give up their time to attend these events. As teachers begin to prioritise time for PD in their practice, these events will become increasingly popular.
Our vision for these events was to create a space for staff to share their passions, both academic and personal. As I alluded to at the start of this post, these events form just one small part of how we promote staff sharing and PD.
A talk style event suits some topics more than others and as such, we also have staff sharing workshops which are more hands-on and interactive in nature.
Additionally, our talks are open to all staff, including our admin and support staff. I hope that in the future some of our support staff will offer to lead a talk.
Teachers themselves are a valuable source of knowledge and given the right opportunities, can be excellent sources of in-house training. We should trust teachers to share their expertise with colleagues and provide opportunities for this. When teachers feel empowered and feel valued, they are likely to be happier and form a stronger team.