How can we help teachers to improve?
The most effective professional development is collaborative, it needs to be practice-based and research-informed. Yet, beyond the Twitter bubble, some teachers are not yet getting the support and resources they need.
Making collaboration sustainable
School leaders and teachers will generally agree that the most effective professional development has a mixture of sustainability, buy-in, be subject specific (in parts) and have a great deal of practical application. Occasionally, some outside expertise is needed.
The one thing that makes all this sustainable, is the collaboration aspect from the staff within the school. No teacher or school leader can be good at their job without support from the colleagues around them.
However, this relatively new research challenges the notion that the most-effective CPD is not collaborative.
Unlocking teacher autonomy
So, if collaboration doesn’t unlock teacher improvement, what does?
Recently, I have been researching teacher autonomy, what impact academisation has on school standards, particularly the sharing of resources within a multi academy trust, and how we can unlock teacher potential.
Many of the models I use in my own leadership with schools, is not only to provide pragmatic pedagogical ideas, but to help school leaders redesign CPD approaches for teachers to come together to regularly share.
The devil is in the details.
Any school can offer a CPD menu of resources and professional development for its staff, but the logistics matter. We can attend countless CPD events, conferences and listen to visiting speakers, but the crux of what lies behind all these periphery resources and events on offer, is time to make any change in our behaviours.
A change in behaviour…
At the centre of all school improvement lies a change in teacher behaviours in the classroom.
Providing all of the hallmarks listed in the first paragraph, year in year out, as well as protecting 0.1 per cent of an overall school budget to fund teacher development, is not an easy feat.
The reality of balancing the challenges of school life versus everyone being engaged in whole school CPD priorities make it a constant challenge. Even having all school leaders attend all training sessions, including the headteacher, signposts to all staff that pedagogy is just as important for them as it is for teachers.
I am always surprised why some schools push CPD onto their teaching staff, without school leaders being involved.
Discussing classroom pedagogy is a conversation every teacher and member of support staff needs to have.
School leaders too!
Carefully constructed conversations
To do this, teachers need their school leaders to fiercely protect this time and the space for everyone to come together to reflect on a regular basis. To be provided with the opportunity to share with simplicity and passion, to collaborate and develop their thinking, with fear of retribution of ridicule.
Digging into the research, having a clear plan, a 30-day model and structured conversations is an important pathway that all schools must take, and sustain. Carefully constructed conversations help bring the details to life, and a shift in behaviour.
That’s it. That’s Just Great Teaching.
I urge you to speak with one another about teaching and learning and to have meaningful conversations about pedagogy. The schools that are thriving are designing one-to-one conversations for teachers to discuss classroom observations, research and appraisal in a public forum for ‘good ideas’ to filter to the top.
Do this only and do it well.