Is it time to embrace a new way of doing CPD?

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The idea that Online Professional Learning Communities (OPLC) may become the way educators develop themselves professionally as a matter of course is interesting. If it were left to the educators themselves it is highly likely that this would easily be the preferred way of learning. However, they still exist within a system that is notoriously slow at making fundamental changes. 

CPD is a big deal at the moment because we, as educators, have had to learn so much in such a short space of time, predominantly due to the changing face of education in the wake of Covid-19. This article asks what it will take for schools to start buying into a new model of CPD that is likely to be far more powerful than what we currently have.

CPD (Continuing Professional Development), is an acronym that rolls off the tongue of all educators in the global north. Everybody knows this term and everybody is aware that CPD is supposed to be good for them in terms of developing themselves professionally. And indeed, it is a professional requirement to undertake CPD.

However, perceptions of CPD opportunities can sometimes be quite negative. For example, the idea of sitting in an afternoon training session after a full day in the classroom is not always appealing and unlikely to result in the best learning outcomes for those in attendance. Of course not all CPD is like this (thankfully) but this is certainly an image that is conjured up by anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be subjected to this type of training. But there is another way.

In another article I have written about Online Professional Learning Communities (OPLC), I make the case for these to be the way forward for CPD so that we grow as communities of people on similar journeys, whether these be communities of emerging leaders, or communities of those interested in decolonising our curriculum. The purpose of this article is not to put this case forward again, but rather to see it from a school’s perspective. And the question I ask myself is, “What stands in the way of schools changing the way they engage with CPD for their teams?”

From experience I would surmise that two things stand in the way; history and inertia. History in the sense that we have historically built training programmes, structured INSETS, and created models of CPD which have “worked for us in the past” that we would be, understandably, reluctant to turn our backs on. Taking on a new CPD model will inevitably mean throwing some old stuff in the bin. 

And inertia in the sense that we have always done things in a certain way and the idea of changing this is too daunting, too uncertain and requires too much effort when we are in the midst of running a busy school. Also a totally understandable point of view.

But at this point I believe it is important to reflect on the fact that a school leader’s main priorities should be to empower their staff, to build stronger teams, and to ensure excellent outcomes for children. This is not always an easy task, and it does require commitment to a strong model of CPD. And if we look deeply into ourselves, neither history nor inertia are valid reasons not to change the way we do things.

So what does the CPD landscape look like in 10 years from now? This is anyone’s guess but I feel there is a real chance that professional learning communities will be taking centre stage, both in person and online; that teachers will be actively seeking to self-improve by undertaking CPD that is engaging and meaningful to them; and that schools will have dropped the box ticking exercise that CPD currently instigates. To me this is a bright future for CPD; the only question I have, however, is “Who are the early adopter schools willing to be first in line?”

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