Continuing Professional Development for Teachers

Continuing professional development (usually abbreviated to CPD) is the embodiment of lifelong learning for teachers. It represents an expectation that teachers are the lead learners in their schools, and that they embrace and model effective learning themselves.

Knowledge bank

CPD can take many forms and includes a whole host of different types of activities.

Support from other colleagues provides one of the most effective ways of developing your skills and knowledge. Collaborative approaches to CPD, where teachers prepare lessons together and then reflect on the outcomes, has been highlighted in research as effective.

Online learning through websites and specialist providers is invaluable. Online services for teachers range from subject-specific sites such as The Association for Science Education (www.ase.org.uk) to general interest sites such as GoogleEarth (www.googleearth.com).

Teachers' TV has grown in popularity and provides some high-quality examples of genuine success stories in UK schools. Available on pay channel Digital and also on Freeview facilities, Teachers' TV provides useful programmes for viewing or recording for the professional development library.

Sabbaticals outside of the school and also within the school are increasingly common and can take many forms. These could be trips abroad to developing nations on VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), to specific projects such as funded trips to Australia to look at aspects of ICT in outback teaching. There are places available each year for short-term overseas visits through The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and via various schemes organized by the British Council. You don't have to be working in a specialist school to apply. Not quite as exotic, but none the less rewarding, one Midlands school offers teachers the opportunity to relinquish management responsibilities to undertake action research for a year, whilst still receiving their full allowance.

Performance management, when carried out in the true spirit of professional development, can provide a rich source of personal and professional growth. In this sense it is characterized by a good deal of ownership over the targets set.

In Service Training (INSET), such as having external facilitators or speakers, is a frequently used tool. It's very important to gain external perspectives in the pressure cooker of a school and a high-quality external INSET provider can energize and fortify colleagues. Always go on recommendations from other schools and take time to plan with an external provider so that you maximize the chances of your needs being met.

Going outside school for training courses can be a most useful opportunity for colleagues to have a high-quality reflective thinking space in the presence of challenging and useful new ideas. Schools who support CPD effectively have structures for enabling colleagues to disseminate learning from external courses upon their return.

Having a coach or mentor, for facilitated discussion, collaborative planning or advice has been heralded as a highly effective way of utilizing the intellectual capital of a school. Many schools are setting up collaborative trios or pairings to enable teachers to work in this way.

Working with industrial partners can be a great way of learning about processes outside the school gates.

Action research can provide a focus for developing understanding of processes within your institution and can feed into training days in school led by colleagues.

Higher degree study through attendance or distance learning are further options to explore. Whether you're climbing the career ladder or wish to refresh your perspectives, following a course leading to a higher degree can provide valuable professional learning.

Ask yourself

  1. Consider your last three years' CPD experiences. What has been most valuable to you?
  2. Consider your professional development goals for the next 12 months - what do you think you need most in terms of support and training?
  3. Who do you feel most comfortable working with in your school as you develop professionally? Could you team up with someone in similar circumstances to form a powerful coaching pair?

To do list

  • Create a professional development portfolio and keep it updated.
  • Be proactive about your CPD needs and actively research what you need. Budgets are often tight in schools, so consider creative ways to get the support you need, for example through local businesses, tying your needs in closely to overall school improvement targets.
  • Where you have particular career aspirations, it pays to have a longer term plan, especially where you're considering senior