CPD: a teacher-centred philosophy

August 14, 2012reflections,
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What do we mean by CPD? A simple enough acronym but a complex idea. A small group of ESOL trainees & teachers wrote about the CPD activities they had been taking part in a six month period, and the difficulty in identifying what constituted CPD activity was a common theme. A second theme centred on top-down, formally organised activities such as INSET training or qualifications, but they questioned the value of these activities.

 

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In 2004, the first year after completing my PGCE, I was fortunate enough to take part in the NRDC’s ICT Effective Practice Study. Of the five effective practice studies this project differed from the ESOL, numeracy, reading & writing projects  as it was highlighted early on that there was limited evidence of good practice in the use of ICT in Skills for Life to research and therefore “its first phase was developmental, rather than evaluative” p.15 Mellar, et al 2007 Therefore, in the first year of the project nine practitioner researchers undertook interventionist projects within their own classrooms in order to explore what constituted good practice with ICT.

 

I was fortunate to be one of these nine practitioners and the activities of these nine months have had a lasting impact on my practice and my view of CPD. The themes of this project included:

1.   Creating an environment to develop and understanding of joint good practice. Once a month, we would meet for one day and discuss all things teaching, learning and ICT. These were amazing days where we were focused on our students and our classrooms and what was and wasn’t working.

2.   Make a change to our classroom practice. Each one of us chose one aspect of technology to explore with our students. I used webquests with my ESOL students.

3.   Friendly Critical Friend. There were two amazing people who would come into our classrooms & challenge our practice. One memory of a discussion with my Friendly Critical Friend had her questioning why I had to give a demonstration at the front of the class and we explored other options – of which I was pretty resistant. Through this discussion I became aware of my belief that I had to be control of the class and I really had to step out of my comfort zone to explore other teaching methods. This was certainly not the only time I did this during the project and has become an accepted part of my practice – that to improve as a teacher I have to be bold and try new things.

4.   Journal writing. We were asked to keep a journal during these interventionist activities to be used as part of the data for the research. I still find the process of having to think and structure my ideas for an audience very cathartic.

 

These themes have continued with the way that I engage with CPD, both in terms of my own classroom practice and with my staff development role.

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Peer.Net: the peer observation scheme within HE uses many of these themes. A space for professional dialogue where tutors are discussing and creating joint good practice and challenging each other in a safe and non-judgemental way.

Research and Scholarly Activity: HE tutors get to bid for remission hours to undertake specific practitioner research activity. This year I’d like to try to organise a space for tutors to come together more to create a community of practice to offer peer support for this.

External funding: I have had two externally funded action research projects & three tutors within my department have also successfully completed LSIS funded projects. Having the support, both financially and in terms of developing as practitioner researchers is so valuable.

BYOD Group: groups of tutors who have mobile devices come together to discuss and share how these are being used, whether for personal, professional or classroom use.

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MOOC: I took part in my first MOOC this year and the format of a MOOC embodies much of what constitutes teacher-centred CPD activity. As @gsiemens tweeted during #moocmooc the structure of a MOOC is “intro, chaos, self organisation, sharing images/artifacts, sub-networks, frustration, drop out, core left” Judging by the number of favourites and retweets I am not alone in recognising this.

Twitter: I love the analogy of Twitter to shopping – you can shop with a list, or go window shopping and stumble upon a great find. You can go alone but bump into someone you know along the way or even meet someone new. Enough said.

 

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Six months after their initial blog posts, during which time they each took a mobile device, joined Twitter, blogged and had monthly face to face meeting to discuss how they were using these emerging technologies for their CPD they blogged again  – this time ranking the CPD activities they’d undertaken.  The themes that emerged from these blogs showed they had a better understanding of CPD, and these activities centred on reading (screen or print), professional dialogue (face to face or virtual) and writing. Reviewing the four questions posed by the IFL:

  • Have you undertaken professional development activities this year?
  • Have you reflected on the learning you have gained from these activities?
  • Have the activities and the reflection made a difference to how you teach or train?
  • Can you show evidence of this difference and the impact it has made to learners, colleagues or the organisation in which you work?

They could answer yes to all of them, except for the final one – where is the evidence? And what impact does generating the evidence have on the teaching and learning experience?

 

Despite feeling that I have a fairly good grasp of what constitutes CPD, and a history of engaging with and instigating teacher-centred CPD, I also share the teachers/trainees confusion with evidence.

 

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