I recently read an interesting blog post by te@chertoolkit which could change the way professional development is delivered by schools. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced some great training sessions, sat through some average training and also endured some utterly useless ‘development’ sessions. Some of the best were actually delivered or shared by colleagues.
Te@chertoolkit suggests a simple strategy for sharing best practice among staff. Each staff member brings an idea to the meeting which they can explain in 30 seconds. Teachers then move around the room sharing ideas and soon the room will be buzzing! You could even add music and a countdown buzzer for added atmosphere. With a large staff group, perhaps you could split into departments/categories and then have each group feedback to the larger group with a summary of the ideas discussed.
Staff led development is highly under used in schools, in my opinion. Teachers move from school to school gathering ideas and training along the way and are then often made to sit and listen to someone else train them on the latest teaching strategies. When was the last time you were asked if you already had that specific training? Have you ever been asked if you’d like to share some ideas with your colleagues? Hand on my heart, I can honestly say that I could count on one hand the times I’ve been asked either of those questions.
I know that I have sat through ‘training’ sessions which have been completely useless to me since I was already applying those theories in my daily practice. One particular session was so poorly planned by the leader, that many of the application suggestions were actually not relevant to our school context, meaning much of the content was rather useless. I sat there and thought about how I would have ran the session, had I been asked to.
I can draw two conclusions from this:
- The training delivered to teachers needs to be appropriately differentiated.
- Leaders should know the skill set of their teachers and actively encourage sharing amongst staff.
Yes, leaders need to ensure that all of their staff have a certain level of training, but they should also allow opportunities for teachers to choose their own PD sessions. Where I have seen CPD work exceptionally well, is where teachers are given the autonomy of choice. In one of my previous roles, staff were actively encouraged to run a session, in any area of teaching and learning that they wish, and colleagues could ‘sign up’ for the session. This session was then added to their online portfolio of professional development as a record of their training. Staff leading staff empowers teachers to share their best practice and is often delivered in a very teacher friendly way! It was these sessions that I learnt much of what I do today in my classroom today.
I am an advocate for schools developing a ‘menu’ of PD opportunities from which teachers and other staff members can choose. This menu should allow for teachers to have regular and useful training which can be put into practice, reflected upon and then thoughts shared back among colleagues.