Early April in Liverpool, down by the docks…it was all very exciting to be once again at an IATEFL Conference. Especially as this year I was presenting for the first time at a PCE – Pre-Conference Event – for the Leadership and Management Special Interest Group (LAMSIG) – where the theme for the day was CPD.
There were around 80 attendees who were coming literally from all over the world. School owners, Principals, Academic managers, Directors of Studies, Teacher Managers, all looking for ideas and insights into setting up and maintaining CPD programmes, and most of all (everyone’s deep-down secret quest) – how to engage teachers in professional development.
The PCE Presenting Team consisted of myself and two great, experienced, and genuinely lovely people: Loraine Kennedy and Fiona Dunlop. I was feeling a bit daunted, partly by the international breadth and level of experience of the audience (ie what do I know compared to them?), and partly by the fact that I was taking the second slot which was going to be an hour and a half session (quite a long time to keep people engaged and involved). Also, as I got up that morning and started to get ready for the big day, I realized I’d left at home all my nicely ironed shirts that I was planning to wear at the conference – dah! Moment of panic. Until I realized I had a just-about-decent-casual top which could go with my jacket: presenter’s wardrobe-disaster averted, just!
Loraine took the first slot and gave us an overview of broad and current thinking to do with CPD. She is always brilliant – clear and thought-provoking; here are some of the relevant points I noted down from her:
CPD is about learning at work; about skills but also knowledge, about thinking differently. Learning is available everywhere, if your mind is open to it.
CPD benefits the individual, the team, the school and therefore the students.
Research tends to show that training courses are not always effective – people go back to work and carry on in the same way. CPD therefore has to be personalised to tap in to intrinsic motivation.
CPD is about having a positive learning environment; trust, mutual respect, support. What is your staff room like? Is it conducive to people sharing? (good question I thought).
Reflection – everyone says they do it, but may not do it effectively. Evaluation and analysis of reflection is key – Driscoll’s model provides a simple memorable tool – 3 questions:
- What? (what happened, tell the facts of the situation)
- So What? (why is this worthy of reflection? what happened against what should have happened?)
- Now What? (in future how may your practice be different? how will you remember what to do in future?)
Fiona took the third slot and looked at the role of the manager in CPD. Also brilliant, Fiona has a knack of bringing anecdotes and insights from her experience into her sessions which make you both laugh and see things in a new way.
She highlighted 3 key points: to lead by example; to know your staff; to ensure developmental opportunities are integrated into academic systems.
And for the first point, she told us an anecdote about going to a (non-ELT) conference for business people years ago: she felt like a fish out of water, she said, but took away one idea which she followed up on, namely the “250 Achievements Activity” – can you list as many personal achievements as that? She tried it and found that over some time she was able to list that many, the point being that in order to lead a team, you have to be able to recognise your own achievements.
It is something I am now trying myself, and like Fiona said then, as well as making yourself feel good, it also helps you to see CPD in a new way – to realise that we (…and our teachers) are all actually achieving lots of things all the time.
My slot was in the middle of the 3 sessions, and focused on CPD for Teachers. I’m going to blog about it in a separate post (sometime soon…probably!), but broadly it revolved around the ideas of giving teachers choice, promoting collaboration, and how to bring in expertise from outside by connecting with other educators around the world via social media.
The PCE Day finished with a panel discussion, which thankfully turned into more of an audience discussion, with some quite heart-felt questions and urgent-sounding problem-sharing. And this left a lasting impression: there we were, 80 or so academic managers, from schools and institutions all over the world, and the overriding feeling at the end of the day was one of really caring and passionate managers banging their heads against an apparent brick wall of teachers and CPD. We had shared some good ideas and insights and got people thinking in new ways perhaps about CPD. But still, it seemed for some in the room, the million-dollar question remained unanswered – how do we really get our teachers to engage with professional development?
(to be continued…)