One hit wonders: why standalone CPD sessions don’t work

22 April 2018

Our Leading Learning course starts on Friday 25th May and will take place over three days. Why three days? Because we want our CPD to lead to real change in schools, and everything we know about effective CPD suggests that a standalone day course or after school CPD session is unlikely to change anything.

The Dfe Standard for teachers’ professional development, which underpins much of our thinking on CPD, has five recommendations, one of which is that “Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.” In addition, The Teacher Development Trust, in their What Makes Great Teaching report, looked at many studies on effective CPD, and conclude:

Overall, the clear indication is that to be most effective CPDL programmes which aim to bring about significant organisational and cultural change need to last at least 2 terms. Sustaining CPDL over a period of time and ensuring that it features multiple, iterative activities following the initial input, were identified as extremely important across all reviews.

Guskey and Yoon, in What Works in Professional Development, state that “a lot of workshops are wasteful, especially the one-shot variety that offers no genuine follow-up or sustained support.” While Bradford Research School host a number of standalone Research Roadshows which explore some of the best evidence, we are not naive enough to claim that these will lead to massive changes in practice – and standalone CPD session in schools won’t either.

But simply lasting over a period of time does not in itself make  CPD effective. A CPD course has to be designed so the time is used effectively. According to the Dfe Standard, CPD programs need to be “iterative, with activities creating a rhythm of ongoing support and follow-up activities”.

What this rhythm should include are opportunities for experimentation, reflection, feedback and evaluation. With a one off session, there is zero opportunity for any of this. And without this, there is no sense that participants can see the impact of what they are doing, there is no way that they can refine it, there’s no way that leaders of CPD can respond to emerging needs.

School leaders should ask the following before planning CPD:

  • Have we designed a clear programme with a regular rhythm of ongoing support?
  • Is the focus of our CPD evidence-informed?
  • Does it last for at least two terms?
  • If not, is it focused on a narrow goal or part of a coherent sequence to achieve broader goals?

And you should consider these things when when paying for external CPD providers or training courses.

If you are a leader responsible for CPD, planning a one off session on something to cure all of the ills in your school just isn’t the best strategy. It’s a much better decision to follow the evidence and sustain the CPD over a period of time. Another great decision would be to sign up to our Leading Learning course! £295 for three days and you can bring another person from your school at no extra cost.

Posted on 22 April 2018
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