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Empowering CPD: Building a strong professional growth model for teachers

8 min read
Emily Giubertoni and John Cunnane, Assistant Principals, Bishop Challoner Catholic College, UK

At Bishop Challoner Catholic College, we have developed a model of professional growth designed around principles of high-quality teacher development, such as the Department for Education’s continuing professional development (CPD) standard (2016), which emphasises an outcomes focus, collaboration, the role of research and training over time as important elements of successful CPD. We have used the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) implementation guidance (Sharples et al., 2019) to think carefully about how we explore, prepare, deliver and sustain CPD.  

Our rationale and aims

Our model aims to achieves twin goals: a 10-year development pathway for all our teachers, whatever their career stage, and the improvement of teaching and learning in school to close pupil performance gaps. The model is underpinned by our vision for teaching and learning: 

  • To foster student and staff growth, promoting values based on the Catholic ethos
  • Teaching and learning at our school will empower and engage students and staff with a dynamic, ambitious, flexible curriculum, allowing students to access the depth and breadth of all subjects
  • To continue to invigorate our teaching and learning using research-led approaches, valuing staff reflection and experience, and working through partnerships and wider networks
  • To use creative approaches to provide rewarding experiences for students and staff across the whole school community
  • We value our teachers as experts and trust them to deliver an exciting and coherent curriculum by continuing to develop themselves and their practice.

 

Using the research: Programme design and implementation

Evidence suggests that ‘interventions are implemented effectively when the support system, intervention design, and school context work together to achieve success’ (Sims et al., 2021, p. 55). Therefore, we implement a CPD programme internally called ‘The Year of Teaching and Learning’ to coordinate school CPD; it is a handbook and calendar that describes every aspect of CPD for teachers at all levels, and sets out how and when activities take place. We have also designed a CPD wheel (Figure 1) offering an overview of all CPD options; this is updated yearly in light of the changing school context. Teachers at all stages of their careers, often in conjunction with performance management conversations, use the wheel to identify a series of CPD activities that work for them. 

Figure 1 is the CPD wheel, providing an overview of professional growth pathways.

Figure 1: Overview of professional growth pathways – the CPD wheel

We consider manageable workload to be a fundamental element of successful implementation. As Sims et al. found, ‘evaluation reports concur that interventions work when they make participating straightforward and convenient for teachers’ (2021, p. 55). So, when scheduling CPD, we spend time considering when and how it would be most time- and cost-effective to deliver, using a blended model of in-person, online, in-school and after-school delivery, of which some is compulsory and some voluntary. We have nurtured a supportive whole-school cover culture over time, and made it clear that staff can access cover where needed to facilitate their attendance at CPD. Leaders explicitly make the point that every staff member will contribute to cover, but in exchange, every staff member will benefit from cover. In this way, leaders address Standard 5 of the DfE’s CPD standard (2016) by showing that CPD is ‘prioritised by leadership’ and the whole school community.

Middle leader training

In the current Ofsted framework, it is clear that middle leaders have a crucial role in developing staff expertise over time; the statement that ‘leaders focus on improving staff’s subject, pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge to enhance the teaching of the curriculum’ emphasises the responsibility of heads of department for staff development (Ofsted, 2019). Our approach to developing middle leaders empowers them to lead their teams with confidence to reinforce and implement the active ingredients of our yearly interventions. The approach is designed to inform middle leaders about relevant research, to inspire them to see how it may be used effectively in practice, and to support them to overcome barriers and successfully make subject-specific implementation plans with their teams. The cycle runs continuously throughout the year (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 is the middle leader development cylce, with three segments detailing steps.

Figure 2: Middle leader development cycle

The Lead Teacher role

We have a team of 10 Lead Teachers drawn from departments across the school. Most Lead Teachers are middle leaders still working as classroom practitioners; this is an important aspect of the role, allowing Lead Teachers to role-model desired teaching practices and to lead with authenticity. The creation of the Lead Teacher team has helped us to create a distributed leadership culture by ‘explicitly creating opportunities for staff to take on implementation leadership responsibilities’ (Sharples et al., 2019, p. 12). The Lead Teacher team have a defined mission to address the school improvement teaching and learning priorities. 

The EEF’s implementation guidance tells us that effective implementation programmes should ‘support change at different levels of the organisation – individual practitioners, departmental teams, school level changes… The objective is to align these strategies so they reinforce each other and are sequenced appropriately.’ (Sharples et al., 2019, p. 22) The Lead Teachers meet in June to agree a strategic plan to support all aspects of staff growth for the following year. A detailed calendar is produced (see Figure 3) to set out the sequence and relationship between training threads. The team identifies shared responsibilities (such as conducting half-termly lesson visit programmes) and individually accountable programmes (such as one Lead Teacher taking responsibility for disseminating research and best practice CPD related to technology and innovations). The whole programme is iterative and structured across a year, but continues year on year to build and repeat key learning (Cordingley et al., 2015).

Date Teaching and learning bulletins Wednesday T&L mini briefings/Friday teaching and learning hour insets Lesson visits ICT drop-in workshops Additional CPD/ reading groups/ workshops

Figure 3: Lead Teacher intervention calendar headings – each activity is identified and linked to the relevant Lead Teacher to ensure accountability and fidelity checks

Professional shadowing

We believe strongly in providing opportunities for staff to engage in professional shadowing. Lemov (2015) reminds us that the best teachers are ‘deeply intentional about applying, adapting and improving…and willing to invest time in reflecting on that process’ (2015, p. 13).  Professional shadowing provides a platform for staff to gain insight into the roles of staff across the school community and to develop a system where staff can explore areas for their professional growth through observation, discussion and experience. The professional shadowing model enables staff to:

  • gain insight into the roles and responsibilities of other members of staff and other departments
  • reflect and learn from the experiences of colleagues
  • see how other staff and teams operate
  • see the bigger picture and understand more about whole-school operations
  • explore possible career options.

 

Shadowing plays a crucial role in our plans to make teacher development sustainable, as staff are continuously developed through this approach into more senior roles as their knowledge and experience grow. Many of our Lead Teachers and middle leaders have been developed into their roles through professional shadowing and its many benefits.

Using the research: Programme content

Our data analysis of Progress 8 identified gaps emerging post-COVID, particularly a gender gap and underperformance of pupil premium middle prior-attaining compared to low or high prior-attaining. Student attainment nationally has suffered as a result of school closures, especially for disadvantaged students (EEF, 2021). Having identified an attainment gap, our leadership teams turned to the research to identify active ingredients to embed in teacher practice to effect positive change. We identified the metacognitive strategies, with the EEF toolkit promise of up to seven months’ impact, as a golden thread to develop through all of our interventions; we aimed to improve attainment by improving independent learning skills and empowering students to take control of their own learning (EEF, 2018).

As users of research, rather than research practitioners, our leadership team spend time ensuring that the research we use is rigorous, relevant and accessible to classroom teachers who do not have the capacity to read widely in the literature due to workload. We have found the metastudies described in John Hattie’s Visible Learning (2009) useful touchstones in confirming our active ingredients. The Great Teaching Toolkit ‘Activating hard thinking’ research summaries (Coe et al., 2020) have been an invaluable resource in identifying what works alongside the evidence base. Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of direct instruction’ (2012) have been useful, underpinned as they are by triangulation of cognitive science, cognitive support studies and the classroom practice of master teachers. Guidance reports from the EEF form a core part of our research preparation and design of programmes; the report ‘Metacognition and self-regulated learning’ (EEF, 2018) gave our CPD leaders the confidence to identify low-cost, high-impact interventions to develop student independence.

Using the research: Evaluation of impact

In evaluating our approach, we ensured that evaluation processes were planned in advance and that we had transparent processes to monitor and evaluate our CPD programme. We used surveys using Microsoft Forms to collect feedback on all staff training programmes, through both numerical ratings and open-text questions. We reviewed these findings and used them to make changes to the programmes for the following year, adapting our approach more closely to the needs of our school context (Perry et al., 2019). 

We have used lesson visits as a low-stress tool to monitor the implementation of our metacognitive active ingredients, collating over 120 snapshots of routine lessons over four cycles. These allowed us to analyse strengths and areas to further develop, as well as celebrate good practice and monitor whole-school implementation over time.

In a time of recruitment and retention challenges in the teaching world, we have also evaluated our impact through the softer impact on our workforce: staff surveys, our high retention rates, evidence from exit interviews and tracking of promotions of staff to leadership positions, both internally and externally, all provide indicators of positive impact. Staff report high levels of job satisfaction, and in internal interviews and exit interviews, staff frequently identify benefits that they have received from high-quality CPD opportunities within the school. 

In conclusion, we have seen concrete benefits of this model of professional growth for both students and staff, and will be continuing to refine the offer year on year, while retaining the core structure. We will also explore sharing the model with partnerships in our area, to see what benefits can be explored by sharing a similar model between schools.

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    Alan James Johnson

    This is a really interesting article, and there are many similarities here with our own developing model for CPD [linked to appraisal] in spite of differing school settings. I genuinely look forward to reading more in the future!

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