The essentials of continuous professional development

In this blog, we’ll take a detailed look at continuous professional development, how it works, and putting a strong CPD plan into practice.

Table of Contents

Keeping good teachers within the industry long-term has always been a challenge – but the scale of the issue is perhaps bigger now than it’s ever been. According to recent research by Education Support, 63% of senior leaders and 53% of teachers have thought about leaving the profession within the past two years. While the pandemic has been particularly tough on the education sector, there will undoubtedly be many cases where teachers lost to the profession would have stayed had they been better supported. This underlines the importance of high-quality continuous professional development (CPD), and in this blog, we’ll take a detailed look at how it works, and how you can put a strong CPD plan into practice.

teachers in one to one professional development meeting

What is continuous professional development (CPD)?

CPD combines different techniques and support measures to help teachers constantly update their skill sets and progress in their careers. It should include general guidance with teaching and learning approaches, as well as support in ensuring they have the subject knowledge they require.

CPD should be an ongoing process throughout a teacher’s career. That way, knowledge and skills remain current, and teachers are best placed to help both their students and themselves develop and succeed.

What are the different types of CPD?

There is a huge range of different measures that schools and teachers can employ as part of a CPD programme. Every school and every teacher is different, so coming up with the right mix of initiatives needs careful planning. The services provided should be accessible, high-quality and worthwhile.

They can include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Formal training: such as courses, workshops, online learning, or studying for qualifications and accreditation
  • Peer-to-peer support: such as mentoring, lesson observation, shadowing, and peer group exchanges
  • Events: such as exhibitions, conferences and international exchange programmes
  • Self-improvement: such as self-reflection, personal reading and independent research
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How can you create a CPD programme?

Developing a CPD programme, and determining which measures would be best for school and teachers alike, is a four-step process:

  • Bring the whole school together: a collaborative environment where teachers work together towards common progression can be hugely inspiring and rewarding. Performance management and school improvement plans can identify general areas for improvement, upon which CPD measures can be focused to boost both teamwork and student outcomes
  • Define each teacher’s priorities: every teacher will need individual support with CPD, because they will have their own strengths, weaknesses and levels of experience. Understanding where improvements are needed right from the start is therefore vital. It is especially important to identify gaps in subject-specific knowledge, with Ofsted’s ‘subject deep dives’ putting this expertise in sharper focus during inspections
  • Identify school needs and priorities: as well as teacher-specific needs, schools will also have their own goals, as defined in their School Development Plan. By linking this to CPD, teachers can undergo professional development activities that also have relevance to the school’s own performance targets.
  • Build a flexible CPD strategy: for a CPD plan to be meaningful and sustainable, it must be devised strategically, based on knowledge of the school, its teachers and its student body. It must be flexible enough to fit around teacher workloads, and so it doesn’t feel burdensome that it easily gets forgotten about or sidelined

Tracking your CPD efforts

As CPD is normally multi-faceted, there can be lots going on: so much so that a paper-based approach can make it very difficult to keep track of progress, either for an individual, a division or an organisation. It is far easier, and much more transparent, to turn to technology for progress tracking instead.

An all-encompassing professional development platform such as Sisra Observe allows teachers to record all of their CPD activities, and for their managers to monitor progress. It also facilitates open dialogue between all parties involved in CPD, so that people can work together towards the agreed goals.

Additionally, reports can quantify the effectiveness of the CPD efforts, either across a whole school, in a particular team or focused on an individual teacher. These can help staff get the insights they need to reflect on their abilities and focus on the areas where they can improve the most. It can also deliver a holistic overview of school performance, and help inform areas that need prioritising in the future.

Why is professional development so important for teachers and pupils?

Our guide looks at the perceptions of professional development and CPD and answers why it’s crucial for teachers and pupils.

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