Over the last few years at Durrington we have developed a range of approaches to CPD – you can get an overview of them here and in my book ‘Perfect Teacher Led CPD’. As the title of the book suggests, all of these strategies have been focused on adopting a ‘teacher-led’ approach to CPD – using the expertise of teachers to support the professional learning of their peers. This has been great and has got us to a strong position as a school. We talk about teaching a great deal, share ideas and have a common language when we talk about great teaching. It has limitations though – because most of the CPD has focused around general pedagogy. Whilst there is nothing wrong with talking about general pedagogy, in order to spark ideas and discussion about teaching (and we do this a great deal around our six principles), I think we need to be putting CPD back into the context of subject areas. Only when we do this, can we really start to develop highly effective CPD. Whilst it’s useful to talk about the importance of modelling as a teaching strategy, how a PE teacher models throwing the javelin, will be very different to how a history teacher models writing an essay. Great teachers are great at teaching their subject – something confirmed by the Sutton Trust Report of 2014, ‘What makes great teaching?‘ It places subject knowledge as the number 1 factor that has an impact on effective teaching:
This year we have focused our CPD back into subjects, by having ‘Subject Pedagogy Development Sessions’ during INSET days. This has involved a topic being introduced to the whole staff e.g. how do we improve memory? Following this, staff have gone back into their subject teams to discuss how the initial input can be implemented in their own subject – see here. These have been great, but we want to take it a stage further. So next year, inspired by Katie Ashford’s blog about how they approach this at Michaela School, we are introducing ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’.
Subject Planning & Development Sessions
These sessions have been calendared once a fortnight, in subject teams. They will provide the opportunity for subject teams to meet and work together to plan high quality teaching, through regular, subject specific collaborative planning & CPD – placing the focus very much on our core purpose….great subject teaching.
The discussions during the sessions will be based around the 6 principles of teaching which are used at Durrington, but allow subject teams the autonomy to focus on implementing each principle within the context of their subject. Basically, each subject team will be talking about what they are teaching over the next fortnight, and then sharing ideas about how they can teach it well.
Some key questions that will be considered during each session:
- What are the key topics/concepts/ideas that we are teaching over the next fortnight?
- How do we teach these concepts/ideas well?
- What are the key learning points that students need to master in these topics?
- Who teaches this topic well? How?
- Who is ‘worried’ about teaching this topic? Why?
- What resources can we share to help teach these concepts/ideas
- What is the key knowledge/skills that students need to be secure with in order to tackle these new topics?
- What are the opportunities for repetition and review?
- What are the ‘hinge questions’ to help students understand each topic/concept? How might we reframe questions to support students who are struggling?
- What are the possible misconceptions that students could have? How will we address these?
- How can we ensure high quality explanations are supported through effective modelling?
- What are the really hard bits of this topic? How can we explain these well – particularly to students with a low starting point?
- What opportunities are there to stretch the students with a high starting point? What ‘Think Hard’ questions can we use?
- What strategies/scaffolding can be used to support students who are ‘stuck’?
- What opportunities are there for ‘deliberate practice’? What will we use to provide this – exam questions, assessments?
- What opportunities are there for focused feedback over the next fortnight e.g. tasks that lend themselves to live marking, peer critique, self-checking, WWW/EBI statement banks?
Clearly there will be no requirement to cover all of the questions above in one session. Furthermore, the Subject Leader will not have to lead each session – departmental staff will take the lead where specific strengths are identified and known about. A number of departments are also planning to meet for half an hour every week to do this process – so making the sessions even more regular.
I am really excited about this – as are a number of teachers/ leaders who I have spoken to about it. To me, this is the purest form of CPD – teachers meeting regularly to discuss and share ideas about how they best teach their subject. What could be better in terms of teacher-led CPD? Regular, collaborative, supportive and subject specific.
Have a great summer