Getting that little bit better – supporting teachers with personalised CPD

dylan wiliam quote

Since September we (Shaun Allison, Martyn Simmonds & Chris Runeckles) have been working with staff at Durrington, to plan their CPD.   Whilst we put in a place a number of general CPD activities for staff to engage with, such as 15 minute forums and subject specific CPD such as ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’, it’s really important that we also facilitate personalised CPD for individual teachers.   Teachers are very busy people, so if we want them to reflect on their own practice and then plan their own CPD, we need to put things in place to support them with this.  We have tried to do this by sending out the following form as an interactive PDF to all teaching staff:


Once emailed to staff, any staff who would like some support with their CPD simply clicks the boxes that contain a CPD activity they would like to explore further.  They then press ‘submit’ (interactive PDFs are great for this!)  The form is then automatically emailed to the three of us.  We then divide the CPD requests up between the three of us and arrange a one to one meeting with the teacher, to help them plan their CPD.

The focus of the meeting is always the same – how can we help them to plan and then put in place and review some appropriate CPD that will help them to address the specific aspects of their teaching they are looking to improve?

Half a term in, it has been incredibly rewarding to have these discussions with such a wide range of teachers – from NQTs to experienced teachers.  They all have one thing in common – they are all interested in getting that little bit better in the classroom.  A highly commendable professional attribute!

Here are some examples of some of the CPD activities we have worked with staff on, this half term:

  • A teacher who wanted to improve their questioning, used IRIS to record one of her lessons.  We both then watched the video independently, met up and discussed our thoughts on the lesson.  During the discussion, we reviewed specific sections of the lesson video that related to questioning.  Following this, the teacher decided that she would focus on improving her questioning further by using Doug Lemov’s strategy of cold calling and then making students think more deeply, by asking a following up question, when an initial superficial response is given.  This half term, we will IRIS another lesson to review how she is getting on with these strategies.
  • A teacher wanted to know what other teachers were doing to get successful outcomes out of ‘lazy Y11 boys’.  Together we identified some of the specific boys in question.  I then had a look at their recent report data, and identified teachers who had given these boys a 1 or 2 for effort.  I then asked these teachers what they were doing with these boys to bring about this success.  The results are summarised here.  The teacher (and others) can then look at these strategies and use them to tweak their own practice.
  • Provided support for a colleague with a focus on feedback. Initially the colleague brought samples of their written feedback from a mixture of year groups. We then discussed the feedback that the colleague had provided, in terms of its effectiveness in allowing students to progress. We also discussed whether the feedback that was being provided was in line with the departmental policy i.e. effective in terms of promoting student thinking and manageable for the teacher.  Based on this, we discussed some strategies that the teacher could focus on e.g. live marking.  After two weeks, a second review took place and the discussion centred around the improvements that had been made. The colleague felt much more comfortable with the workload of the feedback, but also importantly that the feedback was being read and utilised by the students. It was clear from the second review that students were responding to the feedback and students were making further progress with their work. Myself and the colleague will meet again during the next half-term to continue to review and develop feedback practices.
  • Working with a colleague to look at their teaching generally and identify any particular aspects that could be developed. Initially, I held a discussion with the colleague about where they perceived their strengths and areas for development lay. I followed this up with an in-class observation to identify where I believed the colleague’s strengths and areas for development lay. After this observation, we discussed the lesson and identified three key areas for that colleague to focus on over the next two weeks. I then used IRIS to observe the colleague with a specific focus on the three developmental areas that had been identified. Following this, we held another session, where we discussed the strengths and areas for development of the lesson. This will now lead into another observation and continued round of supportive discussions. The impact of this strategy is that the colleague feels that they have an opportunity to have a supportive observation, which is not linked to any other school process, to develop their own teaching practice.
  • A colleague wanted to observe teaching practice with a specific focus on questioning. I met with the colleague to identify what the aim of their observations would be and to identify specific points to look out for in their observations. I suggested some teachers that the colleague may wish to observe. We met once the colleague had observed the identified teachers and discussed what the colleague had observed and how this would be developed in their own practice. The impact of this was that the colleague was able to observe some ‘best’ practice related to questioning but also to develop techniques which they could use in their own lessons. I will then arrange an observation with the colleague to view the questioning in their own lessons.
  • Colleagues wanted to develop their knowledge and understanding of ‘challenge’ within their lessons and how teachers challenge their students in lessons. I met with the colleagues and identified blog posts and research papers which would be beneficial to read. In addition, I suggested teachers for these colleagues to observe. Following this, I met with the colleagues to discuss what they had read and observed and how they had changed or developed their own practice. The result of this was that these colleagues had been able to ‘magpie’ bits of ‘best’ practice from other teachers and utilise these within their own lessons.
  • At an initial meeting, the teacher said they wanted to improve their teaching.  After further discussion, this was narrowed down to two aspects of teaching – modelling and feedback.  The teacher was supported in two ways.  Firstly I arranged for them to observe two experience and strong colleagues – with a focus on feedback and modelling.  Following the meeting, we discussed aspects of good practice in these areas that she had observed.  Secondly, I took the teacher on a ‘bright spots’ walk around the school.  We visited a number of lessons and I was able to point out specific aspects of modelling and feedback in the lessons.  We then met to discuss what we had seen and planned some strategies that the teacher would try in her own lessons.
  • Three teachers in the same subject area, all wanted to look at increasing the level of challenge in their lessons.  I supported them by setting up a ‘lesson study’ programme for them.  I will support them with the process of the next half term.
  • A teacher had observed a number of colleagues in his own subject area, but wanted to observe some teachers outside of his subject area – with a focus on keeping students engaged with the task during lessons.  He didn’t know where to start with this, so I was able to suggest some colleagues for him to observe and them help him to arrange the observations.  Following the observations we met to discuss what he had picked out from the teachers he had observed and how he would use this to shape his own teaching.
  • One colleague wanted to develop strategies that would support memory recall of students.  I was able to put her in contact with Phoebe Bence, a teacher from Durrington who has carried out a small scale research project on this.   This was just the ‘nudge’ she needed to make this contact and find out more about Phoebe’s project.
  • Another teacher from the PE department was interested in developing their questioning skills – but from a PE perspective.  I was able to put them in touch with a teacher from another school (David Fawcett) who I know has done some great work on this.

This approach has been successful for a number of reasons:

  • The discussions help staff to refine their own teaching improvement priorities – this gives them a specific focus to concentrate on e.g. rather than ‘I want to improve my teaching‘ this moves more towards ‘I want to develop my questioning so that my students are made to think more deeply’.
  • CPD is a very personal thing.  Teachers have very specific aspects of their teaching that they want to develop, at particular stages of the year.  They will also have a preference about the type of CPD they engage in e.g. observing colleagues; being observed; talking to someone; reading a research paper etc.  This approach allows us to personalise CPD and make it relevant and useful for individual teachers.
  • Teachers are busy people.  They would love to do lots of these CPD things, but simply don’t have the time to arrange them.  We can support them with this, by doing some of the arranging and leg work for them – or by simply giving them a nudge.  Sometimes we all need a nudge!
  • In a big school like ours, staff don’t always know where the experts are e.g. who is really good at getting good outcomes with lazy boys?  As senior leaders we have this knowledge of the staff, so can put them in contact with the experts.

We are looking forward to continuing the process again this half term.




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1 Response to Getting that little bit better – supporting teachers with personalised CPD

  1. Jill Berry says:

    Just FAB, Shaun.

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