Develop and grow
Dorothy Lepkowska talks to Liz Francis, director of the teachers programme at the Training and Development Agency, about continuing professional development for all staff and getting best value for money.
How has the remit of the Training and Development Agency for Schools changed in recent years?
Until 2004, the Teacher Training Agency, as it was known, had responsibility for recruitment and retention. The newly-named TDA took on a remit that primarily involved the development of the school workforce. There was recognition that professional development needed as much attention as initial teacher training (ITT) and that the TDA should be responsible for that.
What do you believe constitutes best practice in CPD?
Training that is reflective, sustained and which happens over time are some of the characteristics. CPD should not be a one-off event; it should include collaboration and an evaluation of its impact. It should also be well planned, so that it responds to specific needs.
I don't mean that staff should not take part in short-term activities that may last a day or half a day. Of course they should. But that event should be followed up.
In the case of teachers, this would be lesson observation with colleagues and peer mentoring to put what has been learned into practice and to see how it can work in the classroom. For example, a teacher might need to go on a course in assessment for learning but s/he might then watch a colleague who has already implemented this method to see how it works in practice.
Too often CPD is evaluated on the participant's reaction to it, rather than on the impact it has in the classroom. The best CPD must involve an evaluation of the impact on teaching and learning.
How can the TDA help schools to source the best CPD in a vast, competitive market?
We don't have statutory responsibility for this but it remains one of the main areas of concern for TDA and we have developed a four-strand strategy to help address this.
First is to assist CPD leaders and to work more closely with local authorities to support the work they do with schools. We can implement all sorts of guidance nationally but unless schools are supported locally it will have little impact.
We are also planning to trial a database of CPD provision, accompanied by a code of practice, from this June. At the moment, there is no one place to go to find out about what provision is out there and what works.
One issue we are exploring is whether participants should be able to leave feedback on the CPD they receive, in much the same way as you would review a service on Amazon or eBay.
So far, teachers are very supportive of the need to have a database but seem to be quite sceptical about whether this will work and whether these reviews can be trusted. But we have a changing culture in the way we appraise good service now, so this is something we will need to look at and that people should not fear.
Schools wanting to evaluate the impact of CPD can also use the evaluation tool on our website. They need to feel confident they are getting effective value-for-money provision and the tool will help schools to judge this.
CPD coordinators are often responsible for the professional development of a whole range of people, not all of whom are qualified teachers. What advice can you give to schools about developing a coherent approach to the CPD of all staff?
The vision I have outlined for CPD would encompass the whole workforce.
While individual institutions have to agree on the underlying principles of good CPD, the issue of it being sustained and collaborative applies as much to teaching assistants and other staff as to heads and teachers. Schools might need to review the CPD policy to assess how it applies to their whole workforce. Does it need tweaking and developing to meet everyone's needs?
Good CPD is based on need, so schools and colleges have to find out what these are. It may be, for example, that some staff lack confidence in using performance data or do not feel they have enough subject knowledge. Some might even find it hard to work with other adults.
The processes for identifying this need among teaching assistants and higher level teaching assistants are similar to those used for teachers but involve the use of national occupational standards. So the principles apply across the board.
Many schools no longer have a designated CPD coordinator but rather a CPD leader. The traditional role of a coordinator was to collate information and gather material about courses. A leader, on the other hand, will look at the issue of CPD in the context of whole school improvement. This is an important point. CPD should not just be an add-on. If you invest in your workforce you will get better outcomes for children and young people.
Does the TDA have any plans to create whole school workforce standards?
We do not have plans to implement one set of standards across the workforce but our aim is to create a framework which will encompass the needs of all those who work in schools. Such a coherent framework will include everyone from teaching assistants to senior management. Any standards you set must be appropriate to the role; a framework will lead to coherence and help those standards relate to each
How is the TDA supporting highly-skilled support staff who are educated to degree level but are not involved in teaching and learning?
From the end of March, the TDA will be consulting on a draft sector qualifications strategy which includes proposals for supporting skilled people transferring into the school sector. Proposals include the development of small 'cluster awards' which will enable qualified people to gain additional knowledge and skills related to working with children, working in a school setting and/or undertaking a particular role within the school workforce.
The TDA also works in partnership with the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) to develop and promote specialist training for school business managers, including the Certificate and the Diploma of School Business Management.
Finally, the TDA is supporting the Techcen project run by the Design and Technology Association and the Association for Science Education (ASE). This project supports the career structure and professional development of skilled and qualified technicians.
What advice can you give about successfully evaluating the impact of CPD?
The first thing is to plan for evaluation at the very start of the process. It is no good organising, participating in and funding CPD courses and then deciding what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to accomplish it. You need a clear vision at the outset of what you want to get out of it.
Secondly, you have to look very carefully at the different levels of evaluation to make sure it includes impact on young people and classroom practice generally. Evaluating CPD cannot be merely about 'happy sheets' and individuals leaving a course feeling satisfied that they have learned something.
Of course, it is good if participants come away feeling better informed and enthused. But if they return to their day job with a lot of enthusiasm and then nothing happens to change the way they work for the better, it won't have had any impact.
There must be structures in place to support change. It is no good putting a changed person back into the same environment. CPD needs to be integrated into the overall improvement plan and areas of development. If you are organising CPD for staff, you have to be clear how it fits into the improvement plan.
As part of good CPD evaluation for teachers, you need good lesson observation that is supportive rather than managerial. This is a key component to successful evaluation.
It is about professionals working together, being critical friends and identifying areas for development collaboratively. They need to give each other critical challenges but in a supportive environment.
Dorothy Lepkowska is a freelance education journalist who writes frequently for SecEd and the TES.
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