Staff professional development: co-creating a shared set of priorities

For the past year I have led teaching and learning with a particular brief on the development of self-directed learning. This post outlines a professional development session, held over an inset day where the priorities of valuing and tapping into the collective professionalism of the staff balanced with the priorities of accountability and organisational need.

Firstly, the aim of the session was to develop a key priority of the 2018_19 academic year, which is developing effective self-directed learning. Self-directed learning is closely aligned to a recent focus on self-regulation and meta-cognition and I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the brilliant session that Professor Daniel Muijs gave at the Hampshire Collegiate Conference.

Link to the bigger picture

For any focus on professional training to be successful, it is essential to link in  to the overall aims. As part of a larger group of schools, the day mirrored the common language of learning and global aims. The day also started with staff considering the following statement:

Whilst we act for the staff, young people and learning that occurs day in, day out, it’s important to start at where we are accountable. Believe it or not, the statement comes from the Schools Inspection Service inspection handbook. Whatever your thoughts on the statement, it provided a fantastic starting point as our team pulled out the most important points.

Making thinking visible

This year, I had the pleasure to be seconded to our national Teacher Academy in Warwick. The skills gained and practiced there, together with a visioning activity that I have used before (see here for department leader perspective and here for SLT line manager). Staff had to come along with three, physical, objects that represented effective self directed learners.

I like how this simple activity makes the thinking visible. The sequence of learning went:

  • Each group comprised of a senior teacher, teaching assistant, primary and secondary teacher.
  • They self-organised their discussion, most sharing in turn their objects and what they represented about effective self-directed learning.
  • This thinking was made visible through flip-chart paper.
  • Each group had the opportunity to informally present, taking observations, feedback and ideas from staff members from other groups.
  • A further hour was given for further refinement.

The result above was the combined thinking of our staff, tapping in to their wide knowledge base. The behaviours and attributes of effective learners were displayed. Kristian, my Head, also blogged about the process here.

Narrowing the priorities down

I was introduced to ‘dotocracy’ when on a project management course as a fast-track teacher. Each member of staff were given 16 sticky dots. They can be distributed as each individual sees fit, with all 16 against one or evenly distribute. The resulting four areas led to the next stage.

The process was repeated with what we expect great teachers to do in our learning centres.


From the activity, I put together two draft strategy documents and placed them in the staffroom. Staff had a week to read, digest and take apart my spelling, punctuation and grammar.

The resulting development plan is the school’s strategic direction next year, co-constructed and reflecting our context, staff and outcomes.

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