Sometimes, it’s hard to see the answers. Thinking generates more questions. These posts will lay out a problem I’m grappling with and trying to get my head around so don’t expect fully formed thoughts!
Lots of people gave me lots of grief about making changes when head of geography and when I led CPD for the school. I didn’t much care for the criticism, especially when the impact was measurable. Especially when pupil outcomes were raised. Of course, constructive criticism is always welcome and needed in order to shape ideas and policies. I am left wondering though about the credibility of CPD.
I’ve spoken at lots of places, but all I have really done is tell stories. A narrative of what worked well in my context by doing particular things in a particular way. Linked to some evidence of impact. This is important as there’s no guarantee that it will work. This is where those engaged with CPD need to reflect, consider the evidence of impact and adapt resources for their own context. I was always uneasy about shouting too loudly about the way we did things when I was leading @PrioryGeography until we had secured evidence that those approaches were making an impact.
I’ve seen many books and courses aimed at producing outstanding Oftsed lessons. I make no criticism of the authors or trainers at all with this. But the focus on lessons makes me uncomfortable. It’s like we are all out to fool Ofsted into thinking we’re great, like we crave approval of the inspectors rather than focusing on the long term business of making learning better leading to better outcomes, such as higher results, less underachievement and smaller attainments gaps between groups of young people. Thing is, you can be judged as outstanding, but deliver poor results. The focus should be on delivering high quality teaching all of the time. How many of the people that you use have credibility with results? How many books and courses are there out there that help develop outstanding schemes of work?
Over the past few years, I’ve been looking into teachers and encouraging them to step up in areas of strength. I’ve seen a pattern emerging that presents a dilemma. Quiet often, those with solid results are not the most wizz-bang exciting teachers. They deliver solid lessons and are committed to putting interventions in to place, calling parents, chasing the detentions and the homework. Getting the basics right. After all, just because the students are enjoying the lesson, doesn’t mean that they are learning. Of course, there are teachers that use a wide range of fancy techniques and get the results. What is the, message that we send out through our selection of those that deliver CPD within schools? Do we choose the people who deliver Outstanding observed lessons but get, at best, average results, or the teacher that delivers the highest value added and best pupil results but average observed lessons? Who is delivering the best learning experience?
In other words, is our CPD based upon evidence and does it model what we are setting out to achieve? Do we identify the desired impact of CPD hasn’t been worked out before it is embarked upon? What are we trying to achieve in classrooms?
This is not a simple matter! After all, it’s important to recognise good practice to motivate and develop teachers. Sometimes, you do have to take a risk on introducing a new strategy and learn as we go. But it still comes down to the impact. How have pupil outcomes changed? Has attendance increased? Are there fewer behaviour referrals?
Are there some solutions?
Firstly, when asking people to deliver CPD, we probably should use evidence of their impact to select them. For example, I always used to use recent NQTs who has mastered behaviour management to train NQTs. I knew they were good at behaviour management by looking at attitude to learning, achievement and the number of behaviour incidents recorded in their lessons. Are the people who are teaching you how to mark better actually good markers themselves? I also knew because I was in and out of the lessons often and witnessed good practice in action. This links to my second point, which is to take a different approach to monitoring, which you can read about here.