Impact – Professional Development

Issue 13 of the Chartered College of Teaching journal Impact was pleasing to receive. I’ve gathered every issue so far (joined the College at the beginning) and the issues get better and better. As part of the Chartered Teacher (leadership) pilot we undertook a CPD review in our settings and the theme of this new issue – Professional Development – links well (though arrived on the deadline day for the CPD review).

The editorial sets the tone well. ‘If we do want to offer advice to others, then the evidential bar must be much higher’, writes the editors, as they note that whilst there are anecdotes of teacher practices being transformed through the engagement with ‘evidence’ and ‘research’ it does not mean this transformation is guaranteed to be replicated. I felt that pressure when delivering CPD sessions; I was expected to share ‘tried and tested’ approaches that teachers could use ‘immediately in the classroom’. My approaches worked for me, but I never knew if they worked for the teachers who attended the sessions (sufficed to say the feedback was positive/kind). I sensed – anecdotally – the pressure on the teachers who attended CPD was to get the best outcomes they could; they needed approaches that would yield the results without too much fuss. The most efficient route. Annoyingly music(al) study rarely presents efficient routes, and I developed my teaching through experimentation and taking the least efficient journey. But I was pressured to distil that – leaving out the journey – to nuggets that could be repeated by any teacher effectively with any student. Too much pressure.

There is so much pressure on teachers that codification of ‘what works’ appears welcome. If it’s all mapped out it will minimise the need for teachers to prepare (supposedly). Barker & Rees article (Impact Issue 13) on the codification of leadership knowledge makes a compelling case, and I can see that the DFE Model Music Curriculum attempts to codify the knowledge of the subject. I can imagine it provides a trampoline; you have something to bounce off, land safely on if you jump too far with risky uncharted approaches. Codification and taxonomies provide secure foundations to enable us to develop colleagues (as we can identify the gaps) but the fear could manifest that the codification becomes accountability. The more we refine a role – or a subject – to a set of principles, practices and knowledge the more we limit its potential or variability in different contexts (if indeed you believe that context has an impact). You can see this with the discussions around the core content framework for ITT; when providers are instructed that they can build on this CCF and create bespoke curricula in their settings and subjects they might be wondered ‘how?’ with the space left once the CCF is deployed through their programmes. Despite the affirmation that these frameworks and taxonomies are starting points, or the minimum, some might struggle to see how any more could be taught or delivered. So pressure exists to satisfy the minimum as well as a pressure to do more. As teachers (of any setting) we’re under pressure to keep doing more.

‘What is clear is that there is a need for leaders who are able to support skilled and nuanced interpretation of [frameworks]’, writes Jo Lomax in ‘Teacher excellence at the heart of leadership’. Weston et al (2021) working paper ‘A culture of improvement: Reviewing the research on teacher working conditions’ emphasised the role of leaders. Steve Farndon from Ambition Institute in his article ‘Implementing Instructional Coaching: A guide for school leaders’ (Impact Issue 13) emphasises that school leaders need to be clear about professional learning interventions; ‘instructional coaching is not a stand-alone intervention to improve teaching and learning’ (though it seems at times that doing some CPD is considered a stand-alone intervention to do just that). Leaders need to consider with care what interventions they will deploy across their setting – and factor in the time. Tracy and Childs write in their article in Impact Issue 13 that ‘low-quality CPD is damaging to morale and is part of a vicious cycle that drives good people out of teaching’. Instructional coaching could have that effect if the care to build the culture that enables it is rushed or absent.

It’s an issue rich in teacher experience and expertise, rooted in their workplaces. Looking forward to spending a bit more time with it and recommend it you’re a member doing the same.

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