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Do established teachers need high quality CPD?

Published: Oct 18, 2022 5 min read

Mary Howell

Professional Development Leader Education consultant/adviser

National STEM Learning Centre

What do established teachers gain from external CPD?

As an established teacher it is all too easy to put your own professional development needs last or for science departments to focus solely on the development of trainees and early career teachers, but I would argue that CPD is vital to all teachers at all stages in their careers. It seems I am not alone. In her blog about cpd for established teachers, Nina Gunson talks about asking applicants to tell her about the impact recent CPD has had on their learners and how she actively recruits those who are investing in their own learning and that of their students. 

Career progression and curriculum development

Science departments need to constantly review and develop their curriculum and evaluate teaching and learning. Recent changes in Ofsted criteria have emphasised opportunities for teachers’ CPD are important.  They need space and time to reflect on their own practice and that of others, whether they just want to be better equipped for their own classroom or to lead a subject. Working with colleagues outside of your own setting can help to contextualise learning and get a new perspective on challenging and supporting students, as well as giving you new ideas for embedding things like practical work and connections between careers and the curriculum.  

Motivation and engagement

One of the aspects of teaching and being involved in wider education that motivates me and keeps me engaged is that I am learning every day, even after many years.  This learning takes many forms: reading about developments in science; researching new ideas for practicals; getting involved in online communities, but one of the most productive is face to face conversations and interactions on a course.   I always look forward to up-and-coming CPD and working with other established teachers is particularly valuable - sharing practice, listening to and discussing what works in different situations and just that thing of trying to get better at what we do.

Teacher autonomy in the classroom and in choosing cpd makes teachers more likely to stay in teaching

Well trained, confident teachers who can work with autonomy and who also have some say in choosing their CPD are more likely to be retained in the profession, as reported in this recent publication by NFER. This is something that it is important for school leaders and individual teachers to be aware of, especially in the light of recent concerns about decreasing science teacher recruitment – let’s hold on to and develop the teachers we already have.

Subject specific opportunities are important

Evidence for effective professional development in secondary science says that teachers develop their teaching effectively ‘through experimenting with new materials followed by activities to transfer those materials into classroom practice.’ Wellcome, Developing great subject teaching.  Well designed opportunities for professional development along with access for established teachers are essential if this is to happen.

Biology A level/post-16 residential CPD as an example

In our upcoming biology professional development we’ll be looking at effective practical work for teaching concepts, using practical work to develop substantive and disciplinary knowledge.  There will be hands on opportunities to try things out and support for putting this into practice, a follow up online meeting to discuss embedding the approaches will give you another chance to talk through approaches and ensure you are confident in transferring approaches to your classroom.  We will try out ‘microscale’ and other biology practicals with a view to the challenge of providing individual practical opportunities, as well as group work to embed common practical assessment criteria (CPAC).  We’ll show how to do this even when resources are limited, or groups are large.  You will also have a chance to talk with other professionals about recording and assessing practical work.

You’ll spend time exploring tricky topics or those that can be hard to get students to engage with, such as respiration and plant science.  Looking at misconceptions and how adaptive teaching can be used to address them will also be a focus.  You’ll learn more about how to support students’ needs not just with examination requirements, but science learning for their wider experience we’ll be looking at embedding contexts in the curriculum, career pathways and tackling the thorny issues of getting students to apply their knowledge and make links between different aspects of biology – attainment objective 2 and beyond! 

If you have ever wondered what hinterland knowledge is or how to balance using it with the demands of the specification there will chances to explore that too.

In short this is a great chance to immerse yourself in biology and make time for being a better teacher of the subject. Whether reflecting on the biology curriculum and development is a personal interest or you are leading biology curriculum and need to inform the whole school or college curriculum our ambition is to work with you to develop.

Book 'Established teachers of A level biology'