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Standard for teachers’ professional development: subject specific CPD is the answer

Published: Jul 18, 2016 5 min read

Fran Dainty

Science CPD Lead

National STEM Learning Centre

There is nothing quite like the feeling of bouncing out of the door with a spring in your step; full of motivation, enthusiasm and confidence as you are armed with a box of new ideas, a new perspective and a new found love for your subject.

Yes! That is the feeling of having participated in subject specific, effective professional development. Now you are actually really looking forward to your double A level biology lesson next Tuesday period three and four and have a much deeper, evidence based understanding of that part of the specification that you really weren't looking forward to teaching because it wasn't your forte. Take me for example: I knew about genomics and bioinformatics but probably not enough to teach it confidently. Now with subject specific CPD I can fill in the gaps and really inspire those scientists of the future. 

You have the knowledge, the confidence and that renewed enthusiasm to teach a great sequence of lessons

Thanks to the subject specific, effective CPD you've just participated in, you now have a comprehensive bank of quality assured resources that link directly to the specification that you can actually use straight away with your pupils. Great! Even better, you've actually had time to practice the required practicals with the support of other experts and try things out properly. You have the knowledge, the confidence and that renewed enthusiasm to teach a great sequence of lessons and inject some awe and wonder into that part of the specification that you were dreading. You can even draw on the anecdotes from the researcher who shared their work with you in one of the cutting edge science workshops and magpie those ideas from the colleagues you met, sat with and chatted about your approaches and ideas. 

It is the complete opposite feeling to that hour of your life that you may never get back after whole school, generic, non-subject specific ‘CPD’ with everyone and their uncle crammed in the school hall for a mind numbing eternity. You know the one, where token post its and poster paper line the hall walls and you are left none the wiser about how to inspire your year 10 scientists with the new GCSE practicals next Wednesday or your year 8 mathematicians who you have a double lesson with tomorrow morning.

So hurrah for the recent publication by the Department for Education of the Standard for teachers’ professional development, which provide clarity and guidance for school leaders, teachers and providers of CPD. Often the first thing to be cut from the budget and something that teachers are increasingly having to fight the case for and justify why they want to attend subject specific CPD, has finally got a standard that sets the bar and sets it high.

The Standard is a timely and powerful driver that comes at a time when teachers and support staff need the support and back up more than ever to influence their leaders in supporting the absolute need for effective and subject specific CPD. The Standard is a powerhouse of guidance that will drive not only development, recruitment, retention and well being of staff, but ultimately will impact positively on pupil outcomes and their life choices if leaders commit to investing in CPD and teachers take responsibility for their own CPD.

This is gold plated guidance that will help to plan and also judge the quality of CPDL

For school leaders, this is gold plated guidance that will help to plan and also judge the quality of CPDL (Continuing Professional Development and Learning) and make it easier to say ‘yes, you can go because I know what the impact will be on you and your colleagues and that it is relevant to improving the outcomes of pupils in our school.’ As an assistant headteacher leading CPD across the school, I often asked myself a series of questions to assess the quality of CPD that I was considering;

  1. Will this CPD have a clear focus on improving pupil outcomes through better teaching and learning?
  2. Will it provide us with new relevant learning, current ideas and is underpinned by research and evidence?
  3. Will it challenge staff to reflect upon and develop their own subject specific knowledge?
  4. Is there support to embed and sustain the new learning, subject knowledge, ideas, and practicals?
  5. What will the impact be on the individual teacher, their colleagues, and pupils and across the school?

You've probably guessed already that I am a Biologist and a true advocate of the absolute necessity for subject specific CPD, particularly in STEM subjects in a rapidly changing and ever exciting climate. How else are we to keep abreast of the varied applications of cutting edge science, research and evidence that we can use to great effect to inspire and enthuse our pupils in the classroom? That sequence of genomics lessons may be the only experience and that your students get of that subject and the influence and power you have to inspire or switch them off is mind blowing.

We all need the support, investment and recognition from senior leaders in providing those frequent opportunities for effective CPD to bring our subject alive and the Standards for Teachers Professional Development go a long way in providing the guidance to do this.