A new approach to CPD

Written by: HTU | Published:

Maggie Farrar discusses joint practice development, a peer-to-peer approach to CPD which is prioritised and modelled by school leaders too

INSET days and one-off seminars and courses are becoming a thing of the past as many of our schools embed a new approach to CPD, linking it with school improvement and making it the life blood of the school.

This approach – sometimes known as joint practice development (JPD) – is school-based, involves peer-to-peer activities where everyone is an active participant, fuses development with practice, is continuous not occasional, and preferably takes place across schools. It also, crucially, is prioritised and modelled by senior leaders.

It is very much in line with research carried out last year by Professor Viviane Robinson which made it clear that it is leaders focusing on teacher development that makes the biggest difference to student outcomes.

This may seem obvious, but Prof Robinson stresses that the difference is not just focusing on teacher development and making it a priority, but leaders actively getting involved and participating in the training and development that made the difference.

JPD does just that. It ensures that leaders and teachers are working together in pursuit of improvement, trying and testing approaches that lead to improvement through the day-to-day work, with constant reference and feedback from those who have the relevant experience and expertise. It is a far cry from traditional forms of CPD as it is a process that is played out through practice, and one that encourages dialogue, feedback and refinement of practice that benefits not just the individual but the group.

In Professor David Hargreaves’ latest think piece for the National College, A Self-improving School System: Towards maturity, he talks about the low success rate of standard approaches to sharing good practice. I am sure many of you have experienced this – listening to or reading about some great ideas but then struggling to implement these in your own school or classroom.

As Prof Hargreaves said: “The people who originally designed the new practice had to develop it over time, learning to adjust it in minor ways until it assumed its final shape. But this learning on the job is difficult to transmit to a listener or reader, who without help and support, may find the transfer is simply too difficult and so give up. The practice was shared, certainly, but not actually transferred.”

On the other hand, if this sharing goes further and actively involves the help, support and encouragement that is needed to implement new ideas, the chances of success are greatly improved.

The role of leaders here is an important one. Both within your school and partnership, you need to be clear what development areas you want to work on and who has the skills, experience and also capacity to lead specific JPD projects, whether they are in your own school or elsewhere in the partnership. The culture has to be outward facing – we cannot limit ourselves in the pursuit of even better practice – so leaders and teachers work across classrooms and indeed across schools in a constant pursuit of what works for children.

In this way, you will also be increasing the influence of your best teachers so that their expertise is contributing to the professional development of all those who can benefit from it. This is the essence of high quality JPD, and we know it can work.

A group of Teaching School Alliances, together with the University of Sussex, recently took part in a range of JPD projects and have published their findings into the potential benefits of JPD.

In Powerful Professional Learning: A school leader’s guide to joint practice development, examples of practical approaches developed by these Teaching School Alliances are explored – approaches such as structured peer observations between teachers, training students to give feedback on teaching and learning, and focused activities on specific themes such as literacy or numeracy. Interestingly, all five of the alliances concluded that they will now work to replace CPD with JPD.

However, both Prof Hargreaves and the team at the University of Sussex acknowledge that it can be difficult to introduce and embed JPD in our schools. They highlight the need to create a climate of trust within and between the schools involved, where there is an open culture and it is okay to take risks. They also say that in order for JPD to be successful, participants have to be committed to the process so as not to let each other down. They have to have a sense of shared moral purpose – a professional commitment to really make a difference.

And alongside this, there has to be evaluation and challenge. Professional development has to serve a purpose, and that purpose is to raise pupil attainment and contribute to school improvement. In order to do this, ongoing evaluation and challenge is essential.

Leaders need to be at the forefront of this, ensuring it remains a collective priority and a commitment among all staff and that the drive to improve lies at the heart of the process. Without it, JPD has the potential to become self-serving and undemanding. With it, JPD has the opportunity to take professional ownership of both personal and wider school improvement to a whole new level.



Example of JPD: Primary to secondary transition

This project involved a primary and secondary school from the Denbigh-Challney Teaching School Alliance in Luton, and was designed to build on and improve existing transition work.

Led by the assistant headteacher at Beech Hill Primary School and the head of year 7 and transition leader at Denbigh High School, the project had a specific focus on developing a pre-transition passport. This would enable pupils to demonstrate the work they are capable of and inform year 7 teachers of important facts about themselves.

Workshops with students and a questionnaire were used to get a fuller understanding of year 6 pupils’ emotions about transition and this fed into the design of the passport. Pupils also researched information about their new school and this was written up and included in the passport. The pupils were actively involved in the transition process and the project was underpinned through research on emotional literacy.

Detailed collaborative planning was carried out for all aspects of the transition process and this included transition days, buddy partners, parent evenings and summer school sessions for targeted pupils.

Emphasis was placed on the data provided by Beech Hill so that preparations could be made, particularly for SEN pupils and other pupils with specific needs in the core subjects. On evaluation, the project was considered to be a success by the teachers involved and they felt it was a positive experience of JPD through working collaboratively across the key stages. Parents felt supported and pupils reported very positive feedback through the transition experience.

Outcomes from the project included:

• Pupils were more engaged in the transition process, feeling less intimidated, better informed and with ownership of the passport.

• Teaching and learning experiences were reported by pupils to be enhanced following the transition day.

• Teachers showed better understanding of the emotions and concerns of pupils about transition.

• A better understanding of the importance of including partner primary schools in decision-making and planning for transition to high school. As a result, the ideas will be used across other feeder schools.



• Maggie Farrar is interim chief executive of the National College for School Leadership. Visit www.nationalcollege.org.uk/joint-practice-development

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.


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