From pedagogy to wellbeing: Have you tried Continuous Professional Empowerment?

Written by: Dorothy Lepkowska | Published:
Image: iStock

A new online professional learning programme is helping teachers and school leaders with everything from pedagogy and practice to health and wellbeing. Its creator has dubbed it Continuous Professional Empowerment. Dorothy Lepkowska explains

Ask any teacher why they get up every morning to go to work and tolerate long hours and stress and it is very likely they will say “it’s all about the children”.

And while that may be true, there should be more to it than that.

“I worked in schools for 21 years as a teacher and headteacher and heard many teachers say it was about the pupils,” explained Andrew Hammond, senior director of learning at Discovery Education. “And while that might be true, we owe it to the children to be the best version of the teacher in front of them that we can be.

“Self-care is not self-indulgence. Educators are models for the children, not just in terms of their professional skills and knowledge, but also in their personal development. Schools should be full of practitioners who are motivated and have a sense of self-worth and self-confidence. If these are low, your impact on the students may be lessened.”

Continuous professional empowerment

With this holistic approach in mind, Mr Hammond has created an online programme of CPD that supports teachers and heads, not just with their pedagogical practice and management skills, but also their health, wellbeing, personal skills and interests.

He calls this focus on the whole teacher “continuous professional empowerment” – or CPE – and considers it a fitting substitute for the “usual CPD whack-a-mole” of disparate courses and impersonal lectures, focused solely on professional knowledge and skills.

The Discovery Education Pathway programme, developed in conjunction with the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), is intended to empower, build confidence and resilience, while creating the time for reflection.

Tools and resources created to build professional expertise and knowledge sit alongside targets relating to personal goals, development and growth because, Mr Hammond believes, one cannot be truly effective without the other.

Online, flexible, empowering

Crucially, at a time of upheaval during the Covid-19 pandemic, Discovery Education Pathway is a remote offering, removing the need for costly travel, attendance fees, and time out of school. It can be completed as and when it is convenient for the participant over an unspecified timescale.

Mr Hammond told Headteacher Update: “Pathway is always there and is always open. It is a private, professional learning journal, aimed at providing agency in your role.

“If CPD does not empower you, then there is no agency. It is not just about what you learn in CPD but what you can do with it that counts, and this is inextricably linked to how you feel. We hold a mirror up so teachers can see what is effective for them – and what does not work, and why. It’s about reflective practice.”

Discovery Education Pathway is a three-pronged approach focusing on three core elements – orientation, navigation and reflection.

Discovery Education


Orientation enables teachers and school leaders to take a step back from the day-to-day bustle of the school environment and look at their careers from the outside. What drives and motivates then? Do they excel at anything – and if so, what? Where do they see themselves in a year, or five or 10 years’ time?

Participants begin by completing a “Guide to Motivation” which offers personalised guidance about how to stay motivated and on top of the game.

Then a skills, leadership and competency audit provides participants with an opportunity to self-asses their strengths and areas for development in the craft of teaching. A “Career Map” then helps participants to set out their goals for the years ahead – their professional roles, wider interests and their health and wellbeing goals too.

“Consider what keeps you motivated in school,” Mr Hammond continued. “It might be the chess club you run on a Tuesday afternoon, or the athletics club. For me it was rugby coaching and the philosophy club that got me out of bed and kept me going. But you might also ask yourself: when are you going to find time to do that half-marathon, or climb the Three Peaks?”

Mr Hammond maintains that writing all of this down makes it more likely that you will stick to your goals. He adds that extra-curricular interests are important because they give us “motivation and direction and keep us grounded”.

He said: “Even after years in the profession you can lose your way. Perhaps at the start you might have wanted to be a leader, but later you decide it’s not for you and you end up leaving the profession earlier than planned. Often this happens not because of a lack of professional development opportunities, but due to a lack of personal development.

“If you can write down a career mapping it will tell you where you see yourself in a year, five years or 10 years’ time then it will give you focus and a means of reflecting on your journey.”


Navigation is the process by which the leader or teacher achieves what they set out in their Career Map – in effect, navigating from A to B.

Discovery Education Pathway offers a bespoke package of online CPE modules, each of which has four units, including reading materials, filmed discussions, roundtables and interviews, and each has a distinct teaching and leadership focus. Every unit ends with a series of coaching questions for reflection, with plenty of space to write as much as you wish while you reflect on what you have watched and read.

The teaching modules cover a range of subjects such as “impactful behaviour management”, “making accurate and productive use of assessment” and “resilience in early teaching”.

The ones for school leaders, meanwhile, include themes such as “leading a professional learning culture”, “efficient time management” and “developing successful teams”.

Practical tasks allow the participant to set off on their journey, while a community element enables access to online groups, webinars, virtual conferences and podcasts. Participants also have access to NAHT resources.


The reflection aspect is the “jewel in the crown” of the programme and the aspect that distinguishes Discovery Education Pathway from the more conventional CPD that might be delivered in a school setting or by a training provider.

First, it encourages participants to reflect and build on the two other aspects of the programme while making time to consider their wellbeing and mental and emotional health, with a brand new wellbeing course written by Professor Tim O’Brien and Dr Dennis Guiney.

Second, in the Advice Hub, Discovery Education Pathway participants can find specialised content delivered and authored by renowned experts, links to useful sites, a helpline and a newsfeed.

A holistic programme

Discovery Education Pathway is both a framework for professional and personal development and a programme in its own right. Most of the content is produced in-house and exclusively for the programme, delivered by experienced teachers, leaders and educational authors.

There are currently 23 modules available, each of which should take up to four hours to complete. However, participants are encouraged to dip into other CPD programmes, too, if the need and opportunity arise.

Mr Hammond explained: “We would never say that you don’t need any other CPD. But when you come back you should write down your reflections and feed what you’ve learned into your dashboard. Pathway is not a finite exercise, but something that can be built upon – an ongoing professional learning journal.”

Discovery Education Pathway has so far attracted interest from many headteachers wanting to use it as a whole school strategic approach to developing all staff members, as well as from individual heads and teachers keen to advance their own development and career ambitions. The programme could prove to be useful in succession planning, for example when a headteacher is due to retire and needs to find a successor to ensure continuity and stability for the school.

Where heads are using it as a whole-school strategy they may do so as part of their performance management review process. Team members can work on programme modules in departmental or other small groups to meet a particular need, challenge or theme and the head may set them a timescale in which they have to complete it.

Mr Hammond continued: “Headteachers I have spoken to during on-boarding sessions tell me they signed up for Discovery Education Pathway for a variety of reasons, but overwhelmingly they see it as an investment in their staff and want them to better themselves.

“They see it as a means of building a culture of personal growth and development because they know that this will reflect in the professional life of the staff member – in their effectiveness in the classroom, their job satisfaction, and hopefully their work/life balance.”

Further information & resources

For further information about Discovery Education Pathway, go to

Headteacher Update Knowledge Bank

This article has been published by Headteacher Update with sponsorship from Discovery Education. It has been written and produced to a brief agreed in advance with Discovery Education. The article has been written by Dorothy Lepkowska, a freelance education writer.

This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
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