Why CPD is important
Time. It’s something none of us have enough of, and tutors in FE colleges, adult and community learning and work-based training are finding themselves particularly hard pressed for it these days. But some time spent away from the learners can pay dividends later.
Everyone knows CPD is essential for keeping up to date with developments in their subject and innovations in teaching, learning and assessment practice. Most CPD courses cost money and funds are also tight in lifelong learning.
However learning from and with colleagues with shared interests, from your own organisation and others, can also bring great benefits. The West Midlands Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training (WMCETT), based in the Centre for Lifelong Learning, is running a project called the Professional Exchange which provides opportunities to work with others to investigate a subject of shared interest or concern. And it’s at no financial cost to participants.
The Professional Exchange, which is funded by the Education and Training Foundation, works to create a community of practice using the strategy for learning called Joint Practice Development, which to get technical, is described by Fielding et al as “learning new ways of working through mutual engagement that opens up and shares practices with others”.
Put simply, it means someone suggests an idea they would like to investigate further, or something they would like to research then put into practice, and a group of like-minded people work out a way to progress this, helped by an informed facilitator. They share the knowledge they already have, and then find out more and share that.
Over the space of a few weeks or months they meet about four times (in real life or on line) and work on this idea, so that in the end they have done something that will benefit themselves, the colleagues they will disseminate to, and others, through the production of a report or a resource to be shared.
So what does this mean in practice? This year so far there have been several Professional Exchange groups run in the West Midlands looking into a variety of subjects. One was investigating techniques to motivate GCSE maths resit learners in the first six weeks of the new term. Another aimed to create digital skills frameworks to, amongst other things, identify staff abilities and training needs to create a more useful and efficient workforce.
One group has been creating SEND delivery guides for different learning needs, taking into account different audiences, and one is creating a screening tool to identify learning support needs for ESOL learners with SEND requirements. Another is looking at how to tackle the problem of retaining adult learners.
As this first round of groups comes to an end, WMCETT is setting up some more groups. The first, looking at techniques to be used in behaviour management and to promote learner engagement, meets for the first time in Birmingham on Wednesday, November 21, from 3-5pm.
Start dates have yet to be set for another which will look into how best to use blended learning in different learning environments, and one will focus on how new teachers can be supported to benefit themselves, their learners and colleagues.
To make these work, we need eager, keen participants, willing to commit to attending meetings and doing some work in between to produce a beneficial result. That’s where time comes in. The Professional Exchange doesn’t cost anything in financial terms to attend. However there is a practical cost in taking time out from the classroom to attend and do the work.
If you’re a manager we ask that you allow staff the time to take part – it will show a benefit for them, you and your organisation in the long run. If you are a practitioner wanting to join one of the above groups – or have an idea you would like to see followed by another group – then please ask for the time to take part, and join us.