We’ve all sat through some real shockers of school CPD sessions at one time or another. Thinking about the elements of what I think makes great teaching, here are the school-based CPD sessions I think every school should be running:
The most important thing in a school is that the children behave. Managing behaviour should be returned to again and again to ensure all teachers have clarity, and that the systems are applied consistently by all. It is also worth thinking about when behaviour slips – is it in the canteen, at the beginnings of lessons, during the fire drill – and addressing those specific moments with a new approach.
Children read in every single lesson, but it’s not always obvious how to get them to the point where they will read aloud confidently.
Children write in every single lesson, but is their writing always accurate and coherent? There are lots of small tweaks we can make to out practise to help children write more effectively.
I think questioning is the absolute most important thing a teacher can do. The best teachers I have seen pepper their explanations with multiple questions asked of as many students as possible to check they understand, and then to see if the students can apply their understanding to new scenarios and begin to think more deeply about the content.
Subject departments should be talking in their CPD time about the best way to explain tricky concepts, and thinking about the common misconceptions children have.
Rather than using Powerpoints or photocopying multiple sheets, departments should focus on pre-producing booklets and then planning how to deliver them. Those responsible for resourcing should be trained in the best and fastest way to produce booklets under the inevitable time pressures of any school.
Knowledge organisers force teams to consider what they want students to learn for the long term. CPD on making them as effective and clear as possible would be helpful, especially in the early days of adopting them.
Recaps and quizzing
Understanding the science of memory, the power of overlearning, and the simplicity of recapping prior knowledge would go a long way to helping children retain knowledge for the long term.
Not all practice is as helpful as it could be. Helping teachers discern the most important skills for children to practice and then supporting them to make activities that ensure children are undertaking deliberate practice is invaluable.
Rather than laboriously marking every book, teachers can give whole-class feedback. But it is not always obvious which aspects to focus on to make the feedback as effective as possible.
All of the above aspects could easily be covered in short 20 or 30 minute slots, and focused on key aspects or resources, but I think that all the elements are crucial to good teaching. In terms of pedagogy, I don’t think we can do better than implementing coaching observations, as advocated in Leverage Leadership, with frequent low-stakes observations focused on one minor tweak each time to improve teaching.