Elsewhere on this site, I discuss what I consider to be the problems with a traditional model of school CPD. I also discuss what I consider to be the foundational principles for a training programme that avoids this ‘CPD Paradox’.
The three principles that I have found helpful in designing and leading effective CPD are that the programme is designed to make trainees accountable to try out techniques in the classroom, individual sessions include some in-built uptake time – so that teachers are forced to practice new techniques then and there – and finally that sessions are, as far as possible, participant-led.
Participant-led CPD sessions are important for numerous reasons, chief among them that, by getting the recipients of the training to ‘buy in’ to the learning, they are more enthused and engaged with the session content. Equally, unqualified and newly qualified teachers are – in my experience – likely to do a more thorough job than a deputy principal with a thousand other responsibilities. That said, new teachers clearly don’t have the breadth of experience and knowledge required to actually design good CPD sessions; thus, while they can make effective CPD facilitators, getting them to actually develop and plan the material for themselves would be a mistake. This is where Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion comes in.
For those who are not familiar with this book, I would urge you to buy a copy immediately. For my money, it is the very best tool for learning concrete strategies that will make a massive difference to student outcomes. While it is suitable for all teachers, I think that is particularly good for new teachers: the techniques are easy to grasp, do not contain too much challenging theory and are perfectly designed for the process of experimentation and reflection that characterises the first years of a teacher’s career.
There are two copies of this book out there, the original version, containing an in-depth explanation of each of the 49 techniques, and the ‘Field Guide‘. It is the latter that I would suggest is particularly appropriate for CPD, although the former has slightly more material in it. My suggestion would be to get a copy of both.
Both books contain the same 49 techniques, ranging from areas such as high-quality questioning and rigorous lesson planning to creating a strong classroom culture. Alongside an explanation of each technique, however, the Field Guide also contains ready made CPD activities, guided questions and reflective tools as well as a DVD showing each technique in action. This makes it perfect for participant-led CPD. There are already techniques and training materials in place; all the trainee session leader needs to do is put them together into a session. This is extremely quick, taking on average about half an hour, and also saves the person in charge of the CPD programme – me! – huge amounts of time.
The above is my ‘Professional Studies’ timetable for 2o13-14, an in-depth discussion of which can be found here. The sessions in purple are my TLAC (Teach Like a Champion) sessions, occurring roughly once every four weeks. I selected and ordered the 49 techniques from the book based on what I considered that new teachers would need or want to know, as well as on my judgement about which techniques are the best:
- 100% Compliance, What to Do, Slant – I began with what I considered new teachers need to know first, which in this case are three techniques designed to help build a firm and effective behaviour management system.
- Entry Routine, Threshold – Next, to help participants refine and perfect their behaviour system are two techniques that work on creating a calm and ordered starts to lessons.
- Positive Framing, Strong Voice – In the final session dealing with behaviour management, these techniques deal with ensuring compliance by learning to give behaviour instructions that are at once relentlessly positive yet also firm.
- No Opt Out, Wait Time – In my experience, once new teachers have got behaviour issues sorted out they enter a phase I like to call ‘The Inept Questioning Stage’. They have worked to ensure compliance, and now use questioning to drive lessons forward, mainly I think because this is the way that they were taught. The two techniques here are designed to improve the efficacy of questioning, particularly relating to student accountability.
- Right is Right, Stretch It – Next, two techniques designed to build academic rigour into questioning practice, the first to ensure that students give satisfactory and correct answers and the second to help teachers ask more challenging follow-up questions.
- Improving Pace in Lessons – At this point – at least theoretically – trainees have acquired skills in solid behaviour management and questioning. Now is the time to deal with lesson planning (yes, I do think that behaviour and questioning skills are more important to learn first: without these, a lesson – no matter how well planned – just won’t work. I will also point out that other sessions in my CPD calender deal with planning issues much earlier on). This session looks at a series of techniques designed to develop pace in lesson planning and delivery.
- Tight Transitions, Circulate – Dealing very much with lesson delivery, these techniques look at what teachers can do to make their lessons run more smoothly, thinking about strategic movement around the room and how to improve transitions between activities.
- Shortest Path, Name The Steps – Next, two techniques that deal with efficient lesson planning, looking at the planning of efficient and organised lessons.
- Ratio, Explain Everything – Finally, two of the more advanced techniques dealing with upping the amount of mental work that students do in class.
Below, I attach an example session that I put together when I launched the programme. All the rest of them were led by trainees. I opted to have my NQTs (2nd year trainees) leading the sessions, while my unqualified teachers were participants, creating a rota to share the duties equally amongst the NQTs, who each led two sessions, spaced across the year.
To outline how simple this session was to plan, I will discuss it briefly. The session begins with the reading component; the chapter is split up into the seven different elements that make up the overall strategy, each on designed to help teachers correct behaviour consistently and positively. Trainees read, summarise and feedback on each section.
Next, the trainees work together on a worksheet from the book, requiring them to re-write a series of behavioural instructions to make them positive and match the different techniques. ‘Absolutely nobody is looking at me right now’, might, for example, become, ‘I need all eyes on me’, for a Live in the Now correction or, ‘I think that we have forgotten that when I count to five I need all eyes on me‘, for an Assume the Best.
Finally – this is a part of the session that I insist on – participants ‘go live’ and practise the techniques on each other. In this case, the book contains some role play examples which they can use, taking turns to play students and teachers to practise using the techniques.
I don’t think that using this book should take the place of other more substantive CPD sessions; as you can see by looking at my schedule, TLAC reading groups form only a quarter of the total training programme. I do, however, think that it is a fantastic way of having sessions that contain quality teaching and learning techniques but that can be run by the trainees themselves.