In celebration of our 100th issue, here are CPD Week’s 100 top tips for professional learning leaders, gathered from our issues to date. We have themed them for ease of use, so dip into them right now or keep them as a reference for the future. Either way, we hope they ease your load and contribute to your expertise!

1. Encourage teachers to talk to inspectors about their work, progress and development.

2. Make a presentation to your school’s board of governors about CPD at your school.

3. According to Ofsted, very few schools take time to develop a culture in which thinking and practice are shared among staff members as a key source of professional development. How good is your school at achieving this?

4. The delivery of a more holistic approach at school concerning emotions, behaviour and learning, depends upon teachers’ personal understanding of their own emotions and learning. Make sure this features in CPD.

5. A therapeutic approach to teaching and learning isn’t about asking teachers to become therapists. Rather, it’s about asking them to become more psychologically minded within the realms of what is appropriate, and with the pedagogic backing of ongoing training.

Research and development…

6. Research is not just a word to pad out a CPD policy; it should be one of its most active dimensions.  

7. Get involved in school-based research. From research-mentor to critical friend, the potential is huge, and the more involved you choose to become the more systematic the professional learning of colleagues is likely to be.

8. Seek core values for research that are people-centred and combine moral purpose with the promotion of collaboration.

9. Develop professional networks within your school (and possibly between schools) in which recommendations from research can be spread by word of mouth – so called ‘diffusion networks’.

10. Use specialists to disseminate what others might find of interest (‘I have read this as a specialist, these are the salient points, this is what might affect your work in the classroom’).

11. Find a space (a table, noticeboard or webpage) in your school in which research can be publicised. You may even consider including it as a permanent item on the agenda for staff meetings.

12. Take one small step at a time: identify one development need for the school or an individual and seek qualitative and quantitative research.

Coaching, mentoring and supervising…

13. Coaching can become a useful way of life in schools, firmly embedded within CPD policy.

14. The key skills that coaches typically use are at the very least:

  • instructing
  • observing
  • analysing
  • feeding back
  • advising
  • facilitating
  • motivating
  • supporting

 Therapeutic teaching…

15. Therapeutic teaching is about using approaches informed by psychological thinking.

16. Training in this area might usefully consider the relationship between emotional and cognitive development.

17. Providing education professionals with skills to support the mental health of children within the learning environment is key to therapeutic teaching.

18. Make sure that emotional support for emotionally vulnerable pupils augments rather than detracts from the teaching of academic skills.

Fit for teaching and learning…

19. If CPD is a way of life in a school, there’s a greater chance of all staff being ‘hooked’ by the development bug.

20. The role of Professional Learning Leader is about needs identification, encouragement, nurturing and negotiation as much as it is about administration.

21. A Professional Learning Leader can make the difference between plodding school development and real innovation and dramatic improvement in performance.

Well-being at work…

22. Consider planning a series of staff well-being development sessions for the next academic year.

23. Look at key issues which continually affect well-being at work. For example, time management, communication skills, anger management, assertiveness, stress management, behaviour management and so on.

24. Make sure you know the well-being issues that members of staff are grappling with.

25. Create a climate of openness and discussion so that issues aren’t forced underground only to burst out when pressure builds.

26. Encourage staff to identify their own creative solutions for the stress and well-being issues they are facing. Allow these solutions to feed into identified development needs so that they have a chance of succeeding.

27. Make sure that staff well-being is a firm fixture in your school’s development plans.

28. It’s really important to link workforce reform to wider school improvement initiatives. Creating work-life balance, reducing workload and extending the roles of support staff are strong enough aims, but these need to also support the raising of standards.

29. The wider workforce is a school’s most valuable resource. Ensuring the full integration of all staff will help to maximise development potential.

30. Do all members of your school’s team receive high quality induction? Are those who are covering lessons for staff developing the nature of their role?

31. How effective is your school at ensuring that the right people for the job are in each post? Do roles match the skills of the post-holder?

32. Does each member of your school’s team have a sense of following a career path in education (at whatever level that path may be)?

33. How satisfied are you with the quality of development undertaken by staff members?

Speaking in public…

34. Speaking to colleagues is a key part of the role of Professional Learning Leader and the way that you think about public speaking will show in your voice. If you think of it as something you enjoy – relish even – then that will be heard in your voice.

35. Cut yourself some slack and don’t aim for perfection. We all make mistakes when speaking to others and the perfect public speaker hasn’t yet been born!

36. Aim to build rapport with your audience, not by telling cheap jokes but by making eye contact, standing in an open posture, smiling (appropriately!) and so on.

37. Explain how your presentation will work. For example, do you want to take questions as you go along or wait until the end?

38. Plan, plan, plan. Make sure that there is value in each sentence you say. This will keep your presentation slick and worthwhile for listeners.

39. Don’t over-fill your presentation. You want to inspire listeners, not overload them. Less is usually more.

40. Keep a clear purpose for speaking in mind. That way you will stay on track.

Focus on curriculum…

41. The QCA has suggested that pupils are entitled to specialised learning (through expert subject teaching); themed teaching (making cross-curricular links); student-initiated learning (where students pursue their own interests); and learning to learn (coaching and mentoring for students).

42. The QCA has also suggested that teachers might adopt approaches to learning including: active learning (practical tasks); problem-based learning (solving problems); and enquiry-based learning (investigating).

Auditing professional development opportunities…

43. Identify the breadth and scope of the professional development opportunities already on offer in your school.

44. Disseminate information to staff about what they might become involved in over the coming year.

45. Ensure that the latest professional development opportunities in your school become embedded in its life and work.

46. Categorise opportunities for development under ‘method’ headings. This ensures that you include all the essential activities and helps staff members to see what method they typically use when pursuing professional development and how they might extend their experience.

Gathering the views of staff members…


 Decide whether you want to gather views on one specific area of school life, such as assessment, or whether you will take a broader view of what happens in your school.

48. What outcome do you want to achieve though gathering the views of staff? While you can’t predict the survey results, you can set out to achieve certain outcomes such as measurable improvements in achievement or pupil well-being.

49. Decide how the results of your survey will be used. For example, will they be used widely for sharpening key practices in school life or will they be used more specifically to inform CPD?

50. How frequently will you invite the opinions of staff members as a school?

51. Who will be involved in the design, collation and dissemination of results? Is there a role for governors to help share the workload?

52. Consider ways in which the process might be improved for any future surveys. Will staff members be encouraged to contribute their own thoughts on the topic of the survey? Can the results be better used to share best practice? Was the exercise valued by staff members?

Spotlight on development for SEN…

53. Where is greatest support required? In training on specific conditions, or in resourcing so that children can be effectively supported?

54. In your opinion is it possible for the teachers in your school to support effectively the children with special educational needs without expert input from skilled professionals in the community?

55. Does your school have access to external support, perhaps through Sure Start or the extended schools initiative? If not, think about where necessary training might come from.

56. How are new pupils with SEN supported on arrival at your school?

57. Are the development needs of teachers working with children with SEN considered alongside the child’s needs?

Personalisation in action…

58. It helps to think of personalisation as:

  • tailoring learning to the needs, interests and aspirations of each individual; and
  • tackling barriers to learning and allowing each child to achieve their potential.

59. The delicate task for Professional Learning Leaders and leadership teams is the establishment of a balance between the abstract and the specific; to take a general concept such as personalisation and test it, manipulate it, challenge and dissect it to such an extent that it has real and genuine meaning for everyone involved.

60. If there’s one single characteristic of personalised learning that sits above the rest, it’s that the learner is right at the centre of the processes that take place in the classroom.

61. How effectively are individuals’ appraisal targets being used in the planning for CPD in your school? Are these targets linked directly to the school’s overall development plan? How might this process be transformed to support more appropriately the needs of the individual?

62. Simple classroom observations can be incredibly effective ways of helping the individual to develop within the context in which they must function as a teacher. Are there ways of using this tool more effectively in your school?

63. How involved are individuals in their action planning and target setting? Could personalised goal setting become a feature of attitudes to CPD in your school?

Outreach for development…


. Make sure you know whether any outreach exercises are about:

  • primarily development for staff
  • enhancing a specific element of school experience for pupils
  • raising measurable standards?

65. Are you seeking, through outreach, to change staff or pupil opinion about a feature of school life, for example behaviour or study skills?

66. Do you want to improve uptake of certain subjects or activities?

67. Will any outreach exercises feed into the production of specific resources for use in your school?

68. Do you plan to maintain the link created with the outreach school or teacher over a period of time? If so, do you have skills in your school that you can reciprocate?

69. How will you evaluate the outreach exercise and know if it has been a success?

70. As well as other schools and their ASTs, are there other organisations and institutions that would be suitable outreach partners, for example, further and higher education institutions and local businesses?

71. Do you know the key facts about outreach? The:

  • what – the content of your outreach activities
  • when – the timings that are most suitable for your school
  • how – the resources needed and mode of delivery of outreach – for example, internet, workshops, observations, masterclasses and so on
  • where – which institution, yours or theirs, and if yours, where in the school will you be working?

 Development for support staff…

72. Make sure that support staff at your school are actually taking part in the training available for them. If they are, what’s working?

73. What helps support staff to do their jobs effectively and creatively, without being misused? How might schools achieve the valuing of all staff within the framework and constraints of their work?

Helping others to go for promotions…

74. Most schools will have a very clear idea about what they are looking for in an applicant and the clues will be evident in the application pack. Make sure that staff going for promotions read the person specification for the job carefully.

75. The supporting statement or letter of application is the chance to address every feature of the person specification as well as anything else that is relevant.

76. A surprisingly high number of applications contain details of the applicant’s perceived weaknesses! Discourage staff from doing this.

77. Consider, where appropriate, setting up a system whereby those making applications can get them checked by a colleague for feedback. For obvious reasons this won’t always be suitable, but this tier of checking could be the difference between ending up on the discard pile and the interview pile.

Virtual teaching and learning environments…

78. Discuss what it is your school/community hopes a VTLE might allow them to do.

79. Speak to a variety of companies who provide VTLEs: they should be able to arrange an on-site visit for you to see the product(s) in action.

80. Speak to other schools in similar contexts.

81. See if you can fund the VTLE as a cluster, some LAs will support this.

82. Stagger training, perhaps beginning with a focus group and gradually rolling out to all members of staff as the focus group can model and exemplify the way in which they use the VTLE.

Effectiveness of CPD…

83. Collaboration – Positive outcomes for both teachers and the children that they teach are most likely to emerge from collaborative working with colleagues. Working on your own means that decisions about how and what you should learn as part of your CPD are far more difficult to make.

84. Teaching and learning – It is important to keep CPD focused on teaching and learning to ensure that it remains most effective. According to Ofsted, many schools already do this, but revisiting the focus of CPD in your school on a regular basis is a useful habit.

85. Expertise – Drawing on the expertise of others, which may be inside your school or external, can help schools and staff to make the most of the CPD opportunities available to them.

86. Senior support – It is important that heads and senior staff be fully supportive of the CPD policies of schools, and actively promote and support CPD. In addition, those who lead CPD should be involved at a senior level, and local authorities should also be supportive.

87. R and R – Reflective and reflexive practice in CPD remain important. As well as supporting research and professional learning communities, reflective and reflexive practice help to make sure that CPD is most effective in its impact.

Access to CPD…

88. Access to CPD remains the single most significant factor in the success or otherwise of this important dimension of professional life.

89. CPD should be relevant to a teacher’s role and area of work, as well as to their desired future direction, balancing the development needs of the school and of the individual.

90. Accessed CPD should actually impact on a teacher’s professional practice, thereby feeding through into tangible improvements in the results and outcomes achieved by young people.

Ten top quotes of the week…

91. “One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.”
Robert E. Quinn

92. “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”
Doris Lessing

93. “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Leonard Bernstein

94. “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
Albert Einstein

95. “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”
Sarah Caldwell

96. “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.”
John Locke

97. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
Charles Darwin

98. “The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.”
Faye Wattleton

99. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Zig Ziglar

100. “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Eric Hoffer

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.