Tags: Continuing Professional Development | CPD Coordinator | CPD partnerships | CPD provision

Sean Cavan, head of CPD at Sheffield Hallam University describes some of the approaches to postgraduate study that SHU has developed together with its partners, and the impact they can have on teaching colleagues and their schools.

Working in partnership

Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) aims to create flexible CPD programmes that meet the needs of teachers, their pupils and their schools and to do this it works closely with a wide range of partners, including schools in South Yorkshire, our regional local authorities, such as the Sheffield Children and Young People’s Directorate, and other organisations such as the General Teaching Council. A particular focus has been on identifying and overcoming the barriers to teachers’ participation in CPD. Chris Chafer, Sheffield’s CPD adviser, comments that ‘Strong partnership means that we can be flexible and adapt programmes according to need and participants’ feedback. This is underpinned by effective relationships between SHU and schools that lead to a tailored response which schools value.’

How do teachers participate?

Because teaching is a graduate profession, the majority of academically accredited CPD provided by universities and supported by the Training and Development Agency, is postgraduate. At SHU teachers undertake modules, typically of 30 or 60 credits, with SHU academic tutors providing advice and guidance as to which modules may best fit individuals’ needs. We also work closely with senior staff in individual schools or groups of schools in developing, selecting and delivering modules for their staff often at the school in twilight sessions and/or at weekends.

This modular approach to accumulating credits allows teachers to pace their learning to suit their needs while accumulating interim awards to demonstrate their progress and achievement. These include a postgraduate certificate (for 60 credits), a postgraduate diploma (for 120 credits) and Master’s degree (for 180 credits). It allows breaks from study due, for example, to taking up new roles through promotion, moving to new schools or maternity leave. It also means the modules chosen, as they progress, can reflect individuals’ career progression, perhaps starting with curriculum-related modules to support classroom work, followed by leadership-related modules when taking up leadership responsibilities.

Many universities, including Sheffield Hallam, have recently changed their QTS PGCE courses so that teachers will gain both their QTS status and have postgraduate academic credits (typically 60). This is an important change as these credits may be used as part of their progression through the other postgraduate awards described above.

Recognising the learning that takes place in schools

Our programme also recognises that teachers are constantly engaged in a process of learning in order to maintain and develop their work with children and their colleagues. All our conventionally taught modules, for example in curriculum development or inclusion, use assessment methods that allow teachers to reflect on their practice. We have also developed a special module called ‘Professional Learning in the Workplace’ (PLW) whereby academic credit can be given for their development, and application, of learning achieved through a variety of school-based means.

Such development and learning may take many forms, for example through undertaking projects with colleagues in schools in other countries; through action research activities or through short courses provided by Subject Associations or LEA advisers; through attending national, regional or local conferences or seminars; or through working with colleagues, either as peers or as mentors through in-school CPD sessions or other ways of working together.

The context of learning may also take many forms, for example colleagues taking responsibility for a specific school improvement project or addressing particular issues that they have identified within their class that they wish to explore further.

We call all these different options the ‘learning jigsaw’ and our approach recognises that the learning jigsaw that one teacher puts together is probably different to that which another teacher may create for themselves. As time is a key factor in teachers’ working lives the evidence portfolio that teachers create is primarily centred on the school-based work that they are, or would already be, undertaking.

How is the PLW module delivered?

This may involve individuals or small groups drawn from a number of schools or it can be a larger group from just one school. There is flexibility in this approach and variations, for example in start dates and pattern of session distribution, can be made to suit the requirements of particular cohorts of participants and the planning and development cycles of their schools.  We typically use twilight sessions delivered at schools.

How are teachers supported?

These sessions address the nature of the project or change activity that they are working on and in particular identifying its primary task, ie the core objective that the project is trying to achieve and how they will know how successful their project has been, for example through its impact on their pupils, their departmental colleagues and/or the whole school. The project’s relationship to the school’s SEF and the teacher’s own personal career development is explored during this process, with input from peers and mentors as appropriate, such as heads of department or other senior staff.

Participants reflect on the knowledge they already have, and what they need to gain through research and other parts of their learning jigsaw that will support their project. This means that ideas from the professional and academic literature can be used in the service of the project as well subsequently enriching the portfolio that the teachers create for academic credit.

Sessions also include SHU tutors supporting PLW participants working in small groups to plan their projects, using such methods as force field analysis and critical incident analysis to identify key issues and strategies for dealing with them. This support continues through their project, including the teachers’ strategies for disseminating the project outcomes to other colleagues, concluding with the creation of their portfolio.

Links to the TLA

These perspectives on teachers’ school-based work are aligned with the six core dimensions within the Teacher Learning Academy (TLA), a national framework developed by the General Teaching Council to value and recognise teachers’ professionalism. Sheffield Hallam has been involved in its development and the same portfolio submitted for academic credit can be used for verification for entry to the TLA.

More information

There are currently over 300 teachers working with us to gain academic credit through the PLW across all phases, ranging from headteachers to colleagues in their first year of teaching. A number are on their second and third projects and two of our participants have provided brief case studies about their experience.

More information about our programme, including further case studies can be found at www.cpd.shu.ac.uk

‘Study at my own pace’ – Beverley Lakin, teacher at Gleadless Primary School, Sheffield

Professional learning in the workplace (PLW) has been a positive and rewarding experience for me. Not only am I working towards gaining a Master’s but I am developing professionally in a way which is benefiting my career, the school I work in and the children I work with.

When I initially considered a Master’s degree it was important that it did not require hours of additional work. Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) offered the perfect opportunity through PLW and the more I found out about the course the more appealing it became. SHU has given me the support and encouragement I have needed to complete each stage in PLW. The flexibility of the course has enabled me to study at my own pace with tutors available for advice when I have needed them.  The superior resources at SHU have made any additional work a pleasure as I have been able to access their electronic resources from home.

When I began PLW the school I was at was extremely supportive. From an early stage the headteacher realised that PLW would have a positive effect for the school and the children, as well as for me and the other staff working on it. The school began to foster a reflective approach towards teaching and learning and as a staff we were supportive of one another. The focus of the projects mirrored targets from the school’s action plan.

This is the main benefit of PLW, it fits so well with performance management targets and school development plans. Projects I have worked on for my performance management have easily been adapted to suit the requirements of PLW.

Personally, PLW has definitely helped me develop as a teaching professional. After my first project I had the confidence to lead whole-school Inset and more recently my involvement in PLW impressed an interview panel, which has resulted in me gaining a promotion at a new school.

PLW is appropriate for teachers of all ages to gain academic recognition for the things that they do every day. It fits in with school life and offers the chance to gain a Master’s degree working at a pace which suits you.

Accreditation in the workplace – Marie Hill, assistant head, Norfolk Community School, Sheffield

Before I was appointed as assistant head at Norfolk Community Primary School in Sheffield in 2004, I had already been briefed on professional learning in the workplace at my previous school, which also faced challenging circumstances in Sheffield, and had intended to become a member before taking up the post at Norfolk. In my prior role I had been offered many opportunities to develop professionally by the then head and deputy and was always prepared to take on new challenges.

I am an ambitious person and tend to be enthusiastic when it comes to raising others’ aspirations. I wanted to encourage staff to develop their own careers, as I had been encouraged to develop mine. Norfolk had a large deficit budget at the time and staff morale was very low and therefore all staff development activities had to be worthwhile. It was felt that all were ready for a different style of development and deserved to be enthused, excited and have their hard work recognised.

Professional learning in the workplace has allowed us to work on projects in school to gain accreditation towards a Master’s degree. They are projects that we would have been working on anyway to develop staff skills to meet the needs of the pupils. As it was part of a pilot, the GTC and Sheffield LEA paid two-thirds, while school funded the remainder for the seven staff who took part. It did this as all staff were working on priorities from the school improvement plan. The flexibility of the units ensured that staff could study at their own pace with full support from myself and the university tutor.

The first year saw dramatic changes to the school culture and pupil attainment, with outstanding SATs results. In the second year we saw staff confidence grow with developments in middle management, leadership skills and career moves. Staff also took part in other Sheffield Hallam units to combine work for accreditation. For the final extended project I am hoping to work with three colleagues from the original group, while supporting three new staff attempting their first units. 

I feel that with direction and support from the leadership team and the whole-school approach to collaborative learning derived from the initial impact of the PLW, it has ensured that all staff are enthusiastically focused on their own development to ensure school improvement.

The head of professional learning in the workplace and the team at Hallam have made certain that we have had the best advice to suit individuals in our school. From my own point of view I feel that the experience has been invaluable and that, however difficult the profession becomes, staff working in a collaborative supportive environment will always have ways to deal with the challenges and changes in education.

Norfolk is seen to be leading the way with CPD and we consider it as one of our greatest assets. We have recently been awarded Investors in People (IIP) and the assessor contacted Norfolk to say that the IIP panel has never seen a school make so many improvements in such a short space of time.

This article first appeared in CPD Update – Feb 2007

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