How can your school become more open when it comes to CPD and professional learning, in terms of the access and sharing of ideas? CPD Week here includes five top tips on sharing CPD

The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.
Harvey S Firestone

Open access to educational resources is an overarching goal across Europe and beyond. Where a spirit of collaboration and openness doesn’t thrive, teaching and learning is necessarily stifled. This principle works equally well when it comes to professional learning in schools. The more open we are about sharing and accessibility, the better the service we provide for children and young people — it’s a commitment that just has to be made.

Getting real about development
No learning happens in isolation, and all learning can be developed further through sharing ideas with others. These may seem like rash statements but they’re impossible to argue against, especially in the context of a school. And yet, when we take a serious look at just how collaborative our approach to professional learning truly is, how much concrete evidence can we identify which proves that we’re not simply operating as a bunch of individuals, with only our place of work in common?

Tackling this issue takes honesty as an institution, and the humility to recognise that true collaboration, cascading and peer learning remain relatively rare in our schools. There are steps to take, though, which can help to embed a more purposeful approach to professional learning right across your school. Try these thoughts for starters:

  • As a school, think about how blurred the edges are between formal and informal professional learning. Be honest about how useful those distinctions are to you. Do they help to facilitate learning or do they simply detract from the fact that professional learning is possible in myriad ways?
  • What is your school’s attitude to ownership? Are knowledge and skills open and accessible right across the board, or is there a sense of ownership and therefore limited access?
  • How altruistic are you all as a team? Without altruism professional learning is necessarily stifled, but encouraging it in a profession which operates with a central paradox of individual accountability for externally imposed frameworks isn’t easy!
  • Are your professional learning resources open to all with an attitude of equal access?
  • Are you engaged in the process of developing a professional learning bank? The aim is for all members of staff to access this as a starting point for discovering more about whatever topic they are pursuing. It might include-write ups of training and development, personal reflections from staff, photos, articles and so on. It helps if someone takes responsibility for cataloguing and archiving it so that the contents are as accessible as possible.

The principle of sharing knowledge and learning as much as possible is academically sound. There isn’t a justification for competition between staff in schools, but sadly this can be what stands in the way of open access to shared learning. Where good practice happens, though, it can be built on, and a culture of collaboration gently nurtured.

Find out more

Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources – an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publication exploring open access to educational resources – can be downloaded free of charge here. Although the document focuses on higher education, it contains many themes and principles common to all stages of education. The OECD is a forum where the governments of 30 democracies work together to address the economic, social and environmental challenges of globalisation.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2009

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.