This week we look at the task of assessing the quality of CPD as a way of asking the sometimes difficult questions that can push us forwardQuote of the Week

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”

− William A Foster

Practical Tips Assessing the quality of CPD

Although the ideal CPD scenario in schools is yet to be achieved (the shifting complexities of the area are such that all we can ever do is work towards an ideal), there are key strategies that can help to improve our practice. Take quality assessment as an example. Undertaking regular and rigorous assessments of the quality of CPD provision in and for your school is likely to help you to identify what doesn’t work so well and pursue what does. Before exploring the notion of quality, we need to remind ourselves of the purposes of CPD in schools. What, exactly, are we doing it for? Here are some suggestions for starters:

  • To update knowledge and extend skills
  • To support teachers and others in improving the quality of the education they offer
  • To make people better at their jobs or to make jobs better for people

Quality assessment therefore becomes a way of helping to make sure that you’re on the way to achieving those things through the CPD on offer in your school, and not wasting time and money. As touched on last week, there is almost always some distance between the theory and content of CPD and its application. Bridging that distance requires a lot of creativity and imagination, not to mention recognition of the fact that ‘doing’ the CPD is just the beginning! Good quality assessment in the field of CPD in schools tends to involve the following:

  • Devising a system for establishing what is wanted from CPD, culminating in a stated tangible, quantifiable, hoped-for benefit that can be put into practice in context.
  • Deciding how, if at all, you will ‘grade’ CPD in your quality assessments. Do you have an idea about what you would deem to be excellent, good or satisfactory?
  • Sampling trainers and training before committing time and money.
  • Gathering and following up feedback from those who have participated in CPD activities.
  • Keeping detailed records of CPD which could lead into a value assessment of those delivering it.
  • Making sure that providers who don’t appear to be delivering to meet your goals are used again with caution, if at all.
  • Devising a system for making sure that competencies are furthered through CPD, rather than simply having boxes ticked.
  • Making sure that CPD is as relevant as possible to those undertaking it.
  • Considering sharing your quality assessments with other schools you work closely with.

It is indisputably desirable to facilitate access to as wide a range of CPD opportunities as possible, but this can add to quality assessment challenges in your school. As with all challenges, if we rise to them, we can access their benefits, and use these to move forwards.

Issues and Information Masters in Teaching and Learning

Plans have recently been announced for a new Masters qualification in Teaching and Learning (MTL), designed specifically for teachers. The aim behind this, according to Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, is to ‘raise the status of teachers and ensure that they get the recognition they deserve.’ It is hoped that this Masters qualification will give teachers extra skills to support the national strategy to ‘raise the bar in all schools’. In time, the qualification should be open to all teachers with the expectation that every teacher will complete it during the course of their career. Initially, it will be rolled out to those in the first five years of their careers to build on their initial teacher training and induction, with more experienced teachers acting as in-house coaches. This contribution may, in turn, become a part of the coach teachers’ own Masters training. The Training and Development Agency for Schools will be developing the programme with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) among others and the expectation is that the qualification will be available to some new entrants starting their initial teacher training in September. Naturally, professional associations are keen to stress that teachers will need time and space, not to mention funding, to have any chance of successfully completing such a qualification. There are also concerns about any such programme being rolled out for passive acceptance rather than as a choice for teachers who are actively seeking to take responsibility for their personal and professional development.

We will bring you more news on this when it is available.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 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.