Tags: CPD Week | Performance Management | Teaching Skills

Taking on new learning is only one side of the story; making it work for you in your classroom is the other side, and the link between the two is the contextualising of development.

Quote of the Week

“It’s not enough to be busy. The question is: What are we busy about?

− Henry David Thoreau

Practical Tips

Contextualising development The nature of continuing personal and professional development in schools is such that it may not always be specific to the context in which each individual teacher works. This is one of the great challenges for those organising generic CPD in schools. Covering issues such as assessment for learning is all very well, but what does it actually mean for each member of staff? Contextualising any form of development helps us to get the most from it. While it’s helpful always to acknowledge that development can take any form and occur at any time, taking a few fundamental steps before any formal development (such as courses or organised discussions on specific topics) can help us to make sense of using the learning we acquire. These ideas may help:

  • Avoid gathering paper and files which never again see the light of day once a course is over by creating vehicles for disseminating new learning within your organisation. This is a great way of opening up debates about contextualising in house.
  • Before undertaking any training, identify the context in which it will be used. What will be the value of the training to the individual and the school as a whole?
  • Encourage staff to attend training with clear objectives in mind. It helps if these build on what the training in question promises to deliver.
  • Look at ways of investigating the way in which learning is put to use in other schools, particularly as a result of training that has been delivered to members of different schools.
  • Develop an awareness of where the new learning stands in the general ‘market place’ of education. Is it linked to a latest fad or grounded in academic research? Is it generally respected by those in the profession for whom you have respect? This can all help you to contextualise it and use it for maximum benefit.
  • Develop the mindset that something can be learned from everything. This naturally encourages contextualising through relating reflections from all kinds of life experiences back into your work. And the more we do it, the better we get at it!

No generic training can be expected to deliver the kind of specifics that we sometimes need to improve our work, and that can be a frustration of attending courses and conferences, but it is possible to contextualise so that we extract maximum use from the CPD available to us. Doing this consciously, though, is most likely to bring results.

Issues and Information

Applying for headship When it comes to filling headship vacancies, governing bodies around the country are increasingly battling against low numbers of applications, attempting to shortlist from maybe only two or three applicants, one of whom may be utterly unsuitable on paper anyway. Interviewing just one or two applicants can make a mockery of the process, which should be rigorous and flawless in its execution. Sadly, interview panels are often desperate to interview as many candidates as possible but there’s no doubt that even at Headteacher level the written part of the application is disappointing to say the least.

To address this and other issues connected to headship application, Peter Addison-Child will be answering questions in a live online hotseat on Wednesday 12th March at 4.30pm. If there are any aspiring heads in your school, this is a great opportunity to get some advice. You can register for the event and submit questions in advance by visiting the website or ringing the NCSL Helpdesk on 0845 609 0009.

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.