‘Cascading’ information to staff can help to ensure that you are as effective as possible in your role in professional development

There is no delight in owning anything unshared.
Seneca

Cascading information

Supporting teachers in their own engagement in learning is integral to the role of professional development leaders. Naturally this is a multi-dimensional role and to a great extent it is going to be unique to the context in which you work. There is, however, one element of the job which is always vital wherever you are working, and on which the success of your colleagues’ continuing learning appears to be dependent. As CPD leader you are chief ‘cascader’ of details about development opportunities, acting as a gatekeeper as far as access to information is concerned. There are dire consequences of not allowing information to flow to your colleagues. Opportunities will be missed and staff will detect a general lack of institutional support for their overall development. Once a perceived gulf between policy and practice develops, it’s very difficult for a school to regain the respect and commitment of its staff towards CPD. These ideas will help you to effectively disseminate information to those for whom it is intended.

•    Preferences – First of all, find out how staff as a whole prefer to access information. How do they want you to communicate with them? For example, if emails are generally not read in your school (there are still some like that!) then it’s not going to be an effective method to use until there is a culture change. Doing a quick audit on this at the start of the year is a great way of keeping up to date with staff preferences, but don’t feel that you have to pander to each and every whim. The idea is to find the method preferred by most people.

•    Feedback – Part way through the term, ask staff for their feedback on the accessibility of information from you. It may be that you are making it available but staff are not perceiving it as being accessible.

•    Visibility – Create an eye-catching CPD zone on your staffroom notice-board and draw staff attention to new items posted.

•    Regularity – Consider developing a CPD newsletter for staff. Whether in paper format or electronic, having a summary of opportunities and latest news on a regular basis is invariably welcomed by staff.

•    On the web – Some CPD leaders write blogs on their school’s website, intranet or VLE. These can be updated when necessary and accessed at the convenience of staff members. Likewise, having a CPD zone on your website or intranet is an effective way of making information available.

•    In person – Take a regular slot in staff meetings. This doesn’t need to dominate the proceedings. Just ten minutes a week or fortnight should be enough to update staff and this will help to give CPD a higher profile and focus.

•    Ownership – Take every opportunity you can to develop awareness of CPD among staff. This helps to give them a clear sense of ownership of their development which is crucial for success.

•    Learning bites – Some schools operate ‘learning lunch’ sessions (as opposed to ‘working lunch’!). These can be great opportunities for passing information on to willing recipients.

•    Governor support – Consider giving short CPD presentations to governors. Ideally there will be a governor with a special interest in staff development and keeping them on board will help to ensure CPD has a high priority.   

Change begins with those in a position to lead it, or to influence it. This fundamental aspect of the role of professional learning leader is always ripe for reflection and just a few subtle tweaks in practice here and there can make significant differences to the degree to which staff are engaged in their learning.

For more information see also Informing your colleagues of CPD opportunities: part 2

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 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.

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