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A critical reflection of Continued Professional Development

5147 words (21 pages) Essay in Education

5/12/16 Education Reference this

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The aim of this assignment is to address the current perception of Continued Professional Development (CPD) within my organisation. Section 1 will outline the theories of CPD, change management, evaluating impact and a critical evaluation of the relationship between my organisation and how this reflects what the research tells us about effective CPD leadership. Following on, section 2 will outline the aims of my focus for change and how, using a critical review of the literature surrounding effective CPD, I set out to achieve those objectives. Section 3 will outline the impact of my focus for change on the organisation and finally, section 4 will be a critical reflection on my learning throughout the module, what this means for my leadership of CPD and the impact it has had on my personal CPD and leadership practice.

Section 1

Theories of CPD

There has been a continuum of maturity in the advancement of theory directed by policy (see appendix A) and research into CPD culminating in what was termed ‘the INSET revolution’ in the early nineties (Bubb and Earley, 2007:5). In 2005 the Teacher Development Agency (TDA) assumed responsibility from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) for co-ordinating CPD for all school staff nationally and, in response to this, Ofsted launched their 2006 report The Logical Chain: continuing professional development in effective schools. As such, key principles have evolved acting as a benchmark for raising the standards of teaching and learning within an organisation through effective CPD practices. The London’s Learning portal ( , (last accessed 28th July 2010) developed by practitioners outlines seven key principles for effective CPD (see appendix B). The findings of Earley and Porritt (2009) have re-iterated these key principles whilst building on them to ensure a focus on pupil outcomes and thus ‘enhancing the quality of education in the classroom'(Bubb and Earley, 2007:4) (see appendix C), and the development of schools as professional learning communities (Roberts and Pruitt, 2009).

Leadership of CPD

In accordance with the National Standards for headteachers it is the headteachers responsibility for strategic planning for school improvement, ‘ensuring the school moves forward for the benefits of its pupils’ (2004:6); advocating the school as a professional learning community, distributing leadership (Ofsted 2010) and guaranteeing resources. However to ensure the effectiveness of CPD it should be assigned to an individual (Dawe and Taylor, Innovative Leadership of CPD programme, Penang, 2009). In many schools the responsibility of CPD leader is still aligned across a range of staff (NFER, 2008:iii); which can often lead to the crucial value of CPD being overlooked.

CPD for all Staff

Liz Francis, director of workforce strategy at the TDA for schools states that:

The delivery of well-designed and well-targeted CPD for all staff, tailored to their specific needs and work areas, is the single most effective way of driving up standards and achievement in schools (2009)

The 2003 National Agreement for the first time recognised the vital role of support staff in the pursuit to reduce teacher workloads, in particular the Teaching Assistants (TAs), with more responsibility in the classroom and thus the demand for professional development for these staff evolved. This was further supported through the publication of the 2009 National Occupational Standards and the work of Earley and Porritt, 2009 in the research into the Effective Practices in Continuing Professional Development project.

CPD, Performance Management and School Improvement

At the heart of school improvement must be a symbiotic relationship between performance management (PM) and CPD in order for the school to move forward whilst underpinning the Every Child Matters Agenda. This process however must be rigorous if it is to impact on raising standards, as highlighted in the key strengths by Ofsted (2006:4).

High quality opportunities for CPD

It is essential that schools create and demonstrate a variety of learning and application opportunities for staff (Timperly, 2008) with clearly stated goals to impact on pupil outcomes (Earley and Bubb, 2009). Identifying staff needs accurately (Ofsted, 2006) and supporting these internally will provide the foundations for a range of effective development activities to be built upon Goodall et al 2005 (see appendix D).

Working in partnership

Partnerships are increasingly being seen as a tool used to support development of practice and new approaches, building resources and capacity across the school (Ofsted, 2010). Further supported by research such as the State of the Nation project carried out by the TDA (2008) confirming the value teachers place in collaborative working and the research driven by CUREE into CPD: the evaluative base.


Organisational support is crucial if the impact of the CPD activity is deemed to be effective. The biggest commitment is time and funding. Time needs to be allocated if informative reflection and feedback is to happen (Early and Porritt, 2009). Schools need to address how the time made available by workforce reform could be used to support CPD (Ofsted, 2006:5) and in so doing conveying the value of the activity and the outcomes.

Evaluation of impact

The significance of this principle cannot be overstated and so will be discussed later in this section.

Change management

Effecting change means changing the culture of an organisation,’ the way we do things around here’ (Dawe and Taylor, Innovative Leadership of CPD programme, Penang, 2010). Culture is ingrained and informs people’s beliefs and in order to effect change three areas of change need to be considered as outlined by Gusky (2005) in his speech to Etech Ohio: ‘Changing teachers’ attitudes and beliefs; changing teachers’ practices; changing pupil learning outcomes’.

Change is also about emotions (Coleman and Earley, 2005:190) and these must be considered especially when asking professionals to reflect on their practice: a workforce where change has been implemented ‘with the staff’ rather than ‘to the staff’ (Osfted, 2010:34) is one that understands the need for change.

Paramount to embedding change is the ability of the middle leaders to lead that change as:

A pivotal link between senior leaders and classroom colleagues, they are often both conduit as well as the interpreters of wider discussion with or dictation from senior leaders’ (Moore, 2007:4)

With the change in the perception of professional development there has arisen the need for a change in terminology from existing language such as INSET training to that of professional development (Earley and Porritt, 2009). Further supported by Dawe and Taylor, Innovative Leadership of CPD programme, Penang 2010.

Evaluating Impact

Coleman and Earley state that ‘evaluation in education has a vital role to play both in relation to improvement and effectiveness’ (2005:152). This notion is further supported by Bubb and Earley, who assert that ‘evaluation is necessary to provide a sound basis for improving and upgrading programmes’ (2007:65). Therefore, to quantify the effectiveness of professional development evaluation is critical (Guskey, 2000). Supported by Bubb and Earley, 2007 and Earley and Porritt, 2009. However, schools are still challenged by impact evaluation of CPD originating from the planning phase.

A significant weakness in the planning for CPD was a failure to identify clearly at the outset the intended outcomes of an activity or to agree how to assess the extent to which the outcomes had been met (Ofsted, 2006:20)

Therefore, before any developmental activity takes place you must ‘begin from the end and work backward’ (Guskey, 2000:35) with the outcomes ascertained at the planning phase (Earley and Porritt, 2009) and evidence required by the stakeholders agreed. Key findings from a study funded by the DfES, and supported by the work of Guskey (2000), showed ‘the most frequently evaluated component was participant satisfaction, and the least, changes in pupil attitude’. Schools must ‘ensure that just as professional development should be an ongoing process, so should its evaluation’ (Goodall et al, 2005:13).

An overview of the Dubai English Speaking School (DESS)

I was appointed as the CPD Leader at DESS in March 2010 after discussions with the senior management team about effective CPD practices and the impact that this can have on raising standards. The responsibility for the role had previously been assigned to the headteacher a common practice in primary schools as outlined by Robinson et al, (2008: v), in the study Research into the role of CPD leadership in schools. Through dialogue it was evident that CPD within the organisation didn’t reflect a shared vision; it did not encompass the whole workforce; promote a collaborative learning culture or endorse strong CPD leadership within all areas of effective CPD outlined by Bubb and Earley, 2007 and further supported by Earley and Porritt, 2009 and the London Learning Portal,, (last accessed 28th July 2010). There was currently no strategic or sustainable role to CPD implementation across the whole school (Earley and Porritt, 2009); rather a more ad hoc approach with no evidence of evaluative systems reaching beyond Guskeys first level of impact.

The Middle East offers schools institutional autonomy within a region with competition between schools and the luxury of a waiting list for pupils. It is paramount then that in order for DESS to remain viable in a region dependant on its expatriate community, it becomes more ‘responsive to meeting the needs and demands of their potential students’ (Coleman & Earley, 2005: 50) and the needs of their most valuable asset: their human resource (Francis, 2009). The priority therefore is to look at establishing the structures that support the theory and research of effective CPD, whilst changing the current culture embracing both the adaptive and adoptive approaches to embedding change (Swaffield and MacBeath, 2006) as outlined in research by Moore, 2007 in an organisation needing to evolve into a professional learning community.

Section 2

Focus for change

As the role of CPD leader at DESS was a new one and there were no effective systems in place, I decided to address the issues using The Logical Chain (Ofsted, 2006) approach to ensure the best possible outcomes. By doing this I hoped that it would put into context for staff why I was trying to effect change, especially important when morale in the school is so low. The objectives of my focus for change based on the above was firstly to establish a consistent perception across the whole workforce of what good CPD looks like; secondly embed a shared vision and purpose of CPD; thirdly address the system of needs analysis and relevance, informed by performance reviews and the school development plan, and ultimately to have an impact on effecting a change culture across the school.

It was evident from dialogue with staff that the perception of professional development failed to address the range of activities that constitute effective CPD and was instead viewed as ‘going on a course’. From conversations there also appeared little consistency in the identification process of the staff offered CPD opportunities, with those ‘lucky enough’ to access a programme under no obligation to link the activity to their performance management review or the school development plan. This is common failing across many schools that have not yet engaged with the Logical Chain approach to CPD by linking the activity to that of the needs of the individual or whole school (Ofsted, 2006).

In order to ascertain if the perception of CPD and the lack of cohesion when identifying individuals training needs were mirrored across the workforce I devised a questionnaire (see appendix E). There were eighty eligible to complete the questionnaire of which fourteen responded: four classroom teachers; seven teachers with responsibility for a department, year group or subject; two support staff; one member of senior leadership team (SLT). With such a large cohort of the workforce having not completed the questionnaire I also devised a brief tick box exercise to determine the reasons for the lack of response (see appendix F).

The first question on the primary questionnaire addressed the perception of CPD. However the ambiguous nature of the question led to responses that were two fold. Some of the staff interpreted the question as the purpose of CPD in line with question four asking ‘why do you think CPD should take place in school?’ Responses included ‘to improve current skills in line with recent developments in education; a preparation for career development; to stop stagnation to approach and a means of improving current skills’. The responses reflect the literature around the purpose of CPD, but only two placed emphasis on the benefit of CPD on teaching and learning and raising standards (Bubb and Earley, 2007). Further supported by Earley and Porritt, 2009.

Others interpreted this question in relation to their current setting with the majority implying the ad hoc approach to course allocation led them to feel unsupported and something ‘that you had to go and find’.

Responses to the second question that asked respondents to identify different CPD activities was surprising in light of the professional dialogue I had previously had with staff. The majority of respondents were able to highlight different activities such as peer coaching, collaboration and on line resources and publications. All but one of the responses listed courses in their top two answers indicating that although staff can identify various CPD activities, they perceive external training as highly important and as a result in their opinion ‘the most effective’.

Questions 5 -10 looked specifically at the individual’s professional development. All staff rated the value they place in their own professional development as 7 or above, with 10 being the most important. Comments such as ‘why bother to come to work if you don’t want to improve’; ‘it keeps me excited about teaching and if it is useful’, were received. That said, nine of the respondents weren’t sure or didn’t know what their professional development needs were stating for many that they had not been discussed effectively, if at all, at performance management reviews. With some even citing that they had been over looked in previous years and thus not completed a review at all.

Questions regarding the value that DESS places on an individual’s development and the effect this has on morale correlated in that a low rating for value reflected a low rating for morale. Comments such as ‘I’ve learnt to get on with it’ and ‘I feel like my aspirations for a more senior role have been overlooked’ were made. This was supported further by conversations with staff that felt that ‘in their current role their professional development was on hold’.

The responses to the shorter of the two questionnaires illustrated just how deep rooted the organisations issues are and the immediate need for effective change to take place. The evidence highlighted that the majority of the staff that failed to complete the first questionnaire did so because they felt nothing would change.

Achieving the objectives

My objective to move away from the perception of good CPD as ‘going on a course’ was articulated during a whole school meeting and further supported by the document entitled ‘Value for Money’ East Midlands CPD partnership (last accessed 10th August 2010), that was issued to both the middle leaders and CPD committee to disseminate back to their teams.

A fundamental approach I adopted to achieving the objectives was that of distributed leadership, ‘mobilising leadership at all levels in the organisation and not just relying on leadership from the top’ (Harris, 2009:1). By effectively distributing the leadership to empower staff to take ownership of their professional development and that of the school, I hoped they would ‘act their way into a new way of thinking’ (Williams, 2008:39). A clear distinction between ‘distribution and delegation’ had to be highlighted with the middle leaders in the early stages, as the risk was that those that did not have a clear understanding of the term, adopt it as an approach for handing down tasks (Harris, 2009).

To install this idea then, and that of ownership of CPD across the work force, a CPD committee similar to the committee established by Ash Manor School in Surrey (Bubb and Earley, 2007) and outlined in the study commissioned by the TDA and carried out by NFER (2008) was established. I invited the participation from a cross section of the whole work force. Involved in the decision making process of developing the vision, CPD policy and action plan, as well as becoming the ‘voice’ for their teams, they would play a key role in producing a model of sustainable CPD and implementing a framework of documentation that would identify and evaluate training using Guskeys five levels of impact. They would drive the change process with their teams and report back the concerns from the ‘chalk face’.

In order to promote CPD across the whole workforce I arranged monthly development meetings with the TAs. The first meeting focused on a skills audit and their support in devising a TA handbook. Most importantly it was to support them with the ownership of their professional development by planning their future development meetings and needs together.

In tandem with the above the middle leaders would become ambassadors to implementing effective CPD practices within their teams. Research is increasingly showing that middle leaders are the ‘kingpins’ of the school (Bubb and Earley, 2007:148) and schools that make the slowest progress towards effective professional development were held back by the failings of the leaders as identified in the March 2010 Ofsted review:

The third barrier is one that faces schools that are not as successful as those in this survey. These schools might not have the expertise in leadership and management that underpins effective development (2010:74).

For the change process to have any effect it was important to ensure that the middle leaders understood not only the process, but the implications it would have on their role. A team meeting was initially held to discuss the reasons for the change, which I followed up with individual meetings in order to allow each middle leader to discuss their concerns and the organisational support they would need to carry out their role effectively.

A leadership programme that addresses the role of the middle leader in terms of how they model, monitor and participate in dialogue (Southworth, National College- Strategic Leadership of CPD, online CPD programme , last accessed 30th July 2010) and to equip them with the skills to address their emotional intelligence, understand human relationship and effectively control and promote the operating core of the school (Coleman and Earley, 2005) has been identified. Internal support upon return of this programme is in place, to build on the external expertise, and further support the middle leaders in their complex role of hinging the relationship between the staff and senior leadership as outlined by Dawe in the 2008 paper Why should you develop your middle managers? – Middle Leadership: the key to leadership capacity.

A CPD model also employed and currently high on the national agenda is that of coaching, allowing the leaders to work closely with their team to set goals, to develop skills and the support framework to achieve them (Tolhurst, 2006). Tolhurst, (2006:19) explains how coaching must be at the core of professional development activities in order to ‘tackle them in a systematic way’. I have placed the title leaders in italics to highlight that it is being used in the context of distributive leadership and therefore does not just imply the conventional leadership role such as middle leaders, but inclusive of all staff (Harris, 2009). That said the importance of coaching skills for middle leaders was paramount to further support the change process, support the theory of distributed leadership, emotional intelligence and thus increase staff morale (Earley and Porritt, 2009: 140). However, as Williams (2008) outlines in his paper ‘Changing Classroom Practice’, it would be impossible due to budgetary constraints to train the whole workforce as coaches and goes on to discuss the benefits of teacher learning communities to ‘changing day-to-day classroom practice’ (2008:39). With the continuing challenge to make professional development school-based (Ofsted, 2010:6) I decided to pursue this approach in the quest to achieve further my objectives and was able through achieving the third objective of my focus for change, highlight staff with the expertise.

To address the third objective there was a clear need to streamline and adopt a more consistent approach to the identification of needs and expertise within DESS, especially in light of policy that now requires staff to ‘evaluate their performance and be committed to improving their practice through appropriate professional development’ Earley and Porritt (2009:vii).

Through collaboration with SLT we devised a more robust target setting system linking performance management and professional development. The staff were asked to complete a self review grid (see appendix G) that linked to their performance review targets. From this they were asked to complete the ‘Steps to Success’ document that aimed to get them thinking about the different development activities they would need to undertake to achieve their targets and the support required from the organisation to do so (see appendix H). They were also asked to complete a skills audit (see appendix I) that would feed into a database to begin the identification process of skilled staff to run internal twilight CPD sessions (Earley and Porritt, 2009).

Documentation supporting both internal and external CPD applications have been designed around that suggested by Bubb and Earley, (2007: 36 & 37) and the theory that all development activities must ‘begin with the ends in mind’ (Guskey, 2000:35) (see appendix J). Similarly a draft evaluation document to measure participants’ reactions to an activity has been designed adapted from Guskey, 2000 (see appendix K) that will be supported by a set of procedures for evaluating the impact of CPD through a range of modes of evidence collection and agreed deadlines.

Section 3

Where my model has succeeded was to change the perception of the variety and value of a range of approaches that constitute effective CPD. The Value for Money document (East Midlands CPD partnership last accessed 10th August 2010) has become a useful reference tool for staff with comments such as ‘ it really helped me when thinking about how I was going to achieve my targets’ and ‘ I refer back to it a lot when faced with a developmental issue from a team member’. For some it was the recognition that professional dialogue that resulted in the teacher trying out a new activity in the classroom was actually CPD.

Through the CPD committee the workforce understands that CPD is an ‘entitlement’ as outlined by the General Teaching Council (GTC) within its Teachers’ Professional Learning Framework (TPLF) that was published in March 2003, that extends to the wider workforce (Ofsted, 2010). An example of this success is that of the purchasing manager at school that attends our CPD committee meetings. From this she has sourced an accredited training programme to enhance her role in school.

When I was initially asked to complete the CPD application form I felt that it was just another paperwork exercise and didn’t see its relevance to my role. However, as I went through the process it helped me think about the goals that I wanted to achieve and also made me realise how important my role is to raising the standards of pupils in school by helping to create an effective learning environment for the teachers and the pupils.

Through the CPD committee agenda I was able to put into context the thoughts behind the change process and raise awareness of the barriers and challenges facing CPD leaders as outlined in the research by the TDA (2007, last accessed 15th July 2010), Supporting the leadership of professional development in schools, and NFER’s (2008) Research into the role of CPD leadership in schools as ‘cultural, capacity, operational and specific’. Collaboratively we are beginning to identify ways that they can be addressed, further putting the ownership back onto the staff.

Our differing perspectives are invaluable. After all, our goal is to make the best possible decisions for the company, not to be right about our individual points of view. (Scott, 2009:31)

Also through the CPD committee we have developed a vision collaboratively (Roberts and Pruitt, 2009) in line with the school mission statement and formulated a working CPD action plan (see appendix M).

One of the most fulfilling encounters I have had are the discussions with the TAs where I listen to their fears, professional needs and aspirations that have started to take them from feeling invisible and devalued (Scott, 2009), to being seen for the first time for their worth (Bubb and Early, 2007). We now have an initial training programme in place and a working party to put together a TA handbook and induction programme for next academic year.

I have really valued our discussions and feel that the school is beginning to acknowledge the value of our role within the community at DESS. The TA handbook will be extremely helpful and means that we no longer have to feel like a nuisance to the teacher with a constant barrage of questions that will now be addressed in the handbook. (KS1 TA)

The middle leaders have most definitely been the driving force with regards to managing the process of a change in culture both in perceptions and practice. With recruitment this year seeing two thirds of the middle leaders replaced it was important to ensure that the right people for the job were employed (Coleman and Earley, 2005). Suggate, (National College-Strategic Leadership of CPD, online CPD programme , last accessed 30th July 2010) suggests they should be:

Ardent self-developers who will take responsibility for their own development. Because if they develop themselves by definition, the school will develop.

The initial discussions with the middle leaders addressed their role in CPD within the organisation. This has been disseminated back to the departments and collaborative CPD discussions are beginning to take place in departmental meetings.

The staff skills audit has become a valuable document that has allowed senior leadership to start identifying twilight CPD sessions facilitated through internal support (Earley and Porritt, 2009). The development content of which agreed upon collaboratively with staff and is ‘central to school improvement’ as outlined in the DfES, (2005: ii) Leading and coordinating CPD in secondary schools. As Guskey (2000) asserts however, if you are imposing CPD time constraints on the workforce then by doing so you are not emphasising the importance of the CPD activity, but merely making it an essential chore. These sessions therefore are voluntary and will replace non essential full staff meetings.

I don’t feel like I have been asked to attend another meeting in the week because the twilights will run when we would ordinarily have a full staff meeting. I will attend a twilight related to my target setting form, making it relevant to me. (Teacher, 2010)

Reflecting on the case study has highlighted a flaw in my approach that has potentially slowed down the change process. Failing to acknowledge from the outset the perception of the headteachers leadership style in my pursuit to build an ethos of trust with the staff meant that I put the change process in jeopardy. Frances Bussy, a primary headteacher who has adopted ‘a no blame culture’ in her school reflects on how crucial this is if you are asking colleagues to buy into the vision and prepare for professional dialogue (National College- Strategic Leadership of CPD, online CPD programme , last accessed 30th July 2010).

I also failed to recognise the request for anonymity when returning completed questionnaires as a sign of discord amongst the staff with the headteacher. Covey (2004:207) discusses the win/lose authoritarian approach to leadership ‘I get my way; you don’t get yours’ and goes on to explain how this type of approach to leadership is not viable; damaging relationships and building resentment to the point where people close down and the situation becomes lose/lose. The research points towards effective CPD being supported by the headteacher and as such I do have concerns about how willing staff will be to try out new ideas without fear of reprisal or when their core needs are not being met. I hope that by maintaining the relationship through conversation (Scott, 2009) and by moving towards an effective CPD model, with the ongoing support of the assistant headteachers, we can impact on his attitudes and beliefs and through successful outcomes divert the potential of stalling the change process (Guskey, 2005). Further supported by Williams, 2009.

Section 4

The module has allowed me to navigate strategically through the shift in thinking and challenges linked to the changing role of the CPD co-ordinator to that of a CPD leader (Earley and Porritt, 2009). When I embarked on this module my primary role was to focus on sourcing and arranging the organisational aspects of external training, succeeding to only evaluate the feel good factor of the CPD activity. I now feel that I have become more professional in my role and view it as one that enables me to have a wider influence on teaching and learning, staff morale and ultimately pupil outcomes.

The module has given me confidence to put systems in place and begin to promote sustainability through the core of the school. It has allowed me to help staff identify their CPD needs and their steps to achieving them, utilising a range of CPD activities and linking them to their performance review targets. Influencing the views and beliefs held by the support staff that professional development is something that they are actually entitled to has been a privilege. With comments received such as ‘thank you so much for listening to us’ and:

Thanks so much for your help and input; I have a clearer focus on where I need to go with my professional development in order to achieve my targets’. (KS2 teacher)

As a CPD leader in the Middle East I will always need to be innovative in my approach to embedding a sustainable CPD programme. With no Government funding or Local Authority, the emphasis on a collaborative approach to CPD and its leadership through building partnerships becomes ever prevalent. This will inform my next step to start building the links between the schools and Universities, increasing the resources available to us and adding value to our CPD programme by ‘creating a dynamic for change, challenge and improvement’ that would not be possible otherwise as outlined by the TDA, (2009, last accessed 15th July 2010), in the study Embedding sustainable practice. The British Schools in the Middle East has established subject group meetings providing a platform for sharing expertise. I see it as my

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