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What do I believe makes for effective CPD?

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 20 April 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 13 August 2010 by ncetm_administrator


How do I develop the vision for CPD in maths in my school?

In this module you will explore the key aspects of leading CPD in your school. The foundation for leading CPD is to have a clear vision of what CPD of maths is needed. This is based both on what makes for effective adult learning and what CPD is relevant for different members of the school community. It is important to know how to support colleagues in auditing their CPD needs and how to prioritise maths CPD provision against this information, the school priorities and the budget. As Maths Subject Leader you are a role model for colleagues in terms of how you manage your own CPD needs and the last strand of this module helps you address your own this.

At the end of this module you will:

  • understand the implications for leading CPD in your school
  • be able to formulate a clear vision of CPD in maths for your school
  • understand how to prioritise CPD provision against a number of key criteria
  • know what type of CPD you need to provide for a range of colleagues
  • have a clear idea about managing the maths budget
  • have considered how you rate against using the ‘tools of the trade’
  • have explored the strength of your own maths subject knowledge and related pedagogical issues
  • know how to make provision for your own CPD.

In this strand you will explore how to develop a vision for CPD in maths in your school by looking at what makes for a professional learning community, how we learn as adults and what are some of the features of effective CPD. You will look at who you need to involve in the maths CPD and whether one size fits all.  Finally you will investigate how the maths CPD policy relates to the whole school CPD policy and where the maths CPD policy fits into the whole school management systems.

When you have finished this strand you will:

  • know how your school rates as a professional learning community
  • understand how we learn as adults
  • understand the features of effective CPD
  • be aware of who to involve in maths CPD and the type of CPD that suits different colleagues
  • have a clear idea of how your maths CPD plans fit into the big picture of whole school development.

What do I believe makes for effective CPD?

In order to address this we will look at three key questions:

  • what are the features of a professional learning community?
  • how do we learn as adults?
  • what are some of the features of effective CPD?

What are the features of a professional learning community?

Definition of a professional learning community:
‘A professional learning community is an inclusive group of people, motivated by a shared learning vision, who support and work with each other, finding ways inside and outside their immediate community to enquire on their practice and together learn new and better approaches that will enhance all pupils’ learning.’

This definition comes from an article entitled ‘What is a Professional Learning Community?’ In the article Bolom, McMahon, Stoll, Thomas and Wallace (2005) assert there are eight key features that characterise an effective professional learning community (EPLC). These are:

  • shared values and vision
  • collective responsibility for pupils’ learning
  • collaboration focused on learning
  • individual and collective professional learning
  • reflective professional enquiry
  • openness, networks and partnerships
  • inclusive membership
  • mutual trust, respect and support.

Take some time to explore how embedded each of these features are in your school.
How can you find out? Who will you ask?

Have a go at placing your school on this spectrum for each of these characteristics and then discuss your ideas with someone else in the school, perhaps a member of the SLT.

The article is part of a big research project Creating and sustaining effective professional learning communities.
The project studied the development of effective professional learning communities in schools. The research was co-sponsored by the GTCE, DfES and National College for School Leadership (NCSL). It was carried out by a research team comprising the Universities of Bristol and Bath, and the Institute of Education between 2002 and 2005. Practical materials, based on the project's findings, have also been developed: you can access these and read more abou tthe project on the project website

An article from the website that will help you further your thinking on professional learning communities is entitled ‘Creating and sustaining an effective professional learning community’. Reading this article will help you with the question - what do you think would be the next step to take to develop your school further as a professional learning community?

Download the latest version of Adobe Flash to listen to this resource.

Choose some colleagues to talk to about their understanding and experiences of a professional learning community and how you might develop one further in your school. 
You might like to talk with Math Subject Leaders from different schools or members of your own SLT.

How does the professional learning community status of your school impact on CPD for mathematics?
Your answer to this will depend on your vision for CPD in mathematics and what you believe to be an effective model.

If you would like to explore the idea of a professional learning community further, there is a microsite, Professional Learning.

How do we learn as adults?
Think about something you are engaged in learning at the moment, outside the classroom.
This might be a sport, a hobby, a foreign language, cooking and so forth.
What works well for you as a learning strategy?
Jot down your thoughts.
Is this the same/different to others who are learning this with you or who you know are learning elsewhere?

Ask some colleagues about their recent learning outside the classroom and build up a picture of how we learn as adults.

Compare what you have discovered with the list from Judith Tolhurst in her book Coaching for Schools:

I learn best by:

  • researching on my own
  • trying things out practically
  • listening to people who have experience
  • watching demonstrations
  • reading about the subject
  • with support one to one
  • watching a video
  • working in a pair.

Do you agree with her list? Do you want to add to her list? Reflect on how this will influence how you lead CPD in mathematics.

The theme of adult learning is taken up in Facilitating effective professional development and change in subject leaders by Professor Roger Murphy, Centre for Developing and Evaluating Lifelong Learning, School of Education, University of Nottingham.

Download the latest version of Adobe Flash to listen to this resource.

Professor Murphy is writing in 2002 and concentrates on exploring what we know about adult learning and how this knowledge could inform the design of an effective CPD programme for teaching professionals.

Key points Professor Murphy highlights are:

  • effective facilitation of adult learning will engage the whole person and make good use of their wider interests, enthusiasms, misapprehensions and experiences.
  • CPD will recognise the very busy nature of their everyday lives and the  need to get individuals into a physical and emotional space where they can engage in effective learning.
  • effective CPD for adults will engage their interests, their needs and their energy in a way that brings them into a highly participatory active process.
  • CPD needs to relate directly back to their day-to-day work.
  • we know that learners learn most when they feel valued by themselves, those they are learning alongside and by whoever is facilitating their learning.
  • much hinges on the creation of an appropriate ‘learning climate’.
  • so even though we all learn in different ways, in different context and at different times, clever facilitators will find ways to help us all optimise our own individual learning. One of the ways to do this is to let us draw upon our own experiences and take some personal responsibility for how we are going to organise and progress our own individual learning.
  • CPD needs to be grounded in the reality of trying things out in their normal place of work, rather than allowing CPD to become a learning process which is divorced from everyday professional life.
  • build in frequent goal setting, reflection, reviews of progress and constructive feedback. Make sure that successes are celebrated, and as far as possible make the programme enjoyable as well as hard work.

How does this fit with what you believe about adult learning and your findings in the activity above?

Who would be good to discuss your ideas with?
Find another subject leader or member of the SLT.
Discuss your thoughts on how adults learn.
How does this influence how you might organise CPD in mathematics?

What are the features of effective CPD?
Try and arrange for 15 minutes for this activity at a staff meeting.
Ask colleagues to talk in pairs about an effective piece of CPD that they remember.
Ask them to reflect on what it was about it that they felt made it effective for them.
It might be relevance, timing, length, presentation, engagement ………?........?
Take ideas from pairs on the flipchart and see if together you can see any common themes.

Looking at some research – the RECME project
RECME stands for Researching Effective CPD in Mathematics Education, and was set up under the umbrella of the NCETM. The overarching aim of RECME was to provide advice, guidance and recommendations for the NCETM, in order to inform future plans and to point to the types of evidence that could demonstrate that continuing professional development (CPD) is informing teachers’ practice
and students’ learning.

The specific aims of the project were:

  • Aim 1: To characterise different types of continuing professional development for teachers of mathematics (to include both formal and informal experiences);
  • Aim 2: To investigate the interrelated factors that contribute to effective CPD for teachers of mathematics;
  • Aim 3: To investigate evidence of effective CPD for teachers of mathematics;
  • Aim 4: To establish the roles of research in professional development for teachers of mathematics;
  • Aim 5: To investigate the influence of the NCETM portal on professional development for teachers of mathematics.

Focus on some of the findings
Characterising the landscape of professional development for teachers of mathematics
The initiatives fell into three categories:

  • courses – those initiatives having a number of meetings, defined intended participant learning (although this could range from quite specific to very broad), and clear leadership in terms of a course tutor or leader. The majority of the courses offered optional accreditation from a Higher Education Institute at post graduate level;
  • within-school initiatives – where all participants came from the same school. One of these offered optional accreditation;
  • networks – meetings for groups of teachers from different schools or colleges who gathered to provide mutual support for one another. The material the participants engaged with was largely chosen to address the interests and concerns of the participants as developed over time. None of these led to accreditation.

How do these three categories fit with your own experience of CPD? Would you want to add another category or adapt one of the three in the RECME report?
How do the categories fit with the outcomes of the activity at the beginning of this section?

More from the RECME report
Factors that contribute to effective CPD for teachers of mathematics – teachers’ views

  • Leadership
    Leadership of the CPD was identified by teachers as of key importance and they especially valued leaders with wide knowledge and understanding of current practice;
  • A practical approach
    Teachers valued practical advice that was directly applicable to the classroom, including resources and banks of resources that they could use with minimal adaptation. In many cases they valued having attention drawn to the use of practical equipment and ICT resources which support mathematical thinking and reasoning. They appreciated CPD that was grounded in classroom practice;
  • Stimulation, challenge and enjoyment
    Teachers valued CPD that was stimulating, enjoyable and challenging. Challenge within CPD was not a comfortable experience for some teachers; appropriate support from the CPD initiative was often provided;
  • Time
    Time was mentioned as a big issue for most participants and they valued the time that their involvement in the CPD initiative gave them to focus on their professional practice. This often involved release from the classroom, standing back from their day-to-day practice and reflecting on their practice;
  • Networking
    The opportunities for networking with colleagues from the same or different schools that involvement in CPD gave the teachers were highly valued. Teachers valued meeting colleagues with very similar work settings as well as appreciating opportunities to work with teachers from other phases or settings. They also emphasised the value of the incidental conversations that took place within CPD sessions.
How do these findings from the RECME research resonate with the views of your colleagues in the activity at the beginning of this section?
What do you now think are some of the key features of effective CPD?

The RECME final report and an executive summary are both available to download.

Download the latest version of Adobe Flash to listen to this resource.

Record in your Personal Learning Space your beliefs about what makes for effective CPD and any further questions you have.





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