Continuing Professional Development for New Teachers
As a student teacher, much of your professional development is directed for you. As a newly qualified teacher, you will still receive some level of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to support your year but as you also have more freedom to plan your own and identify your needs. We have already discussed the need to be more reflective and independent and CPD forms an important part of this process. Taking ownership of your own CPD is in an important part of your development early in your career and beyond. Forming effective habits now in making use of purposeful CPD can be carried throughout your teaching career.
We often think of CPD as being a session, INSET or ‘course’ but there is so much more. In this article, Lead Educator, Ellie Overland, explores some of the different CPD opportunities. The list here is by no means exhaustive and you may have plenty more ideas for CPD opportunities yourself.
As Greg discussed in the previous video, observation is a particularly important activity to engage with as a new teacher. You will receive a small number of formal observations during your year as a newly qualified teacher but opportunities to engage in observation as a development tool are varied. Observation is not ‘signposted’ in the same way as when you were a student teacher so you may have to be proactive in identifying observation opportunities but it will be a rewarding venture.
Observing more experienced colleagues is an obvious starting point. If you are new to the school and not used to the systems and culture of the school it is useful to observe colleagues early on – it is far more useful to see it in action rather than read policy documents. This may be useful if you are finding particular groups of children challenging or implementing some different strategies. Thinking back to your work on your ‘teacher identity’, observation can make a huge contribution to this process. Observing colleagues who present themselves in ways that resonate with you can help you become the teacher you would like to be. Unpicking what it is they actually do, how they resent themselves, how the children respond etc can help you develop. Prior to observing colleagues it is important to think carefully about what you want to focus on. Attention to detail in small, focused ways is more useful than a more general overview. Also, don’t feel you need to observe full lessons, just the start or end may give you all you need.
If you are in a school with other early career teachers it can also be useful to work together with them on observation. Peer observation can feel less uncomfortable than observing more experienced colleagues as follow up conversations can be more open and explorative. Exploring a classroom strategy together can also be a useful process and we will revisit this later on under the ‘action research’ section.
As you develop experience you may well start observing colleagues as part of their CPD too. Many schools have open door policies and encourage staff to collaborate and visit each other’s’ classrooms. You may find this process is formalised as part of a quality assurance policy. As Greg previously mentioned in the video, you may also find yourself observing trainee teachers. Although you will not be ready to mentor them yet, it is a good starting point and can be developmental for them and you. Giving feedback on lessons initially can be quite difficult and you may feel like a bit of an imposter. Try not to, and remember, even if the staff are highly experienced, they may feel anxious about your feedback and will value what you say. Plan this carefully, think about what your focus is and think of it more as a conversation rather than a one way process. There is lots written on lesson observation feedback and it is also useful to think back to those who have observed you – who gave the most constructive feedback and how did they do it. Long term, you may want to be a mentor yourself so engaging in learning conversations from early in your career is useful.
Directed CPD Sessions
As a newly qualified teacher you may find your school, trust or local authority put on specific CPD for you. These will be useful and you must attend. Some of it may feel repetitive as you may feel you have covered much of it as a student teacher but you will take different things from the sessions. A session on data feels very different when you are the one now responsible for the data of your pupils! These sessions are also a useful opportunity to meet colleagues with different responsibilities and to have a catch up with others at the same stage of their career as you.
Aside from the generic provision, you may feel there are specific sessions you need. Speak to your mentor about this as they may be able to develop provision within school. You will also find external providers who offer sessions on specific things For example examination boards may offer sessions on assessments within the qualifications you are delivering. Teaching unions also offer a range of CPD for new teachers. Before you apply to attend an external CPD session think carefully about how essential it is and if there are any alternatives. Paying for the CPD and covering classes in your absence is an expensive process so Headteachers can be reluctant to support such activities. It is also worth considering online CPD. Many remote courses and CPD opportunities have been developed online (there are many teaching related courses to choose from within the Futurelearn platform). If you do find an online course that would be useful ensure you give yourself time to complete it and that it forms a recognised part of your development.
For some new teachers they are happy to continue their studies alongside their teaching. If you have completed a PGCE you may find your credits will ‘carry over’ to your Masters’ level degree and there are courses designed to allow new teachers to do this. Speak to your local University provider and they will be able to give you more details. At Manchester Metropolitan we offer the MTeach specifically for early career teachers and then MAs in a range of specialist areas including SEND, early years, leadership and management and STEM. PGCE credits remain valid for 5 years so you can join the courses at any time early in your teaching career.
The ‘Early Careers Framework’ is in pilot stage during 2020-2021 in England with wider roll out the following year. This is designed specifically for newly qualified teachers to extend the support newly qualified teachers receive and provide additional study and guidance. Further details have been released by the Department for Education and you can identify if your school is eligible to take part on the website.
When discussing CPD it is easy to forget one of the most accessible forms is via reading. This could be online content, publications or books. Using social media allows you to keep up to date in your areas of interest. Education publications such as the TES of Education Guardian will keep you updated with the latest news and events in education. Signing up to publishers will give you regular updates on the latest publications and you can often ask for inspection copies if they are books you may want to go on and use in your teaching. A few suggestions are listed here but please add any further ideas to the comments.
Membership of professional bodies or networks
The Chartered College is a particularly useful professional body and they provide a wealth of information and CPD for early career teachers. Your school may already be an institutional member but if not there are reduced rates for new teachers. It is a useful way to keep in touch with the latest policy developments and research in education in a timely way.
You will also find a wealth of subject associations and organisations for you own age groups or special interest areas. It is useful discussing these with colleagues to find which they have found most useful or best value for money. Those that hold local events or networks are often a great opportunity to work with colleagues locally in other schools.
Action research in the classroom
As a student teacher, you may have found yourself with a number of assignments directing you to reading, research or investigation in your own classroom. Unless you continue with further study, there is no formal requirement to continue with this type of work but the most successful teachers continue to explore new ideas throughout their careers. Education is always evolving. That said, you will find time precious and you may not want to spend a long time trawling through long academic papers. Two organisations that provide useful summaries of ongoing research in education are the EEF and the Sutton Trust. There are many more so please feel free to add any you find useful to the comments.
By keeping in touch with the latest research and ideas, it allows you to make informed choices about activity and strategies to try in your own practice. This is a really useful process to try collaboratively with colleagues in your school (there may an existing action research group you can join – or even start one yourself!). It also gives you a sense of autonomy over your practice and is an important part of your new freedom as a new teacher. You have probably been carrying out a range of action research in the classroom already without even realising it and it does not have to be a formalised process. A quick guide to it is here. The important thing is to share your findings (especially if they don’t work!) with colleagues. Before long you may well be the person leading CPD opportunities yourself!
A quick guide to action research in your classroom can be found here.