Creating an Effective Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Framework

Published On: 31 May 2024

In every school, there are always competing professional development priorities vying for our attention. Whether it’s improving teaching and learning, ensuring high-quality provision for additional needs and disabilities, exploring ways to improve staff and student well-being, or addressing behaviour, educators are on a continuous journey of reflection, evaluation and development across various aspects of school life.

Challenges around planning and delivering effective CPD

By trying to address multiple areas for professional development, we can sometimes end up taking on too much in one go and approaching professional development in a fragmented, disjointed way. Pertinent issues can move up and down the professional development agenda in response to external, real-time factors. For example, we may need to respond swiftly to feedback from external moderators, or put training in as a result of new governmental initiatives. While a degree of flexibility is essential, a predominantly ad-hoc approach can limit impact and place undue stress on staff to absorb and implement new ideas and thinking.

There is also sometimes a misalignment between leaders’ and teachers’ priorities, especially in instances where communication and collaboration across staff teams is limited. When leaders have sole responsibility for deciding professional development opportunities, staff can sometimes feel like their voices are not being heard, and any continuous professional development can feel as though it is being done ‘to’ them, rather than ‘with’ them. This can have wider ramifications for staff well-being, recruitment and retention.

Of course, school life is multi-faceted, and we cannot underestimate the challenge of juggling equally important focus areas. All aspects of the educational ecosystem are inextricably linked, making it difficult to balance what is urgent with what is important. This can create friction and can sometimes leave staff feeling that their needs are not being addressed.

Benefits of a structured CPD framework

Because of the potential pitfalls that professional development planning can present, we need to explore how to take a measured, well-considered approach that results in a clear but flexible framework. Creating a coherent structure enables us to allocate often-stretched budgets wisely, maximise the efficacy of any professional development, and positively influence outcomes for staff, students, and the wider school community.

An effective CPD framework means that senior leaders can equip their teams with the skills, knowledge and understanding required to perform optimally in their roles; teachers and support staff feel valued and engaged, and can confidently and consistently deliver practice that elicits the best outcomes for their students, socially, emotionally and academically; and children and young people can grow and thrive in a supportive environment that is designed to meet their unique needs.

Practical ways to plan effective CPD

So with so much to be gained, how can schools create an effective CPD framework that delivers lasting change and empowers every member of the school community?

1. Be clear about the ‘why’

We all respond better to training and development when we have a clear understanding of why we are doing it. Often, given the busy nature of school environments, coupled with ongoing internal and external pressures, we can forget to be explicit about why we do what we do. Of course, we need to set out very clear expectations around what our approach is, and how we can best support students and each other, but we also need to very clear about why this matters.

2. Create ongoing opportunities for professional development

CPD is, by its very definition, an ongoing process rather than a one-off event. Whether at organisational, classroom or individual level, we need to consider how we can create systematic, regular opportunities to implement training and development, review its impact, and look at ways to develop further. To do this, we can gather feedback from all staff, seeking ways to collate evidence in ways that are authentic and purposeful.

We can build on typical models of training days and lesson observations, and facilitate open, honest discussions at regular intervals. When we are joined by new staff, we need to ensure that they are quickly inducted into our methodology and are provided with appropriate and timely training to ensure consistency of approach.

3. Encourage joint ownership of CPD framework

Schools are often hierarchical organisations. Clear roles, responsibilities and reporting channels help ensure the smooth running of what can often be an incredibly complex machine.

However, there can sometimes be an assumption that senior leaders are the most expert at staff development, and are therefore the right people to plan and direct effective CPD. In reality, because of their leadership responsibilities, they may not always be at the forefront of everyday practice across a setting.

Encouraging an approach that incorporates a range of perspectives and puts staff ‘in the driving seat’ of their own professional development increases their sense of agency and autonomy. When we hand over ownership of a process, we can increase levels of buy-in and commitment, something which has the potential to positively impact retention levels.

4. Facilitate reflective practice across every level

Giving staff the time and space to reflect on their practice enables them to identify what is working well and what could be developed further. Senior leaders may not need to be directly involved. Instead, staff may want to organise a 360-degree discussion with a colleague or invite a team member into their class to observe them in a supportive, low-stakes way.

Afterwards, they can discuss their practice, analysing their own qualities and competencies, and consider steps towards further improvement. The outcome of these conversations could then be shared with leadership, to agree a way forward. This also gives staff in senior positions the opportunity to recognise and celebrate their team members’ successes.

5. Set out clear parameters

Effective continuing professional development has got to have lasting impact in the classroom, the school, and beyond, so we need to establish clear parameters and expectations. Only then, is it possible to hold ourselves and others to account. We can agree to collaborate on the CPD content and coverage; we can set out manageable, but ambitious timelines; and we can incorporate a robust review and refresh cycle to evaluate progress. We can set up clear communication channels and ensure that we respond in an appropriate and timely manner to any feedback from leaders and staff.

CPD at the heart of staff well-being and retention

Few would disagree that the educational landscape is challenging right now, so this is an important time to invest in our staff teams. We need to ensure they feel valued and listened to and frame any professional development as an opportunity for growth and learning. After all, as the eminent educationalist Dylan Wiliam says,

“If we create a culture where every teacher feels they need to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.”

By investing in needs-led, high-quality CPD opportunities that are structured but that allow us to respond swiftly to need, we increase the chances of retaining excellent, committed staff, improving well-being for all, and ultimately transforming outcomes for our children and young people.

If you’d like to talk to us about your needs when it comes to supporting behaviour in your setting, please get in touch any time.