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Putting CPD theory into practice

Turning theory into practice has allowed Alisdair Cain to reap the benefits from his CPD experiences.

History Teacher, Grove Academy, Dundee

One question hung over my head at the start of my induction year (and even before it): "How are you meant to fill 0.3 of your timetable every week with CPD?"

When you don't know anything about CPD, other than the acronym, it can be a daunting prospect.

What exactly is CPD? 

The first thing to know about CPD is that it isn't just about going on courses (though that can be a great part of it) or staying in after school and being Powerpointed at.

CPD can happen at any point in your timetable in a number of different ways. For example, in my induction year, I:

  • helped out in the Support for Learning Department
  • acted as a classroom assistant with a busy S1 class
  • shadowed some of my classes for an afternoon around the school
  • shadowed other members of staff

Your school will have a great bank of resources in your colleagues and whether it's for an observation or a quick chat in the staffroom about "How do you deal with..?" most of them should be keen to help you out.

Putting theory into practice

The big thing about CPD isn't what you do for CPD, but how you use it. How has it affected your classroom practice? What have you learned from the CPD that you can use in your teaching?

For some experiences, such as shadowing, it was a little phrase, a manner of speaking, or a way of organising the class where I could watch it and say "That just works! Why didn't I think of that? 

On one of our in-set days, our department were talked through assessment standards and guidelines for Standard Grade. It taught me a lot about meeting the requirements of the course, marking professionally and consistently. Not exactly the stuff to thrill and inspire, but it was an hour and a half that I've referred to again and again.

Because it was just a small group of us we were able to ask questions, talk things through and make sure that we understood what we were being told. We were involved and engaged in the activity, just like you would want your classes to be. That's good CPD.

Reaping the benefits

My local authority has put on a lot of CPD covering professional responsibilities (how to not be fired), using your voice effectively and safely, using formative assessment techniques, and other hot topics and presented them to us in a number of different ways.

Make the most of your local authority CPD time; it can be a great chance not only to pick up some new skills or tricks, but also you get to mingle with other NQTs and discuss how you're getting on.

This year I've been on a time management course (and improved my preparation and classroom organisation).

I've taken steps towards learning Makoton, useful for teaching deaf, autistic or English-as-a-second-language pupils. I've spent time with other History teachers finding out some of the changing Standards for courses.

And, even better, for every course they lay out a bowl of fruit and a big plate of millionaire's shortbread.