How a personalised approach to CPD can help you reach your teaching goals

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important part of the school calendar. Our college, Newham Collegiate Sixth schedules a number of after-school sessions through the year, part of an excellent, targeted CPD programme. To supplement these sessions in 2017/2018, the college introduced professional coaching, just one element of its Roadmap to rigour programme to drive forward teaching and learning and student outcomes. This moves the programme away from the more traditional model of CPD delivering pedagogical theory and practice by PowerPoint to a room full of teachers. Instead it offers a personalised approach, with frequent opportunities for feedback and learning.

A picture of a silver whistle hanging on a blackboard

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All members of staff, from NQTs to the college principal, have a 15-minute coaching session every week in a non-teaching period – it’s a protected time slot in the timetable. It is completely confidential, non-judgemental and teacher led. In the first year a team of experienced teacher coaches each worked with one or two teachers. This year, it has changed: one coach for all staff members. Our coach, Adele has more than 20 years’ teaching experience and does not have a teaching timetable.

Feedback and reflection

During a coaching session teachers are encouraged to reflect on their teaching practice; for example, using high-end questioning to stretch most able learners. Adele guides and prompts discussion and will occasionally input with suggestions, but ultimately, it is the person being coached who develops their own CPD plan. During the week, the teacher practises ideas from their session and chooses 15 minutes of a lesson, for Adele to observe, to see the development in technique. In the next week’s session, she feeds back and the teacher reflects on how the lesson went. The teacher leads and directs the focus of the sessions – the same area of pedagogy can be the session for a half term, a term or more.

The original purpose of coaching was for staff to receive one-to-one feedback on an aspect of pedagogy they identified. It has since become more than that. In addition to pedagogy, coaching now provides opportunities for colleagues to:

  • review department level policy;
  • discuss skills fundamental to their role as a learning leader;
  • tackle wellbeing issues; and
  • evaluate career plans and objectives.

And it is still evolving. Some members of staff now have longer sessions less frequently and have been given longer projects to improve outcomes in their subjects. NQTs and staff with new responsibilities have continued with weekly coaching sessions.

Can coaching work for your school?

Implementing a whole-staff coaching programme requires fundamental rethinking of the CPD programme. Is it fit for purpose? Is it suitably differentiated for all staff? Are staff receiving support in appropriate areas?

If adopting a coaching programme wholesale is not appropriate, a buddy system may work instead and can be initiated informally. Staff can buddy with teachers from different departments. Adopting the same 15-minute sessions, buddies can discuss lessons and practice in a non-judgemental way, as well as observe each other’s lessons and feed back.

In control

Staff speak highly of the coaching in staffroom chats and are sad if they have to miss their slot. I have not heard any staffroom complaints about being too busy for coaching. The key message from the feedback has been that: ‘you get out what you put in’. The opportunity to take control of our own CPD and development as professionals makes us feel the college values us. There is an infectious culture of growth mindset and a drive to get the best possible outcomes from the students.

As a new head of department I have used my sessions to rehearse departmental meetings and seek support and guidance with the new challenges the role presents. I feel that coaching has mitigated stress, and I am far more confident in my role as a result of discussing my worries confidentially with an experienced teacher. I’m sure that coaching has contributed to student outcomes in the chemistry department and improved the quality of teaching and learning.