Festival News: reflections on the CPD session with David Weston & Michael Watson.

Published: 1 October 2020
Molly Dolman & Stephen Betts (Learn Sheffield) reflect on a session by David Weston & Michael Watson about CPD and COVID which focused on adapting professional development flexibly in the current climate.
  • Molly Dolman (Learn Sheffield Project Officer):

CPD and Covid Write Up – Michael Watson and David Weston

Adapting professional development flexibly during the current climate

Michael began the session by highlighting what he believes to be two hidden dangers when it comes to both CPD and school development in general.

Being too reactionary – through no fault of our own, we’ve been in a ‘reactionary’ phase for about half a year now

Short termism – we’re hesitant to plan beyond a certain point as we don’t know where we’ll be in a couple of months

Michael explained the importance of us moving on from these approaches as opposed to them becoming a habit if they are not to impact on professional development in the future.

What can we do to address this?

Adaptation – to adapt to a new environment we first need to accept it, as opposed to fighting it. This can also save us time, as we may be able to adapt practices and systems that are already in place to fit in with the new circumstances.

Opportunity – Instead of responding with fear, responding with positivity and looking at opportunities that the current situation presents, we will be in a better position to tackle the issues that our current situation presents.

The purpose of CPD

Michael pointed out how important it is before engaging in any professional learning that we approach with the view of ‘which children will this help in my class’. This then helps to measure the impact of our professional learning.

How should we see CPD?

If we consider CPD as time, as opposed to an event, our definition of CPD can then be broadened to include things such as coaching, or joint planning for example.

Opportunity for online learning

We now have an opportunity to take advantage of the high quality online training that has become available throughout the pandemic. This gives a greater opportunity for differentiation of training and opportunities for training, for example, you could begin to give your staff a ‘menu’ of training available to them for them to choose from, thus giving them ownership of their professional development.

At school level

It’s important to recognise that the path we were originally on before COVID is closed to us for now, however that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the destination entirely. It is therefore important to start thinking of the long term, E.G. can the Recovery Curriculum be something that can influence the school ethos for years to come? The CPD that we input now could be part of that.

At classroom level

The way teachers operate in the classroom has changed drastically, for example not being able to move the children round each lesson based on their understanding. It would be easy to look at this as a reduction in opportunity, however this feeling of constraint is dangerous that will lead to a narrowing of actions, and therefore a narrowing of thought. It is therefore important to encourage teachers to see the opportunities that we have to further develop teaching practice. A practical way of countering this issue would be to encourage teachers to identify what they still have, and creative ways to work around the things that they don’t.

As teachers are going to be doing a lot of standing at the front delivering instructions, it’s important to improve the delivery of this at the beginning of lessons – teachers delivering this information and these lessons in an engaging and motivating way is more important than ever.

Key findings from research

David highlighted a few key findings from research about CPD in the current climate:

·         Don’t delay PD until it can be delivered face to face

·         Blend synchronous and asynchronous delivery

·         It is important to find ways to coach and mentor colleagues even when they are working online

·         Video is a particularly effective method of enabling PD

·         It is also important to include an interactive element, for example discussions or surveys

Thank you Michael and David for a really informative session!


  • Stephen Betts (Learn Sheffield CEO):

This was a really important session in relation to the development of a COVID Recovery Plan for Sheffield as it addresses one of the key development areas. We were delighted to be able to have David (Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust) and Michael (HT of Hunters Bar junior School) to deliver this session before the end of the festival as a starting point for this discussion.

Michael's opening rightly drew attention to the danger of forming the habit of short term reactive approaches. The need to accept our situation, adapt our existing approaches and look at the opportunities of the current situation. Michael's presentation took us back to key principles in thinking about and designing CPD.

David built on this by examining the research that is available to us. This included sveral of the themes that will infomr the COVID Recovery Plan - including the potential for a blend of synchronus and asynchronous approach which still maintains elements of coaching, mentoring and collaborative approaches to support professional reflection.      

This was a very thought provoking session which will influence how we develop support for professional development within the COVID Recovery Plan for the city.

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