School is about education – right? Some people teaching stuff and others learning stuff. Sometimes its the teachers teaching and the students learning – but othertimes the situation is reveresed. Regardless, school is about teaching and learning.
It’s our core business and schools jostle for their “USP” – unique selling point – the “what makes my school better than yours” – but in the most base form, all schools want to transfer knowledge and skills for the empowerment of both parties.
Phew — sounded like a mission statement.
But, if that is the defining mission of schools, why are we so bad (in general) at applying it to ourselves? There can’t be a teacher out there that “rolls eyes and sighs” at the thought of a whole school INSET/CPD session. Why – we’re not against learning and empowerment. Most teachers, most of the time relish the opportunity to learn / practise a skill or acquire knowledge that will help them either teacher more effectively or to better meet the needs of their TLR’d position. So, where does it go wrong?
Top 5 INSET/CPD SNAFU’s
1. The Bad Lesson
I call the first SNAFU the “bad lesson” for the very reason that this SNAFU demonstrates exactly how not to teach. As teachers we spend a considerable amount of time planning interesting interventions and methods of delivering content.
Why then at the first smelling of INSET do we fall back into one of 2 fatal errors:
- We sit and listen to a presenter reading out from a prepared set of slides – literally reading every word on the slide, whilst we sit in rows absorbing the information. Possibly there will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end – but people wont want to acknowledge that they “don’t get it” or they “disagree” that very few people expose themselves in a public forumOR
- We break into small groups to discuss an idea, write it onto A3 paper and share it with the group. If you’re lucky the groups are cross departmental. But at the end of the session, we’ll tell you want we wanted you to know in the first place — rendering the whole exercise of discussion irrelevant.
2. The Poor Discussion
The second SNAFU is the CPD/INSET where an idea is up for discussion and the staff are asked for input. This often starts with “the bad lesson” and breaks into an extended “group discussion” – but at it’s heart is an idea such as “restructuring the school day” that you are to discuss and feedback upon.
This falls flat for a number of reasons:
- From past experiences, you know that there is a “correct” answer somewhere and that at the end of the process you will be told what it is, thus rendering the discussion irrelevant.
- It takes a very brave professional to actually raise a really controversial issue in public forum – hence the input tends to be bland and self confirmatory
- The same staff raise the same issues in the same manner every time
3. The Pseudo Problem
You all know what’s holding your school back – as a staff the issues and foibles of your school, learners and management are openly discussed in the staff room, department meetings and “down the pub” – but wait, the whole school INSET is on “which uniform should we choose”.
What makes the “Pseudo Problem” worse is that it is compounded with the “Bad Lesson” and the “Poor Discussion” — you are forced to sit, listen and discuss something very tangential to the success of the learning.
4. The Knee Jerk
Familiar to those in a school where results have not gone as expected, or where the Maths and English contribution to the CSI is less favourable than it could be.
Again, compounded by 1,2 and 3
5. The Personal Crusade
All heads want to make an impact – by definition I suppose that is why they wanted the role in the first place. But some times it can be very opaque as to the impact of an initiative on the overall success of a school. For example discussing alternative pathways and extending the provision of a school, when what you currently deliver is not working as it should. Ditto uniform, ditto canteen — and ditto initiatives such as learning walks.
If there can be said to be a solution to this, it starts with dialogue and the acceptance that CPD/INSET is a two way road. For sure, there is that knowledge and information that needs to be passed on and there are those initiatives that SLT want to enact so as to move the school forward — but what about what you, the classroom teacher — what do you want and more importantly HOW do you want it?
- Let’s make CPD / INSET a team effort, so that everyone BRINGS something to the table and everyone TAKES something away
- Let’s FLIP CPD when we can — information that can be read / listened to / watched – make available — after all we are flipping the class room, why not flip INSET and CPD
- Let’s have a genuine dialogue about what is needed to improve the teaching and learning in schools – not just rolling out another initiative — surely that’s adding to an already strained / broken system.
- Finally and most importantly – let’s listen to our stakeholders and how CPD / INSET happens, after all we have STUDENT VOICE — why not implement a STAFF VOICE.