CPD: is online better?


Most school staff prefer this way of learning, delivered by practitioners who are still actively working in education.

How often have you been sent on training, sitting in a conference room or hotel venue, pre-occupied by all the tasks that are waiting for you on return to work? Ever felt that professional support wasn’t really that supportive at all? What’s even more frustrating is that you’re an educational professional. Your expertise is learning. You know what effective learning looks like, what it feels like and this ‘training’, that is supposed to be supportive, just, isn’t! 

There’s more to effective professional support than training of course. When professional support is delivered by a skilled trainer, it can be transformative, inspirational and energising. In a profession infamous for high stress levels and unreasonable workloads, it can be very welcome – a break from the busy norm. The opposite is true too of course – no teacher has time for training that is not helpful or supportive. So, what does effective professional support look like from a training provider?

Here are some simple guidelines that the best CPD providers use to inform their training, and they have informed our own practice over the years we have worked in various settings. Effective CPD needs to be focused, and, when delivered on line, can support individual participants in ways that are more user-friendly than sitting in a room where you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.

Relate content to classroom reality
Teachers like their trainers to understand what they are going through. Few have felt supported or transformed by a complex theoretical model, however beautifully illustrated on a PowerPoint slide. On the other hand, a pithy and insightful anecdote, peppered with practical and realistic solutions hits the mark. Yet how often have we all endured sessions that lack practical application or fail to take into account what we are experiencing?

When we envisage a new session, we ask ourselves a few simple questions. What would we like to see and hear in this session? Who would be an ideal person to present this and what experience do they have to bring it alive? In short, how can we make this a supportive and positive experience for teachers? If we get this right we make a connection, we ensure that those seeking support feel like we’re all on the same side and all want the same outcomes.

Each session is unique 
Training should be a two-way active process, where those that are seeking support are active participants in their learning (in the same way that children should be in theirs), and those offering the support are able to actively listen and respond. This is not a passive process. As providers of online training, we firmly believe that the support we offer through training is most powerfully provided in live sessions – where every session, whilst planned, is unique. Our online participants are part of the process – rather than being subjected to a stale recording of someone else’s experience.

There is an on-going debate about the effectiveness of online vs in person professional development training sessions. When sessions are focussed and concise, (no more than 60-90 minutes), provided at times that are convenient, staff are more able to deeply engage and transfer the learning back into the classroom. It’s a cost effective and time-effective way to support the professional development of all staff. Most school staff say they prefer this model of learning, delivered by practitioners who are still actively working in education.

SEND Station
Author: SEND Station

SEND Station
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Thanks to SEND Station for their help with this article. SEND station provides online training support including short training sessions across SEND.

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