TM ECT Icons Presentation – Engaging with CPD beyond your school without getting overwhelmed.

Today I presented at TM ECT Icons. Rather than write a whole new post here I am going to make the PDF of the slides available to download and then copy and paste my notes right into the post below. Hope they can be of use!


Intro slide


To give you a brief overview my plan is to first make some suggestions of where you can find CPD resources.

Once I’ve introduced you to the treasure trove that is out there I’ll talk you through how to go about selecting what to engage with.

The next important bit is to consider how to apply what you have learned to your everyday practice because all too often that isn’t the case.

Finally we’ll talk about the importance of reflecting on your CPD and evaluating the impact it has had on your practice.


Gone are the days where CPD just meant rocking up to a course at a nice hotel with a nice lunch. In fact, I’ve not been to one of those since my first year of teaching. Whilst whole staff INSET days in the school hall are still very much a thing I don’t think they’re the core of what CPD is anymore.

I feel, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this, that CPD can be much more self-directed these days than it has been before. The growth of teacher social media, the rise (and to an extent now fall) of blogging, the range of webinars, conferences and other events available as well as books and podcasts means that you have so much at your fingertips!

The issue with this of course is that there is just too much out there to make the most of it all, but that’s fine. We don’t need to do it all! The important thing is finding what works for you.


Reading is a great way to engage with CPD and there is so much out there to choose from.

It’s very easy to feel like you need to read them all though, and you really don’t! Absolutely no one is (even if they’re giving that impression) and you won’t get anything meaningful from it if you do. We’ll come back later to how to pick what to read, for now I’ll just focus on what the options are.

For keeping up to date with what is going on in education in general you have publications such as TES. This is a good option for keeping up with national policy changes, trends etc.

For engaging with shorter pieces but rooted in research you might pick something like Impact from the Chartered College of Teaching, blogs from organisations like the Research Schools Network and Inner Drive or guidance reports and shorter summaries from the EEF. There are of course a number of teachers on Twitter who write very good blogs which are research informed.

Finally of course there are books. These will tend to be longer, more in depth and on a particular topic. There are lots of teacher authors out there now so you can read with confidence that they are based on not only research but practice too.


Whilst I mentioned earlier that one day courses are no longer the focus of CPD, that doesn’t mean that one off events aren’t to be bothered with.

There are a number of different types of events out there depending on what you are interested in. TeachMeet Icons who are responsible for today’s event also organise face to face events. Much like today you hear from a range of teachers talking about their experience and ideas. You may also hear about Teach Meet events organised by schools, networks or trusts where teachers typically share an idea for around 5 minutes. These can be great for hearing a wide range of ideas in a short period of time, but I will talk a bit later about the dangers of this if you aren’t careful.

Another example on screen is a Brew Ed event, these have gone quite during the pandemic of course but they are informal events, usually in a pub or similar venue with a range of talks by different teachers.

Finally there are events like ResearchEd. Started as a national conference the ResearchEd network has now grown to have lots of regional events. These tend to be very big events with a whole timetable of sessions to choose from. Many (or maybe even most, I’m not sure) are led by teachers, some by academics and researchers and others by those related to education in other ways. These events have so much to take in, so of course come with a warning in the same way as I mentioned before.


Over the last two or three years the selection of podcasts related to teaching has seen some real growth. Not only that but there’s live radio such as Teachers Talk Radio to check out too.

Depending on what you want to listen to there are interview formats, those with more than one host, some that are regular, others more sporadic and even some you can get involved with yourself.

Personally I find this great on my commute to work, but I balance them out with my non-teaching favourites too.


I think we’re really lucky to be teaching at a time where there is such a wide variety of choice and that CPD doesn’t need to mean a one day expensive course any more.

The main issue though, is how to pick what to engage with!


It would be very easy to get sucked into feeling as if you should read every book and blog, subscribe to every podcast and be at events every weekend but I can assure you that doing that would help your development and enjoyment far less than by making carefully considered selections.

So there are a number of lenses through which to select your CPD. Firstly there’s your current development goals. What are you currently working on? Has something been identified in an observation? Have you had a conversation with a colleague recently that had made you consider something? Is there a specific area of your practice you know you want to improve? Pick activities which are going to fit in with this.

Next is your aspirations. Do you have something in mind that you’d like to do in the future? Are you interested in a particular pathway or goal later in your career? It’s absolutely fine to tune into some of that now to help you find out a bit more.

Finally it is 100% ok just to engage with CPD activities out of general interest and enjoyment! It might be that you’re opening your eyes to different ideas, getting to hear from or meet different people or just having a chance to be generally a bit of an edu-geek.

It doesn’t especially matter why you’re picking specific CPD activities, as long as there is some reason other than feeling like you should or ticking a box to say you have.


Something I always mention whenever I am talking about CPD is that it should always equip you with the knowledge behind the strategy, not just the strategy itself.

What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t leave just with a list of great activities to try, you should know why those specific strategies are the ones you should try and what it is about them which makes them work. Now yes, of course this is more work not only for the presenter to explain but also for you to take on board but it really is necessary for making sure it has the desired impact in the classroom.


Now this is the reason that I say it’s important to know the why. Although it might feel great to leave an event buzzing with loads of new ideas, they may have been subject to leathal mutation. That is to say that it has been passed around from teacher to teacher, each time losing part of what made it effective in the first place.

As Zoe and Mark Enser write in their book the CPD curriculum all too often it is the case that The ‘what’ has been followed but without an understanding of the ‘why’ and so the strategy fails and becomes yet another tale of how CPD is a waste of a teachers time. 

They do also note the following ‘We do, of course, learn from experience. We work out – through trial and error – effective ways of teaching particular topics; … However we can sometimes be poor judges of what is working and what is not and even poorer judges of what might work better. … Experience alone may make us better at what we do, but it does not make us better at all that is possible. ‘


And just in case you aren’t convinced yet, the guidance report on Effective Professional Development from the Education Endowment Foundation says the same.

They state that effective professional development needs to build knowledge, motivate staff, develop teaching techniques and be embedded into practice.

Missing one or more of those elements can mean that CPD fails as either you don’t understand it or it doesn’t become part of your practice.


All this is of course no use if we don’t know how to go about applying it to our practice. As David Weston once said at a ResearchEd event I attended, and no doubt many times before or since, saying a conference (or CPD event) is great development is like saying a shopping trip is a good meal. It’s what you do when you come back that counts.


The steps I am going to talk about for applying what you have learned to your practice are slightly adapted from the pictured EEF report. The report was aimed at school leaders and whole school improvement but the steps make sense when applied to making changes in your own classroom.


We have dealt with the first part already, you’ve selected the right CPD for you so we are off to a good start!


The next thing is to remember that implementing something new to your practice is a process, not just a one off event. You won’t just go and put this new thing into your Monday period 1 lesson and boom problem solved! Think about when, where and with who you want to make this change. Even if it’s something you’d like to change for all year groups maybe just pick one class to start with.

Plan it into your lesson for the first time, remember its better to take things in small steps so break it down if you need to.


Here’s the key though. You need to monitor your progress and make changes over time. It’s more than possible that this will need adapting to suit you and your classes, it might be that you have to rethink how you go about it if it went wrong the first time, it might just be that it doesn’t feel quite right.

This is where it’s important to check the impact of the change you have made. It’s all well and good trying something new but you need to see if it’s had the effect you were after. Whether that is that your life has been made easier, students are remembering something better, can tackle a task better or are getting better test scores. You just need to be sure. So once you’ve been doing this new thing for a while, check out that it is working. If so, great! If not, make some changes. Just remember to refer back to what you learned in the first place so you aren’t behind one of those lethal mutations!

This is why it’s so important not to be trying too many new things at once. You’re just not going to be successful with them as you won’t keep all of the plates spinning.


There are different ways you might choose to reflect on your practice, just pick a way that works for you.

The process is reflection gives you a chance to really consider what you have learned, what is working, what isn’t and what your next steps are.

When I was training to teach I wrote blogs all the time reflecting on what I was learning and doing. I found it a really useful thing to do. I wasn’t bothered if anyone else read them but often they did and it was great when something I had written resonated with someone else.

You might discuss things with a colleague face to face or share your thoughts via social media. Both Twitter and Instagram are now very popular with teachers.

Finally you might like traditional pen and paper. I find there’s nothing like it for getting my thoughts down. In fact I’ve been working on a journal recently as I felt it was something missing on the teacher stationery market. I can’t wait to use it and for others to be able to get their hands on a copy.


So that’s it from me. My key messages to you are:

Don’t try and do everything, it’s much better to do less in more depth.

Remember you need to know the why, not just a list of activities to pop into your lesson.

Consider the application process, it won’t be instant.

Always monitor, evaluate, reflect and make changes.

 I hope something I’ve said today has been of interest/use, I’m happy to take questions – my contact details are on screen and I look forward to seeing the rest of the presentations!


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