Professional Development Questions

At our inset day on 23rd October I spoke about each of us creating a professional development question to provide a framework for our thinking and development over the coming months (in one defined area at least). The rationale behind this is to try and make our CPD more effective by bringing it into the classroom and therefore closer to our daily practice. 

I recently read a paper by Peter Cole on the pitfalls and problems associated with teachers’ professional development. You can read the whole paper here if you’re interested, but essentially it’s based around 10 key contentions which he goes on to discuss. In my view, the four most interesting of these to us as a school are:

2. what we understand as ‘professional development’ needs to be broadened…

4. the place for most authentic teacher learning is the school…

7. generally it is teams, not individuals, who change schools…

10. development plans need to be practical, action-focused and time bound.

In this paper, Cole argues that “A reconceptualisation of professional development and a consequential change of practice in relation to professional learning are needed in order to redress some common misconceptions about what professional development is.”. He is clear that we need to look beyond costly and time-consuming day conferences towards a more continuous and integrated model of teacher learning.

Our professional development questions are a step towards achieving this as they will provide a vehicle for reflection, professional discussions and engagement with research. If you attended the day you will recall this slide which illustrated this and gave some examples of the types of question you might create:

PDQ Slide

Some guidance on creating an effective PDQ

  • Choose a small and easily defined area (a class, a skill, a section of a particular course).
  • Speak to other people in your department: how do different questions complement or cross over with one another?
  • Start by thinking about what you want to achieve.
  • Consider the types of approaches you might use to achieve your aims (perhaps something you picked up on the training days).
  • Make sure the impact is something you can measure, if possible using a range of methods (observations, assessment results, pupil questionnaire/interview).

I will be asking us all to submit our chosen questions soon. This is as much for interest as anything else, but I will also publish this information so that you can all look across the range of questions and start to find areas in which you might collaborate with others.

Final outcomes!

The aim is to make sure that, throughout the course of the year, everybody shares something with their colleagues. It’s up to you how you go about this, but it could involve:

  • making a contribution to this blog,
  • making a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Newsletter,
  • providing departmental or whole school training during meetings and insets,
  • sharing a collection of footage using IRIS,
  • writing a review of research for the blog or newsletter.

All those who have shared their learning by May 9th stand a chance of winning a place at the Festival of Education this year. Initial details have just been released (here) and the event is due to take place on 23-24th June. No matter what the final programme looks like, this is sure to be a fantastic experience.


I’m really excited to see the kinds of outcomes and discussions which these questions help to generate.

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