Seven tips for Professional Development (without a training course in sight!)

Published in TES 2nd April 2021

Teacher CPD: 7 ways to boost your skills without going on a training course

In all the interviews I have conducted in my time as a headteacher, I always ask candidates about their Professional Development and how it has impacted their practice. Without fail, nine out of ten will reference a recent training course. 

While there’s nothing wrong with that answer of course, I like to see examples of times when teachers are being proactive in seeking out their own ways to develop their professional skill sets too.

There are plenty of ways it can be done – here are seven that can help get you started.

  1. Read! Listen! Watch!

From books to blogs, podcasts to audiobooks, there is a wealth of learning material available to teachers. If you have no time to read full books, then short articles online are a great way of gaining insights into a specialist area, widen your experience or simply understand an issue from a different perspective.   

Of course everyone is busy and reading widely is not always possible – this is where podcasts and audiobooks are a great professional development tool which allows for multitasking, meaning listeners can use their time much more efficiently. 

Try finding one to listen to on the commute to work, for your next jog or to keep you entertained while cooking.

  1. Start a research project or initiative within your school

Although you would need permission from your Senior Leadership Team for a new classroom project, most forward thinking SLTs would welcome something of this nature. 

Beginning a research project or starting an initiative within your school will provoke your creative spark, open up relationships within the school team and hone your leadership experience. 

You could also publish your findings, helping you cultivate a well rounded resume which highlights your hands on experience as well as showcases your leadership with concrete evidence.    

  1. Find a mentor or coach

Many experienced school leaders have a ‘pay it forward’ mentality, meaning they would gratefully mentor and coach a colleague for free in an informal manner, while many coaches need clients in order to qualify for coaching qualifications. 

There are opportunities out there to build connections, so have a look online or within your existing network. 

Alternatively you might gain some insight from following a prominent leadership coach on social media or you could even consider paying for a professional coach.

  1. Build connections

The motivational speaker Jim Rohn coined a famous saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If he is to be believed, then it’s essential that we learn to keep good company. 

Start by evaluating your professional networks. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram can open up a wealth of connections that allow the possibility for engaging conversations and opportunities.

You may not hit it off 100% of the time but engaging the right sort of connections in conversation can help open up new avenues for you career and professional development that may lead to all kinds of benefits you can talk about. 

  1. Lead development for others

There is no better way to learn yourself than to teach others. We have probably all used this technique in the classroom, but don’t always follow our own advice. Volunteer to be a mentor. 

Ask if you can lead a CPD twilight course, or assist another leader in delivering training. Step up and help yourself by helping others.

  1. Write articles of interest

Writing will make you think about interesting topics more deeply and give you an opportunity to learn while you write. You can write about anything that interests you or ignites your curiosity. Not all of your writing needs to be published, but if you want to have a place to collect your articles then you can start your own blog for free and with next to zero IT knowledge. This can then be shared on your Linkedin profile or shared using social media.  

  1. Complete a 360 evaluation

A 360 evaluation can increase your self awareness, giving you a more balanced view of your own performance and uncover ‘blind spots’ you might not have noticed.

 To do a 360 evaluation, you could find a free version online and ask trusted colleagues to complete it for you, or you could construct your own using Google Forms.  

There is a common thread within all these tips: when it comes to Professional Development drive it yourself. 

There will always be a place for training courses, but teachers need to be learners in the widest sense. That means being active with your own development, adopting a spirit of active inquiry, open reflection and ownership. 

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