3 essentials for teacher professional development

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   1 Comments   |  Posted on: Nov 18, 2014

teacher cpd


Teachers want professional development to be relevant, personalised and inspiring.

If you ask teachers form all around the world what they think professional development should be they pretty much agree on three things. It should be relevant, personalised and inspiring. There were lots of other words thrown into the mix when they were asked, 84 to be precise, but it came through loud and clear from those teachers talking on Twitter, that this was what they felt all CPD should be. (see #cpdin3words)

You know why that is

We’ve all been on workshops or seminars or staff briefings that left us wondering why we were there. Remember those occasions when you’ve thought, “What has this got to do with me? How does this related to my job? How can I ever implement this? How does this apply to my pupils, our school, the community?” Or the odd occasion when you’ve been bored to tears by some so-called ‘expert’ spouting about something you already do, something you have been doing for years and could probably do with one hand tied behind your back and a blindfold on? Or when you’ve watched a specialist who made you feel totally incompetent, lacking in confidence and wracked with self-doubt? We can all remember staff meetings which have been irrelevant, depersonalised and downright boring, can’t we?

Everyone wants to feel valued

Why wouldn’t you want professional development that is relevant, personalised and inspiring? Don’t we all want learning that matters to us; learning that interests you because it’s about you, and what you do, and is there to help you to be even better at what you do? Rather than learning that makes complete sense to one person in the front row, but is double Dutch to you?

That’s the crux of the matter isn’t it, the essential element that should drive all inset and training sessions – teacher professional development is to help you – not to hinder you, or to try to fix you, or to make you feed deficient or ill equipped. It’s there to help teachers to grow and develop and become even better than they are already.

Your mission should you accept it

So how do you as the person who stands up in front of all your peers do that? How can you make each and every teacher in front of you feel good about what they already know, what they can already do and what they will be capable of doing and becoming in the future?

How can you make every teacher in the room feel that your session of professional development is pertinent to him or her? How can you make those teachers feel safe, valued, supported, capable and inspired? How can you design your session to make the teachers in front of you feel good about the learning, good about themselves and good about you? How can you make sure that the next time you stand up in front of your colleagues, you give them exactly what they say they want – professional development which is relevant, personalised and inspiring.

Back to basics

Let’s start at the very beginning. You already have the tools and techniques to make learning relevant, personalised and inspiring – you do it every day with your pupils, but somehow when we get in front of our peers, all of that knowledge and expertise flies out the window. So think back to what you learned during your teacher training, what you already know about basic human needs. You remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; you remember what’s on the bottom level – physiological needs; food, water, a safe, warm and comfortable environment. What if you start planning your staff training sessions with fulfilling their basic needs? What if before you think about any content or activities you plan to make your staff feel safe, valued, cared for and catered for? What would you do differently from what you are doing already? Where would you hold your sessions? What time would you have your teacher training? What would you provide for the teachers? How long would the session be?

What can you do to make the teachers you are working with realise you care about them first and foremost? What can you do to make them realise that you are there to help them, to provide learning which is relevant to them and is not driven by content or convenience or ticking boxes, filling in timesheets or presenter’s ego and self-importance?


What can you do to make teacher professional development exactly what teachers are asking for? What can you do to make teachers want to be in your session, and more importantly want to come back for more? What can you do to make your sessions stand out from all the other boring sessions?

Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind’ – as a teacher educator, what’s the end in your mind? Is it paperwork or people? Is it to prove or improve? Is it to dictate or to facilitate?

One Comment to 3 essentials for teacher professional development

  1. Tim
    November 19, 2014 7:42 am

    I’ve read your article.


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