Learn how to keep the ‘C’ in your CPD (continuous professional development) by choosing a direction based on your interests, with Mark Anderson.

I feel blessed to have become a teacher at the time I did. In the decades my career has spanned, I genuinely feel there has been a phenomenal shift in how we teach, learn, engage, connect and support each other within the profession. It has been led, in part, by the huge technological advances which have made the world a much smaller place. Our improved access to technology (and the speed at which that technology and infrastructure have advanced) means we have the resources of thousands of years of human development at our fingertips. The laptop upon which I’m writing this article, the phone in my pocket and the tablet on the chair next to me all have access to the world’s accumulated knowledge – and I can connect with people from around the globe in a heartbeat.

What’s changed?

If I think back to when I started teaching as an Early Career Teacher (ECT), despite having completed a four-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) and having gone through an induction process, professional learning (PL) and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) weren’t even uttered on any of my courses or subsequently in the staffroom. How times have changed!

Jump forward 25 years to 2021 and in my average working week, I’m teaching students online; multi-casting a show (such as the #CheckItOutShow) to multiple social media sites simultaneously; collaborating on documents and resources with colleagues in disparate geographies; delivering at conferences in foreign countries; sharing and helping teachers via Twitter and my blog; learning from others at free online events or from things shared on social media; accessing research from online libraries… None of these things were possible when I first started teaching!

How did I get here?

A significant part of where I am in my career today has been down to taking control of my own professional development. Whilst technology has played a large part, the most important element is the impetus and drive to get out there, push beyond the walls of opportunity in your own school, seek out ideas, professional challenges and develop your own Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Taking control of my PL and PD was sparked by being at a stage in my career where I wasn’t getting everything I needed from within my own school setting. Whilst I would still often learn from colleagues, my appetite for new learning, ideas and the opportunity to connect and learn from others in similar roles to me, was exceeded by what was available. Network meetings with colleagues in similar roles within my district were always helpful, but two hours, once a term, whilst useful, weren’t enough.

The important element of CPD, often missed, is the C – Continuing. By taking control of your development, you will ensure your PL isn’t just based upon a one-off session on an Inset day, but is continuous, reflective and ultimately more impactful.

Graphic for '10 Characteristics of Professional Learning that Shifts Practice'. The 10 characteristics listed in a ring around that central title are: 'Safe, Model, Action-orientated, Inquiry-based, Personalized, Learner-centred, Collaborative, Applicable, Goal-oriented, Purposeful'.

(c) Katie Martin, 2016

As shared in 2016 by Katie Martin, this graphic recognises the different characteristics of PL that can shift practice. I can see that, albeit by stumbling along, this is exactly what I did when I took control of my CPD. Exploring the opportunities available, I was amazed by what I found online. I discovered others who were blogging, sharing, creating YouTube resources and developing their PLNs on Twitter. They were also creating events called TeachMeets – for me, this was it, and it was perfect for me to do the same. I got to choose my priorities for professional learning and, upon reflection, included all the elements mentioned in Martin’s graphic aside. I signed up for Twitter and I started blogging; reflecting upon my own learning and sharing my successes and failures. This also enabled me to learn – and my PLN supported me to create goals and set targets on my own terms.

So what can you do?

Everyone’s journey is unique but there are several key things I did that may help you. They can help to propel your career, forge significant and helpful relationships with colleagues both locally, nationally and internationally – and much more besides.

  1. Firstly, if you haven’t done so already, get a Twitter account. I’ve long shared that Twitter is the best staffroom in the world!
  2. Secondly, share – and give credit if someone has inspired what you’re sharing. It could be how great your lesson has been, or the impact a book you’ve read has had, your class, their results – it could even just be a technique, app or tool you’ve found that has helped you. You can share in several ways, e.g. by starting a blog or podcast, creating your own Instagram account or volunteering to speak at an event like #LearnLiveUAE.
  3. Thirdly, get involved. Initiatives such as #FFBWednesday or #TinyVoiceTalks on Twitter are great ways to help you develop your PLN. Also, check out the hashtag #EduTwitter. It’s a great starting point to make connections, as well as discover resources and ideas. You could also engage in Twitter chats, such as #ukedchat or, if relevant, #SLTchat.

Remember, these are all starting points. Just because you can do them, doesn’t mean that you must. That’s the beauty of taking control of your own CPD; you choose when you do it – and, if you’d like any help along the way, ask!

Author

  • Mark Anderson

    Mark is a global speaker, EdTech expert, trainer, blogger, author and key note speaker, known as the ICT Evangelist. He has over 20 years of experience in the classroom. Mark is the head of education at NetSupport, an Independent Thinking associate, an MIE Expert and fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching. His latest book can be found at edtechplaybook.com.
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