Developing skills and knowledge – freebies and more for Continued Professional Development

It stands to reason that the quality of the education on offer in our schools cannot exceed the quality of the teachers in our classrooms. Continuing personal and professional development is, or at least should be, of paramount importance.

Research into CPD over the decades has given us ever greater insight into what makes a difference to teaching and learning. Reports such as What professional development makes the most difference to teachers by Catherine Walter and Jessica Briggs of the University of Oxford Education Department (a report sponsored by Oxford University Press), tell us that effective teaching makes a real difference to learning. It found that the best CPD:

– is concrete and classroom-based.

– brings in expertise from outside the school involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake.

– involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake.

– enables teachers to work collaboratively with peers.

– provides opportunities for mentoring and coaching is sustained over time.

– is sustained over time.

– is supported by effective school leadership.

While the focus on CPD in schools seems to be becoming more refined, a seemingly growing number of teachers are seeking development opportunities in their own time, and, where necessary, at their own cost. Remember to record and reflect on all additional development you embark upon yourself.

If you want to explore some of the learning opportunities that exist out there, take a look at the ideas below. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive and are included here to offer inspiration:

– Your first port of call when exploring learning opportunities beyond the classroom might usefully be the Teacher Development Trust Advisor website. It is a marketplace for school and college professional development and is packed with information about opportunities for teachers.

– OpenLearn is the website for free learning from the Open University. There are thousands of opportunities on the site from courses to study, skills to develop, subjects to explore, programmes to watch and so on. It’s all entirely free and well worth exploring. OpenLearn also carries free courses specifically for teachers and student teachers, which can be found here.

– FutureLearn offers a diverse range of courses from universities and cultural institutions around the world.

– Open Culture describes itself as “the best free cultural and educational media on the web”. It highlights thousands of online courses and MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) created by educational venues.

– TED Talks are short, popular talks from experts in their field. While TED does have its critics (examples can be found here and here) there is undoubtedly material of interest to teachers on the site. Access with a discerning eye, as you would when accessing any CPD from any source.

– The Helen Arkell website offers free dyslexia training for teachers. There is much of interest on SEND to browse on the site.

– Twitter can be a very useful resource for teachers seeking to develop skills and knowledge. At its best, you’ll find useful articles being shared, ideas discussed and support being offered. Be aware of some of edu-twitter’s tedious preoccupations with the (perfectly valid) debate around the efficacy of progressive and traditional teaching. It’s also worth avoiding “who to follow” lists and finding your own way.

Always check before committing to an online course that there are no hidden costs and that the course is backed by a reputable organisation. Many free online university courses will give you excellent quality learning but may not lead to accreditation. It’s well worth finding out what you can expect from a course before starting it. Sites such as Open Culture are also excellent teaching resources too, so worth spending some time browsing.

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