Budget and funding cuts have featured widely in recent educational news reports. Financial constraints can have a significant impact on CPD, restricting staff from attending conferences, workshops and accredited courses which they may previously have been used to. This limits our development as professionals, restricting our chances of acquiring new skills and knowledge which we would then implement with the children.
So…what’s the answer? We all know that investing in CPD influences the outcomes and experiences for children. If funds are not available, should we fund our own training? It is, of course, a personal choice and no one should ever feel pressured into paying for their own CPD. However, sometimes the benefits of CPD outweigh the financial cost and many of us, me included, invest financially in our professional development. Unfortunately, this can result in hefty student loans so is it really worth it? Yes! What we get from CPD varies from person to person, depending on the level of study, time invested, desire to succeed etc. Nevertheless, CPD has many benefits:
- It helps us keep up to date with policies, procedures and legislation.
- The consolidation of existing knowledge, giving a ‘name’ or ‘meaning’ to elements of practice.
- Knowledge impacts positively on the children we work with.
- It can boost confidence and motivation.
- Job prospects and career development can be improved.
- It can be enjoyable!
The process through which we acquire knowledge and new skills can be valuable in itself. It helps us reflect on how we learn, which we can then relate to how children learn. Learning isn’t always easy and it’s good to remember this! Taking time to consider the way we assimilate knowledge is important in making sense of the learning –
- How can I relate this back to practice?
- Do I prefer learning independently or as a group?
- What can I do with this knowledge?
CPD should be considered a key way to improve our teaching rather than being something to be resentful of. Here, it is important to consider workload – do we have time to engage in learning without it being detrimental to our personal or professional life? Fortunately, there are many ways to engage in CPD which offer maximum benefit with little or no cost and the opportunity to participate on our own terms. A valuable form is through communication with other professionals. This could be visits to settings/schools, telephone conversations, meet ups or, thanks to our technological society, internet based methods.
Social media can provide a cost-effective way for professionals to develop and reflect on practice, refresh their knowledge and engage in critical discussion. The education community on Twitter and Facebook, for the most part, is a supportive resource where professionals can invest as much time as they choose. Specific groups (Facebook) and hashtags (Twitter) exist to make engagement more effective and meaningful. Similarly, blogs can be a powerful means of developing practice.
Online courses can provide a more structured route to acquiring knowledge. There is a need to be wary, researching training providers to ensure courses are accredited. The Open University offer a vast range of online courses which learners can work through at their own pace, with no end date. These can act as a ‘taster’ to other courses, through the OU or other universities or colleges.
The role of leaders is vital in supporting the professional development of staff. It is important that leaders value the efforts of staff who engage in managing their own CPD, recognising that it takes passion and dedication to better themselves. The inevitable benefit for the setting/school, and in particular, the children, must be recognised and appreciated. Making staff feel their learning is worthwhile and appreciated will bring a sense of fulfilment, encouraging the development of a learning culture.
If you enjoy developing your own practice, share this enjoyment with your colleagues. Tell them why you invest time in this, the impact of your knowledge and skills and the means with which you improve your practice. Sharing could encourage others to follow suit. It would be fantastic to build the community of teachers on social media – if you’d like to follow me, my Twitter handle is @EmmaDee77. I hope to see you there!