Podcast - How do we support the education sector through professional development?

How do we support the education sector through professional development?

10 Mar 2021 (39:00)

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This is the third in a series of podcasts from Cambridge Assessment Network focusing on different aspects and forms of assessment. Today we are with David Russell, CEO from the Education and Training Foundation talking about professional development for teachers and trainers, the principles of effective CPD and how it can best be used to support the education sector.

Education and Training Foundation support teachers and leaders across the Further Education and Training sector to help them achieve their professional development goals for the benefit of learners and employers across England. That support ranges from leadership development, digital teaching skills, professional networks, support of recruitment into the sector and provision of key data and research.

Cambridge Assessment Network is an accredited provider of assessment training and professional development. We aim to bring together professionals from the assessment community to share best practice and the latest thinking. You can find out about our upcoming professional development opportunities on our events pages. Or to stay up date with our network sign up to our newsletters.

You can also find this episode on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Podcast transcript

Alana: [00:00:08.46] Hello and welcome back to the Cambridge Assessment podcast. I'm Alana Walden, and I'm here to introduce the next in our series of podcasts on the different aspects and forms of assessment from our colleagues in the Cambridge Assessment Network. In this episode, we're joined by David Russell from the Education Training Foundation to discuss supporting teachers and leaders across the further education and training sector. We look at successful CPD and how it has adapted in the light of past year's events and how CPD can support innovations within the sector.

Penelope: [00:00:47.58] Welcome, David, and thank you so much for joining us today. Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do, the Education Training Foundation, and a bit about your professional development offer.

David: [00:01:01.77] Yeah, sure. Thank you. So I'm David Russell. I'm the chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation. And we are the professional development body for further education in England. So we do all the professional development for teachers and trainers. We do leadership development, governance development for anything in the post sixteen education world outside of university in England. In terms of our professional development offer, it's very wide ranging, so we have some big themes that we've run since we started seven years ago, a lot of work on improving English and maths teaching. We have a suite of leadership development programmes. So for college principals, for those who are aspiring to become principals and CEOs, but also for chief finance officers, for chairs, for governors and so on.

David: [00:02:01.38] And then we have a big development programme for teachers who are going to teach the new T levels. So biggest vocational education reform in England for some time. And we are preparing the teachers to teach to levels very effectively and then a wide range of other work. So we do safeguarding and prevent training, for example. We work with prison educators. We do a lot of work helping staff who teach learners with special educational needs and disabilities and a lot of practitioner research as well, which we're very passionate about.

Penelope: [00:02:41.49] So your organisation supports teachers and leaders across the sector to achieve their professional development goals. What do you believe makes for successful CPD?

David: [00:02:55.41] Well, that's a great question. And there is a good body of research now in what makes effective CPD. I wouldn't say it's over researched by any means. I'd say it's still a bit under researched and in particular I'd say it's a bit under researched in further education. But the evidence base is good enough. And we've used that to help us draw out 12 principles of effective CPD in further education. And we've divided these into design principles and delivery principles. So it's probably worth just going through that because they're all important and how they work together is very important. So I won't go into great detail. But just to give you a sense of what the key elements are. Effective CPD first of all, it needs to set clear expectations. And that might sound obvious, but it's so important that often the objective of professional development is not always clear or it's not clear to those who are taking part in it and thinking from the outset about exactly what it's trying to achieve, very, very important. And secondly, it needs to be sound and its evidence base. It needs to be informed by effective practice and research. I'm sad to say there's still a lot of CPD out there which is not based on evidence. And as a result, you're quite lucky if it's effective. So that's number two. Thirdly, it needs to use appropriate facilities and materials that engage and motivate practitioners. So you can have very clear CPD that's very evidence informed, but if it's not talking to the particular needs, motivations of the professionals who are engaging in it, it's not going to be ultimately effective in achieving change in their long term practice.

David: [00:04:56.55] And that's, again, it may sound obvious, but again, an awful lot of CPD in our sector is not designed with the practitioner in mind. So, for example, it might be whole college CPD designed in order to meet a corporate need, maybe a compliance need or some other purpose that's been identified by senior management, and that's not the most effective way to deliver professional development. And that links to the fourth one, which is it needs to be focused on learner outcomes. This is one of the things evidence is most clear on. The effect of CPD has a clear focus on learner outcomes. And that means whatever the professional development is about, having a line of sight through from the CPD through to the changes in the teachers practice through to the learner outcomes is absolutely critical. Fifth, it needs to be sustained over time. So, again, an awful lot of CPD is done as a one off intervention or sometimes called sheep dip, and there's really good evidence that more effective CPD is sustained over time. And so we need to build in opportunities for further or repeat learning, including signposting to further CPD opportunities to make sure you embed and build on the initial intervention that, sustained over time is very key. And then the sixth and last design principle is that you need to secure management buy-in. So evidence tells us that the most effective CPD has the ongoing support of host organisations.

David: [00:06:46.97] Again, if you think about practical examples, it's very common that a teacher will be taken out of his or her practice environment or engage in some CPD which may in in all other respects, be absolutely fantastic. But then if the teacher returns to the host organisation and the aims of that professional development are not understood and not supported, then there won't be supportive opportunities to put into practice the learning that has happened on that professional development. And so it will it will very soon wane over time and it won't become sustained change in the practice of the teacher.

David: [00:07:31.31] And that's what CPD is all about. So those are the six design principles. And then briefly, I'll just come on and talk about delivery principles. So this is more for people who are actually delivering CPD themselves. But just to run through those. So, model effective teaching practice, in other words, the medium is part of the message. There's no good having CPD, which is very well evidence informed and has lots of great content, if those who themselves are delivering the CPD are not using principles of effective instruction and effective teaching and learning. Next point, it needs to encourage collaboration and sustainable peer relationships.

David: [00:08:22.13] And this is one of the features of professional development as opposed to teaching and learning per se. So lots of the aspects of professional development are just the same as the aspects of teaching and learning.

David: [00:08:35.96] But this is one that that really pulls out the professional nature. So it's important in delivering it to ensure that participants can engage, share and collaborate as part of training and development and also identify follow on opportunities for working in collaborative networks is very key.

[00:08:56.81] You know, the expertise in the room does not all come from the trainer. Of course, professionals bring their expertise into the room and that must be leveraged.

[00:09:06.89] That must be used for mutual benefit if it's going to be the most effective that it can be. Next, it's important to refer it to a wider context. So in our context and FE in England, that context is the professional standards. So you're referring to the ETF's professional standards. Mapping the CPD against those professional standards is very, very important. Next, it needs to enhance and extend specialist knowledge. So, again, there's a lot of evidence, fairly recent evidence that shows that one of the most common characteristics of effective CPD is that it's subject specific as opposed to generic. So helping practitioners to consider how they will apply the learning to the teaching, teaching and sequencing of knowledge and skills in their specialism, really helps to drive effective changes in long term practice from CPD. Second last, it needs to have opportunities for deliberate practice so to practice new skills and techniques learnt. This is really important. Teaching is  a practice.

David: [00:10:27.42] It's a practical science, a practical art and practical craft. And when you learn new things, you have to be able to you have to practice them to get better at them. You can do that when you go back to the classroom or the workplace or whatever the teaching environment is online. But actually, it's a great thing to have opportunities for deliberate practice built into the structure of CPD.

[00:10:54.30] And then last, but by no means least, you need to support participants to measure their progress and reflect on their learning and plan the next steps. So most effective CPD is not a transmission model, but rather it's an iterative process of feedback and improvement, where participants take ownership of their own development aims and and their own achievement.

Penelope: [00:11:19.75] Yeah, that's really interesting, thank you. A lot of those things really echo what we're trying to achieve with the Assessment Network, particularly the collaborative networks and professional standards that you mentioned. So I just wanted to ask, in an education setting in particular, how do you engage people to make time for CPD?

David: [00:11:41.18] Yeah, it's a huge issue, isn't it?

David: [00:11:43.46] And in fact, there's an even bigger practical issue in further education in England, which is not just making the time for the for the practitioner, but also paying to cover their classes is we've done some research into barriers to CPD and there are a number of barriers, as you might expect.

David: [00:12:06.29] So not being able to find the thing that's relevant to my needs, not being able to make the time, not being able to afford it, but the single most common one is not being released because institutions are typically working on very, very, very tight margins. And the cost of a cover teacher or the cost of remission in any sense is prohibitive.

David: [00:12:30.56] And that's why often we build in to our CPD programmes funding specifically to cover that teaching that is missed while the teacher engages because teachers should not be obliged to engage in their own time. Absolutely not. It's a large part about culture. So in some institutions, finding the time for professional development is absolutely a non-issue because it's seen as a crucial investment, a sharpening of the saw, if you like, that makes the rest of the time better spent. But in others, it's seen as a nice to have that that can only be done in times of plenty, so to speak. So it is a cultural issue and that culture typically flows from the top of an organisation, of course. So I would say that's the single most effective thing you can do to help teachers find the time to engage in professional development.

Penelope: [00:13:37.71] And do you think it's important to professionalise assessment, for example, through accredited training programmes or through professional networks?

David: [00:13:48.24] Yeah, it's a really interesting question. I suppose if it was a yes no answer, the answer would be yes. But to try and kind of expand on that a bit, um, sometimes we talk about teaching and learning. Sometimes we talk about teaching, learning and assessment.

David: [00:14:09.78] And I think it's really interesting that as a sector we flip between these two almost without too much thought or comment. Why does assessments sometimes get joint billing, the teaching and learning, and why is it sometimes not? We don't do a lot of professional development in the field of assessment, and that is something that we would we would like to do and certainly we'd like to do more of. And and really, there are two main reasons why we don't. One is because there isn't great demand for it from the Department of Education, who is our primary funder, and the other is because there's not great demand for it from the sector. So that's that's a very interesting state of affairs, I think. Should there be more demand for professional development and possibly accreditation?

David: [00:15:05.67] I would say yes, because typically I think knowledge, skills and practice in assessment do lag a bit behind other aspects of professional practice. I think we have still quite a lot of misunderstanding of assessment practices quite often. I think it's quite hard to find good training and development in the field of assessment, and I think it's seen as quite a specialist topic quite often. So it's simultaneously something that all teachers do all the time, but something that very few people are very specialist in. So I think a bit more mainstreaming of assessment theory and practice into the core professional standards would be a very good thing. But the last thing I'd say about that is that also points to a bigger issue in our sector, which is the lack of a core agreed set of professional qualifications. So we have professional standards, but they're completely non mandatory. We have professional statuses, QTL as being the basic post qualifying status and then advanced teacher status being the advanced status that brings charter teacher status. But these are still not the common currency that are required by all employee institutions. And I think that weakness of a Common Core, of agreed and required professional standards is something that holds our sector back in its effectiveness.

Penelope: [00:16:55.09] That was a really insightful answer. Thank you. And definitely what we like to hear as we really advocate the need for improved assessment literacy. So next, I want to ask you about how your organisation has had to adapt over the past year due to the current circumstances and how that's affected what you do?

David: [00:17:18.99] Yeah, of course. I mean, it's been a massive challenge for everyone, hasn't it?

David: [00:17:21.79] And and, you know, we we haven't you know, we've never stopped telling ourselves how fortunate we are to be working for, you know, a professional development body that is able to shift its work online, that is able to keep doing what it does without having to worry about the public health implications of what we do. So this year has been absolutely for us about getting behind the professionals in the sector who are facing the front line and helping them adapt to the challenges on us as an organisation have been nothing compared to the challenges on colleges, independent training providers, adult education institutions who've had to do completely new things in very difficult circumstances very quickly and have done it brilliantly and in a sustained way over time in an environment of huge uncertainty and threat. And and I just think it's been absolutely inspirational what teachers and leaders in the sector have done. So our job has been easy. I mean, all we've had to do is redesign our professional development so that it's not face to face and instead it's online.

David: [00:18:43.35] Now, of course, that takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of different expertise because, you know, anybody can put paper behind glass, anybody can turn a presentation into a webinar. But to have really high quality online interaction is a very skilled design process. And one of the things that we've done this year is we found a new partner to help accelerate our ability to do that work. So we've partnered with Future Loughran this year, which has really taken us faster than we would have done down the road of being able to deliver really top quality online and professional development. But we have many other delivery partners to some of whom were already doing this, already expert in it, some of whom had to respond quickly and adapt. And I have to say, I've done so brilliantly. So we moved almost all of our work online. The only exception was our top leadership programme for serving CEOs are further further education strategic leadership programme that we deliver in partnership with Oxford University as a side business school. And we held out for a while because there was such a strong message from leaders in the sector that they that they hugely valued the face to face residential and character of that development programme.

David: [00:20:17.49] So we held on for a while. We did some postponement. We we held on for four better days. But after as the pandemic evolved, it became clear that we would be waiting a long, long time if we waited until we could do that face to face again. So instead, we we adapted and we we we developed it as an online experience, not knowing, in all honesty, whether it would work. So we went into it with some trepidation. In fact, it worked extremely well and the feedback from the sector was that was absolutely what we needed. Absolutely excellent. The only way it could have been even better is being face to face. So we all look forward to the time when we can do this in the same space again. But in the meantime, you know, this is much better than not doing it at all. So that's been a big learning process for us and our partners. And we've learnt a huge amount along the way. And some of our work will definitely not go back to being face to face. And some of it will.

Penelope: [00:21:25.29] And have you seen an uptake in your offering and do you think that's due to the constantly changing circumstances?

David: [00:21:33.60] Yes, we have. We have, indeed. Again, it's been a complex picture. The headline is we have seen an increase in uptake through this through this pandemic period, but it's not been uniform. So I've just mentioned the top leadership. And you know how the how the response to that was some areas have absolutely exploded and their uptake. And, of course, as you'd expect, the primary one, there is use of technology for teaching. So are are enhanced digital platform and which creates a framework and then a set of professional development experiences to help teachers to teach online. That was doing well before the pandemic. But its use has absolutely exploded through this period. And the department has responded quite quickly in terms of upping its level of investment in that area. We've created lots of new modules. We've increased the sort of user collaboration aspects, and that's been a fantastic success story for us and other areas of engagement.

David: [00:22:55.74] We've also seen an increase. Surprisingly, perhaps, we've also seen an increase in our professional membership body, so we when the pandemic started, we thought, OK, there's going to be really tough year, everybody. Everybody's going to have to focus on new things and focus on core business.

David: [00:23:16.37] And we wouldn't expect to grow our professional membership body in terms of numbers this year. Typically, we look at a sort of nine, 10 percent year on year growth, which which is a very, very strong we we factored in a flat. We thought we would do well if we stayed flat through the pandemic. The fact we've had a four percent growth in our membership through this period. And I think that's just a testament to the importance of of community and collaboration through this period, the sense of being part of something bigger and having support networks and having voices that are on your side and groups that you can tap into these very, very strong. So that's growing as well. We've also got the largest number of applicants, both for cutely and for ettes. So actually very, very strong, improved engagement.

David: [00:24:14.99] I'd say the one area that bucks that trend is sometimes where we have we're trying to do new things with new partners in the sector where we need a lot of bandwidth at the top of the organisation, needs a lot of head space.

David: [00:24:33.35] And very understandably, sometimes organisations, colleges and others have had to say, look, we were really excited to be part of this partnership and to be one of your delivery partners. We have to put this on a slightly slower timescale because we're grappling with the pandemic and what it means for us. So it's not a uniform picture, but overall a very, very positive one.

Penelope: [00:24:58.94] And I wonder if you could share any recent successes, for example, support of it, that has led to a clear line of benefits for innovations due to the pandemic.

David: [00:25:14.92] Yes, and it's an interesting question.

David: [00:25:16.54] So, of course, it depends how you measure the benefit of what you're doing and and there are multiple layers of benefit for us. So we're a charitable organisation where we're a not for profit company, but we're established as a charity. And the beneficiaries of our charity are not teachers and the beneficiaries of our charity, our learners. So we're really clear that our purpose is to improve outcomes for learners aged 14 and over. And our mechanism for doing that is to support teachers, practice and help them improve their practice. So you have to think about which level of benefit you're looking at.

David: [00:25:58.18] If we take teachers first, as you know, the most immediate beneficiaries of what we do, if you come on an ETF professional development programme and how will that affect your practice? How will that affect your career development as well? Because, you know, that's a really important motivation. Well, we evaluate most of our programmes. And I'll take one example, because quite recent programme we run for those who are aspiring to become principals or CEOs in the sector. We've had a very successful conversion rate of people who've been on that programme and have then subsequently gone on to secure principal ships in the sector. And I think that's the really important measure because, you know, it's a very tough time to become a principal or a CEO in F.E. in England. And and yet it's so vital for for learners that we have good people, well equipped people, good leaders stepping up to that. So the fact that we've had such a strong success rate, dozens of people going through that, becoming principals and CEOs in quite a short time, is is is a real sign that we're doing the right thing there. But if you want to take the more fundamental answer about learners, well, you need to look over time because, you know, there's not an easy correlation between professional development, then changes in practice, then changes and learner outcomes, which are then measurable through some sort of metric like, you know, qualification outcomes or Osteria grades or whatever. So it's only our longer term programmes that you can do that for. But the thing we've been doing for longest is English and maths. And our evaluation does indeed show that organisations that have engaged with us over a number of years in maths and English GCSE Reset, DPD do indeed have increases in in outcomes. Now, it's very difficult to answer the question. Yes, but what would have happened if they hadn't? Because we're not doing randomised control trials here, so we don't take to colleges that look alike and engage with one and don't engage with the other.

David: [00:28:38.53] So that that's always quite a difficult question. But we have seen positive results come through that and which we're very pleased with.

David: [00:28:46.09] And we're building on that now with more recently with our Centres for Excellence in Maths programme, which is doing specifically looking at improving maths outcomes. And again, some really positive signs there, although I have to say measurement has been very, very difficult because of the the fact that examinations, the GCSE examinations didn't go ahead as normal last year.

Penelope: [00:29:14.21] And have you seen any innovations happening in that sector and I wonder if you can tell me how you think CPD is important to support those innovations?

David: [00:29:29.72] Yes, it's another interesting question.

David: [00:29:31.38] So innovation is not always a Harrar word for me, because although, you know, innovation is generally considered to be a good thing. Another way of one way of defining innovation is something that hasn't been proven to work. So why would you want to do that then? That's not how we look at innovation. I mean, we we wouldn't focus on the sort of novelty aspect of innovation. We would say innovation is about doing something differently in a context which works. So it might be working already somewhere else, but you imported into a new context. And if it's new in that context, if it's innovative in that context, but perhaps been proven already elsewhere, then it has a good chance of being successful in the new context. So I would say that by that definition of innovation, Airfix is fantastic at innovating. It does it all the time, all over the place. And I would say that this year, you know, that old phrase necessity is the mother of invention. And, you know, there's had to be an awful lot of innovation this year in use of online learning and hybrid learning. I think it's been really interesting to see how colleges and other providers have gone about rethinking their curriculum and asking themselves questions. If we have very restricted face to face time, which has been the case for a lot of the last year, how do we prioritise the use of that time? Now, some of those decisions make themselves so we can say, well, it's a lot easier to teach A-levels sociology online than it is to teach level one bricklaying.

David: [00:31:29.96] Right. But that that answers itself. Then there's another set of considerations which are not as obvious, but the evidence started to show them pretty quickly. So that's about what types of learners on what types of programmes are more likely to be able to make good use of remote education as opposed to face to face education. So that then has driven a lot of the the curriculum redesign. But then the really exciting stuff from an innovation perspective is thinking about, OK, if I only have limited face to face time, how would I want to reshape my curriculum such that I maximise that time? And it's an idea that's been around for a while in the form of the flip flipped classroom. But it's really mainstreamed that concept and made it very, very core. The idea that you want your learners to come to the classroom or to the workplace, having done everything they can do remotely so that they can then use that time to get the most benefit of the skills and and knowledge of the teacher. So it's then about things like identifying misconceptions from the remote education or doing some deliberate practice or really digging into the feedback or doing some collaborative work with other students and so on. So that type of really sort of clauss detail curriculum innovation, I think is the most exciting thing that's happened in the sector over the last year.

Penelope: [00:33:18.69] And FE White Paper Skills for Jobs came out recently highlighting the need for quality educators, what are the main things you think we need to ensure we do have quality educators?

David: [00:33:32.58] I was delighted with the white paper, even though a lot of commentary was was perhaps less so. And the reason I was delighted was because there was a whole chapter, dedicated, outstanding teaching. And and, you know, I thought I actually saw everything in the white paper was good, but I thought it was a really good piece of work. And seeing that as someone who used to work in the Department of Education and and was involved in writing quite a few white papers, I admired this one. You know, it's very self-contained, hangs together very well, is very coherent, very well written. It was done in difficult circumstances, not just because, of course, but the lack of a spending review and so on. So I think it is a really good piece of work. But the best thing about it is the Chapter five, all about outstanding teaching.

David: [00:34:17.85] And that's so important because it shows the government is really putting front and centre the rule of the workforce, the role of the educators themselves. And then within that, the way they're conceptualising it is even better. So often when governments of any colour talk about teaching, they talk about things like. Inspection or they might talk about. Accountability and that sort of thing. But actually or they might talk about pay, which didn't happen in this case, and that is missing, but what the white paper does is it talks about the things that really matter. It talks about recruitment, talks about initial training, talks about development and retention to an extent, and it talks about networks and and professional exchange.

David: [00:35:16.37] So these are really, really strong themes. And they play through in some very specific programmes in the white paper as well. So if you look at recruitment into the sector, there's clear initiatives there on the taking teaching further programme, which the ETF has been delivering and will continue to deliver. That's about bringing experienced people from industry into the sector. It talks about the Talent to teach programme, which we've also been running, which is about giving a taste of the sector to graduates and postgraduates who might not have considered teaching in Airfix and introducing them to the sector and giving them some some work experience and enticing them in that way. So attracting new talent. Fantastic. It talks about a recruitment programme and advice service, which we also run, which is great. But then it goes on and thinks about what's not just about recruitment, because actually often retention is as big a problem so you can get a revolving door. What happens once you've recruited people then? Well, then you need to think about things like workforce industry exchange. So making sure that there's a really porous boundary between the teaching profession and the sectors of the economy that they are preparing learners to go into. So that type of professional refresh and industry exchange is really vital. So delighted to see that as well. Apprenticeships, apprenticeships has been frankly forgotten for quite a few years from a professional development perspective, even though it's been a very important plank of government policy.

David: [00:37:00.50] So again, to see a new apprenticeships workforce development programme, which again, ETF is designed and delivered to see that announced in the white paper, an absolutely fantastic shift in tone and emphasis. And I hope that that will just grow and continue to level professional development. Again, a commitment to that training for governors and senior leadership, commitment to that. So there's so much that the sector can be excited about in in this white paper. And I'm I'm very, very positive about that as well as last thing to say on this initial teacher training. So not a signal of return to a regulated profession, which, you know, some people would like to see, but rather doing everything government can short of regulation because it recognises it has a very important responsibility to ensure that the quality of initial teacher education and safety is of the highest quality. Because we don't need teachers in Airfix to be as good as teachers and schools. We need teachers in our to be better than teachers and schools because they have to do everything that school teachers do and they have to do a lot more besides because they are dual professionals who who work with industry and or with adults as well as working with their subject. And that's fantastic.

Penelope: [00:38:30.35] That's brilliant. Thank you. And David, thank you so much for speaking to me. Um, that was very interesting and insightful. So thank you.

David: [00:38:39.68] You're very welcome.

Alana: [00:38:41.78] Thank you for listening to the Cambridge Assessment podcast, you can find more of our podcast on our website, just search podcast gallery, or you can find us some Apple podcasts or YouTube.

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