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Continued Professional Development: how to provide a variety of opportunities for your team

As professionals we all need to demonstrate a commitment to continuing professional development. CPD keeps us fresh, ensures we are aware of evolving and changing practices and research, and is a valuable tool for enabling reflection. We need to ask ourselves about what we do and why we do it and how we can do it better or differently. As Mary Calnan of Blue Allium HR Ltd says “to stay relevant in your field of expertise taking the time for CPD is critical.” She goes on to say “failure to keep up to date can lead to incorrect advice being given and acted upon. This can result in loss of trust and reputation.”

CPD helps everyone keep their knowledge and skills up to date, boosts confidence and facilitates the sharing of new ideas. It also ensures that the professional standard of qualifications is maintained and contributes to a shared sense of direction.

For leaders and managers, one of the benefits of CPD is ensuring that standards across the setting are high and consistent. CPD promotes greater engagement from practitioners and general commitment to job roles. CPD also contributes to maximising staff potential, improves staff morale and provides a useful benchmark for appraisals.

Without CPD, we would stagnate and consequently so would the opportunities and provision for the children.  In an ever-evolving society, the needs of children are changing and we need to keep ourselves up to date.

So, what are some of the ways in which we can access CPD?

·       Trainingimage.png

·       Staff meetings

·       Peer observation

·       Setting library

·       Staff swaps

·       Research and feedback

 

TRAINING

Gone are the days when you could easily access a plethora of interesting training courses provided by your Local Authority. Many now offer just the mandatory training. The opportunities they do offer are often expensive or limited. In addition, it can be challenging to release staff to attend training when recruitment and staffing is a problem.

We need to be more creative in accessing training. Online training is extremely helpful, especially for mandatory training or when time is of the essence. However, it is good as far as possible to access face to face training to enable discussion and questions. If you do use online training, consider dedicating part of your staff meetings to questions that arise from the training and points for discussion.

Keep an eye out for training offered by different trainers/training providers locally to you. Many trainers will be happy to come to you to deliver setting specific training or more general training. Joining forces with another setting can be a good idea as this enables you to split the cost.

In house training can also be delivered by a member of the team. On the job training can be effective, with a more senior member of staff modelling good practice and discussing what they are doing and why.

Whatever the way you and your team access training, it is important that it is valued by everyone. Staff members should know why they are attending or undertaking the training and have a clear idea of what they are hoping to learn or gain from the experience. Training identified through the appraisal cycle will be meaningful and focused. Prior to doing the training, a ‘focus form’ should be started so the individual can reflect on what they hope to achieve. This should be completed after the training, identifying what knowledge and skills have been gained and how this will impact on practice. They should have an opportunity to share this in the setting.

Remember, training provides many wide and varied benefits for practitioners:

·       It can boost confidence

·       Will develop skills and knowledge

·       Can act as a motivator as practitioners return to their setting fired up with new ideas, which can permeate through the whole staff team

·       Develops, and therefore promotes, best practice

·       Helps to ensure knowledge is up to date

·       Can provide an opportunity to share and discuss issues and practice with practitioners from other settings

·       Provides an opportunity for reflective practice

·       Is stimulating, thought provoking and interesting

·       If a practitioner is sent on a training course outside the setting, it shows that they are valued by the manager/leader -  this needs to be consolidated though, by the practitioner being given the opportunity to share what they have learnt

·       Settings which invest in training staff tend to be happier and more productive places to work, with better staff retention and a better provision for the children

 

STAFF MEETINGS

Both whole staff meetings and room meetings provide a valuable opportunity for supporting professional development and should be valued as such. Meetings also strengthen the team, boosting morale which will more than likely generate further CPD as staff discuss and work together. Although meetings can sometimes be difficult to arrange, they are essential. Without regular meetings, there is no way of discussing and reviewing practice together, no opportunity for collaborative reflection or discussing new initiatives and developments as a team.

Key benefits of meetings as a tool for CPD:

·       A chance to share ideasimage.png

·       Opportunity to review and evaluate practice and policies

·       Inclusive - everyone is involved if the meeting is managed successfully

·       Promotes teamwork and strengthens relationships

·       An opportunity for open discussion and interaction

·       Can be used to clarify ideas, procedures and practice

·       An opportunity to deliver key messages, ensuring everyone receives the same message

·       A forum to discuss and develop ethos and share common goals

·       Staff can be publicly praised for good work and innovation

·       Opportunity to cascade what has been learned on training courses

·       A chance to discuss together to solve a problem

·       Issues that will benefit from open and honest discussion can be raised and it can give an opportunity for everyone to say what they think

Minutes of the meeting provide a valuable record and a point of reference regarding discussion, reflection and further exploration of key issues.

 

RESEARCH AND FEEDBACK

Asking individuals or teams to find out about a theorist, a particular methodology or a piece of research and to feedback their discoveries in a staff meeting is another effective training method.  Staff can include how their findings will impact on their practice or is already reflected in their practice, providing a focus for discussion and the development of future plans. This can then be documented in the meeting minutes. An alternative to this is providing practitioners with different professional articles to read prior to a meeting, so the content can be discussed. This can be quicker, requiring less preparation, but is just as effective.

 

PEER OBSERVATION

Peer observation, learning from each other, can be a highly effective form of CPD. Each member of the staff team is observed and in turn has the opportunity to observe. Feedback should be positive and constructive and given immediately. Following individual feedback, all the observations are gathered together for discussion at staff meeting. No-one is singled out, but good practice is identified and areas for development are flagged up.

Peer observations need to be introduced sensitively and it is suggested that you begin by encouraging staff to observe alongside the leader in the setting to help gain an insight into the process and view it as positive. Once this has been done, you should then begin with more experienced and confident staff.

In the DCSF document Challenging Practice to Further Improve Learning, Playing and Interacting in the Early Years Foundation Stage (DCSF 2010) it states that:

‘observation......will confirm strengths; validate what people are already aware of; highlight aspects of practice that need development; support practitioners and leaders to be self reflective and improve the quality of practice.’

How to do peer observation:

·       You need to plan when the observations are going to be done

·       It is important that everyone is involved and on board with peer observations and that the benefits are explained to them

·       It is vital that leaders and managers are observed, as well as new practitioners

·       As an introduction to peer observations you could do short narrative observations

·       When you introduce peer observations it is a good idea to start by using one question at a time and thoroughly researching it – for example, Is the adult interacting appropriately with the children? Really consider this question in depth for every member of staff observed

·       If necessary, carry out a second or third round of observations only asking this question and then move on to adding further questions, still remembering to cover question one

·       During the observation write down what you see in response to the question

·       During feedback it is often most helpful to ask the person being observed how they felt the observation went and what they felt they did well. When you both feel more confident you can discuss what could have gone better.  This needs to be recorded on the observation for feedback to a staff meeting

·       All the observations are then gathered together over a month or so to be evaluated and discussed at a staff meeting

·       Always highlight what both the observer and the practitioner being observed learned and gained from the experience. What might they do differently?

 

STAFF SWAPS

This is a system whereby staff in two settings swap places for a day or a session. All team members experience working in a different setting and gather new ideas about developing practice and provision. It works best if the swap is between two similarly registered settings and staff need to be equally qualified, to maintain ratios. Lucinda Byron Evans of Young England Kindergarten in London, who is an advocate for staff swaps, explains the idea came from a discussion with other setting leaders about ways to keep their teams inspired. Lucinda says, “After the swap the staff member feeds back to the team one thing they thought that worked really well in the other provision and something that they will implement within our setting as a result. We have been doing this for about two years now and all the staff have experienced at least one swap. We feel it is a really great way to support the staff’s continual professional development and we have had some really excellent results.“

 

SETTING LIBRARY

A resource library in the setting is another great way to individualise CPD. A collection of professional books, DVDs and magazines and journals, gives staff an opportunity to find out more about good practice. Articles can be stored divided by subject and you could include a reflection sheet recording one key point practitioners take from an article which could be discussed with them as part of their supervision.

Cassie Holland of Archfield House Day Nursery in Bristol, describes the key advantages of her setting library: “being able to refer to literature at the drop of a hat when doing supervisions or CPD talks, staff having access to reading materials at all times, and the provocation for CPD especially for unqualified or inexperienced members of staff.”

 

In summary, CPD enables us to improve our skills and knowledge, and therefore our practice. We feel more confident and better able to perform to the best of our abilities. To keep motivated we need to challenge ourselves to grow and learn and be enthused about new and fresh ideas and initiatives. We benefit, and as a result the children benefit as well.

 

To find out more about the training Jenny offers you can go to her website


 
Jenny Barber
Jenny is passionate about child care and early years and has worked in the field since leaving school. She has been working freelance since 2002, delivering bespoke training for local authorities around the country, for educational organsiations, in a variety of early years settings and schools. She has experience working with Montessori settings and Independent schools. She also regularly contributes to various Early Years publications and has published 5 books.



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