Teacher training and CPD – the factors that make UK teachers attend training
21. July 2016
Modern foreign language teachers, whether working in the primary or secondary phase, are some of the most passionate, enthusiastic and sharing of teachers there are. You only have to consider the number of teachers engaging in various MFLgroups, on Facebook and Twitter, to experience the flow of ideas, energy and interactions between professionals who want the best for their pupils. Network for Languages London has been running CPD training courses and events for nearly seven years at the University of Westminster. From meeting many teachers and teacher trainers during this time, it is evident that there continues to be a place for face-to-face training and the benefits and networking these types of events have to offer, in addition to the benefits of social media and online support that is available.
Many professionals are motivated to develop and improve their skills, whether that be their own language skills, or knowledge about teaching the language and methodology. Some teachers actively look for courses themselves, to address a need they have and to help with their career development. In other cases, they may have been recently asked by their Head teacher to become the school’s MFL Co-Ordinator and by attending a course on leading languages, they are provided with some support, strategies and a confidence boost, to help them fulfil their new role. In some cases, the schools themselves may have identified a need to improve in an area, for example looking at assessment for learning, or supporting EAL learners in class and have sent the teacher specifically on a training course to become upskilled in that area, so they can then cascade the information to their colleagues.
For a school and a teacher, the training needs to be cost-effective, after all, supply cover costs need to be factored into the equation. It helps if there is an incentive of resources that the teacher can take back to their classroom and colleagues. Accreditation for completing a course, or some kind of certificate of participation also incentivises teachers to help with their career development and progression.
From our experience, teachers have been attracted to day courses as it allows them both time and space to reflect on what and how they are teaching. Coming together with colleagues from other boroughs and regions also has a positive impact on how the teacher feels about their practice. Specialist teachers may feel isolated in their role and may lack a sounding board, so by coming to courses they can compare and contrast with what other teachers are doing and feel less isolated and part of a wider community.
Our experience has also shown that CPD is effective when there is a follow-up system in place, which enables teachers to apply some of their knowledge from the course to their school context, then reflect and review this as they go forwards. The London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) enabled the University of Westminster to support teachers through this process of reflection with the support of a mentor. As part of the LSEF project, we ran a very popular Action Research Module, which enabled teachers to explore language learning and teaching practices relevant to their own professional development and to their school context, as well as enabling them to reflect on their own language learning and teaching in order to develop confidence, independence and creativity as a language teacher. The teachers taking part were awarded 20 credits at Masters Level on the successful completion of a 5000 word essay. The University continues to offer this module to teachers wishing to pursue this kind of training opportunity.
Teachers are busy people and it is increasingly difficult in many cases for teachers to be released from school for more than one day a year, to undertake any kind of training. Funding is not always as accessible as would be liked and budgets have tightened. Training therefore needs to be accessible, relevant, a good investment both professionally and financially for the teachers and schools involved and contain the right balance of face-to-face support with online support available through social media and other digital channels.
For more information about Network for Languages London and the London Schools Excellence Fund Project, go to http://www.networkforlanguageslondon.org.uk/.
Author: Domini Stone (University of Westminster)