Jon Tait – Professional development and the C bomb – PP201

Jon Tait
Jon Tait

As we start a ‘new era’ for the Pivotal Podcast (actually it’s just that we have gone past episode 200…), Jon Tait makes a very welcome return.

You can listen to his first interview on the podcast here.

Jon is Director of the Acklam Grange Teaching School in Middlesbrough and joined Paul to talk about ‘flipping’ CPD and how it can be done better.

As a teacher, how do I know what I need to know next?

Jon believes that it’s important to build up a toolbox of strategies and skills for teachers – teachers have to be masters of the content but also be able to access the ‘craft of the classroom’ – different techniques, strategies and skills for different lessons, different students and times of the day.

What should the mix be between CPD for a subject and for techniques and strategies?

Jon says there has been a focus on content CPD over recent years due to changes in the curriculum but the techniques and strategy side is equally important.

“We need more reachers than teachers.”

We need to engage with students, to get them on-board and that doesn’t always come from getting the most highly-qualified people into the profession – they also need to be able to reach the students in an effective way.

How do you organise CPD for staff to meet their personal learning objectives?

Jon banned the term ‘CPD’ when he took arrive at Acklam Grange. For him, it has too many negative connotations. He is concerned that a lot of CPD practice would not be tolerated in a classroom with students. He has worked to change the culture around professional development and has developed a brand called ‘AGS Inspire’. All the sessions are delivered in ‘flipped learning’ style. This essentially means that the order of how we teach is reversed and in this context, staff are given content to watch or listen to or read before the training session. This means that, in the session itself, they can spend more time discussing and doing group work on material which has already been learned.

Typically, Jon will send out a shorter than 10 minute video for staff to watch usually of himself speaking to camera explaining a concept or approach. In the face-to-face sessions, the discussion can them be around reactions to the videos, how to apply the technique in the classroom, other points of view etc.

“People learn best when it’s on their own terms, in their own time, when they are ready to learn, not when they are forced to learn.”

What’s the balance between individually-directed CPD and whole-staff?

Acklam Grange still has whole-school professional development – including with outside trainers – when it’s necessary – based on the senior leadership team’s in-depth knowledge of the needs of the staff.

Does technology excite you about the next steps for CPD?

Jon believes it’s most important to have a range of options for staff so everyone has wheat they need. Some teachers would rather read, others would rather watch a video. Technology has opened the door to 24 hour access so teachers who want to access materials in their free periods or at home can do so. If a worker in a manufacturing role had a training need to improve their performance, they wouldn’t be expected to wait for 6 months, so why should a teacher?

What’s the best professional development for a senior leadership team?

Jon says that when you reach senior leadership, it’s very unlikely you will have had any significant leadership development. Leadership is the key to school improvement so it’s very important that leadership development is considered early.

“The better we get in our jobs, the further we move away from what we are good at.”

This is something else which needs to be flipped so emerging leaders get the development they need.

Is social media useful in professional development?

The fact that social media is unfiltered is both the beauty and the danger of it. Jon has found it really positive over the years but he knows it’s possible to get caught in a bubble of like-minded people. You need people who will challenge your own thinking.

Jon’s books:
100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers – Engaging Learners
Senior Leadership

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