Maybe I am out of fashion?
There has been a trend in schools over the last few years to provide most CPD for teachers ‘in house’ – in school. Most schools have a ‘Teaching and Learning Group’, or are organised into ‘Learning Communities’, where teachers across the subject range share lesson ideas and resources. What I want to know is how effective is this generic training for history teachers?
In principle we could learn alot from generic training – questioning (see ‘lolly sticks’ blog below), AfL, Behaviour for Learning and Planning sessions can all help. Such training can take us so far, but can it help us to become outstanding? When I think about my own experience have I ever learnt anything from generic in-house, school based training? The answer has to be a resounding no.
Maybe this was because I kept abreast of best practice and cpd within my own subject community. And maybe I was very lucky to be a young teacher when so many brilliant history advisers were offering clear and thoughtful inputs. I attended then ran lots of Hampshire history sessions. I regularly travelled to Leeds to the brilliant SHP conference – I networked with history teachers in other schools. I also was lucky enough to ask the local history adviser to come in to our department and run bespoke training for us.
I learnt how to help kids with extended writing from Jamie Byrom, how to engage with the personal from Michael Riley. The great Neil Thompson taught me loads in the sessions that he came in and ran from curriculum planning to enquiry. This is where I learnt my trade – soaking up many different ideas from subject specific experts then trying them out in my own classroom. This combined with a collaborative approach is how our department developed into an outstanding one. It wasn’t down to some generic session organised in school.
Now, my experience of generic training might have been a poor one? Clearly the problem with this approach is it depends on the ability levels of the teachers providing it. If the teachers are not emersed in good practice or CPD themselves, do they have anything worth sharing? Also, it depends on the transferability of the approaches shared. What works well in MFL might not work in a history classroom.
I also think that as a history teaching community we have a deeper understanding of our subject as a discipline than many other subjects. This means that we know we should agonise over what progression really looks like in say signficance. Perhaps we are operating on a different level compare to our colleagues (sorry for being elitist!)
I firmly believe that school improvement lies in teacher improvement. But teachers need to be inspired by other teachers who know what they are teaching both in content and nature. My advise for anyone who wants to develop as a history teacher is to know who are the best history practitioners and advisers and go and visit them – go into their classrooms – go on one of their courses. This might not be en vogue at the moment, but lets face it, real style in the form of great history teaching never goes out of fashion!