Making non-conventional CPD count – are we ignoring how much we learn informally?

Growth_DaveShea_2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s been an unusually busy July and August this year. I’ve been delivering lots of teacher CPD, leadership and management and IT courses across the sector as well as continuing work on new the ‘Blended Learning Essentials’ MOOC, ‘Digital Skills’ and finalising my report for the ETF’s Research Fellowship programme. All great stuff, but it has impacted on my accustomed deckchair reading.

Consequently, I’ve only just caught up on the annual ETF ‘Workforce Data Report. This is always interesting reading as it highlights trends in staffing, pay and other demographics across FE and Skills surveying 175 providers with over 66,000 staff in General FE, sixth form and specialist colleges and, from this year, also on Local Authorities, independent providers and third sector organisations.

There was some good news; there have been slight pay increases, almost half of practitioners hold a PGCE, Cert Ed or Level 5 Diploma and nearly 60% have at least a Level 6 qualification in their specialism.

There are several causes for concern. We work in a shrinking sector, which is declining at around 3% per year, shedding 12,300 staff in the last 3 reported years. For me, though, the most worrying statistic was that though on average teachers spend 15 hours per year on CPD, over 60% reported spending no time at all on CPD. This lack of investment in professional development was found to be skewed towards those in smaller providers and outside General FE, where the numbers not developing their skills were often higher than two thirds.

The reasons for this were touched upon in an interesting piece of recent NFER/ETF research on Career Progression in FE by Suzanne Straw which concluded that the main barrier to career progression in the sector was ‘workload and lack of time preventing take-up of CPD or higher-level study’. This barrier was reported by over half of the almost 800 respondents, while only a quarter cited lack of encouragement from management or absence of opportunities.

We now have ‘bite-sized’ online CPD and micro-learning available via MOOCs and webinars and rhizomatic social media groups such as Tutor Voices and #ukfechat which should open up development opportunities to those who were prevented from engaging due to location and cost. Still, the numbers of practitioners reporting CPD activity fall year-on-year.

This prompts me to wonder whether tutors may simply not be categorising the time spent on MOOCs, Twitter and Facebook practice-sharing discussions or microlearning as CPD. Over the year this can add up to dozens of hours for me – the majority of which I find extremely valuable for keeping current in my specialism and pedagogy as well as for extending professional networks.

Is there a sense that an impactful Twitter exchange or a 20-minute visit to a webinar during lunch is too insignificant to log as CPD? Do we only mentally recall the formal, face-to-face events with registration desks and name badges when it comes to logging our development? If so, we risk failing to effectively promote these exchanges and communities to fellow professionals, who may be struggling to engage in any CPD at all.

How much time have you ‘logged’ in the past year in micro-learning? If it was impactful, then it’s significant, even if the exchange took less time than eating a sandwich!

Image: ‘Growth’ by Dave Shea used under CC 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Published by ltaylerson

I am a former FE Computing and Teacher Education Curriculum Leader and ex-BBC engineer and trainer. Worcestershire-based, I specialise in teacher education and CPD, educator mentoring, digital skills and pedagogy, I am director of Real Time Education, an independent provider and a keen commentator on further education and digital skills on social media @realtimeedu. I completed a PhD in Education investigating teachers' use of informal social media dialogues for professional learning in April 2020.

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