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A framework but not a straitjacket: what project management can do for your CPD


What can project management do for your CPD planning?

It can transform it. It can help you create joined up CPD plans that are structured, yet responsive to needs. It allows you to address strategic issues and also respond to feedback from staff and trends in lesson observations. It spells the end of knee jerk, unfocused flurries of activity that develop nobody.

Project management is a set of principles and methods that help you develop an awareness of what to focus on during the planning and implementation of any initiative and how to do it. It stops your planning from being ad hoc and unfocused and helps you to identify the outcomes you want to achieve and the steps that will get you there. It has a strong focus on identifying who needs to be involved in the work and how communications can be best managed. Evidence-based reporting and tracking of progress are also important elements of project management and help you monitor and control the work. Reviewing progress in line with business need encourages you to have an underpinning purpose to every activity and respond appropriately to the context as it evolves. It gives you a framework that’s not a straitjacket.

CPD plans and programmes in education are rarely as joined up as this.  There is often an initial attempt to respond to a strategic plan at the start of the year but this rarely joins up with engaging staff and tailoring the plan to them and their context. CPD is often proposed without adequate time being allocated to it on the calendar; little resource is available for engaging part time staff; evaluation is patchy and rarely responded to in planning; links between lesson observations and CPD planning are weak. It’s ironic in a sector dedicated to learning that this process can be so flawed and that project management has not been on our radar until now. The commercial world has been using the extensive body of project management knowledge for ages and it’s time the education sector reaped the same benefits.

Some schools and colleges have staff with project management expertise and qualifications and they can be deployed as mentors to support CPD planning processes by less experienced staff. Most institutions don’t have this luxury but even a single day of project management training can give people underpinning principles and approaches to improve their practice. For more information on one such day at LSN, click here. It can be even more powerful and also cost effective to commission a day of tailored training in house for people who have to plan CPD and other initiatives.

For information on this, please do contact me directly:

E: [email protected]
T: 01865 301 320
M: 07920 291 383

When running teaching and learning projects such as Supported Experiments cycles, project management skills are invaluable, for more information and details on our one day training events please click here.

So what kind of steps would project management lead you to take when planning CPD? Here are a series of tips for CPD planning using project management approaches. They are underpinned by key principles such as:

  • tailoring to the context
  • identifying and engaging stakeholders
  • using evidence-based reporting
  • aligning activities to business objectives at all times.

Project management tips for planning CPD

1. Devising the CPD plan

Before you write the CPD plan

  • Review any quality data, reports and evaluation summaries from staff training, so that you get a sense of the issues and can address them in the plan.
  • Carry out a diagnostic survey to capture staff needs and preferences for training and support. This will help you tailor the plan to your context.

In your plan

  • Respond to strategic objectives and feedback from the staff and also leave some space so you can respond to the needs that arise later in the year and show flexibility. It can be helpful to allocate slots for CPD on the work calendar but refine the content of them nearer the time.
  • Include some timetabled whole organisation activities and negotiate slots for department based activity as well. This will prevent a war over slots or the problem of clashing activities. Ensure you get all the relevant people around the table to decide on the timetable, to maximise buy in.
  • Create a varied CPD programme that includes a workshop programme on hot topics, bite-sized sessions to showcase a resource or a method and also 1:1 coaching sessions. This helps you to ensure that your programme meets the varying needs and preferences among your staff.

2. Timetabling CPD sessions

  • When timetabling CPD sessions think creatively to maximise the potential take up by staff and provide a range of times and formats for activities. Some online packages can be useful for self study but are best followed up with face-to-face work on applying the learning points.
  • Try running CPD sessions in breakfast, lunchtime and twilight slots and track attendance to see whether a particular slot attracts good attendance.
  • Many colleges and schools find bite-sized sessions are practical and effective, e.g. a slot of twenty minutes to half an hour which focuses on one approach or one resource.
  • Use the meeting framework that already exists in your organisation to help you fit in CPD activities.  Some schools and colleges find it effective to invite colleagues from other departments into team meetings to share good practice or report back on a key aspect of their work.

3. Forming a CPD network

  • To form a CPD network, identify key areas of expertise in the organisation and form a contacts list of people who would be happy to mentor others, share resources or run workshops. Post this list online in a shared CPD area and pass on the information through other channels as well, e.g. bulletins, newsletters, briefings.
  • When publicising your CPD team, provide short profiles of each person, highlighting their teaching background and other relevant skills, as well as their contact details. If they are happy to do so, link their photo online so people can recognise them in work. 
  • Develop the CPD network by providing relevant and tailored training that builds skills and knowledge, e.g. coaching skills, project management training, input on how to run action research projects with staff. For information on relevant training click on the relevant subject area:

    > Delivering effective Supported Experiments

    > How to deliver successful staff development using project management

    >Advanced Practitioner Toolkit - get the tools you need to deliver sustainable Quality Improvement

  • Support your CPD network by holding regular meetings to share experiences and plan ahead. It’s useful to discuss what is working well and where issues are arising in their role each time you meet.

4. Getting evaluation feedback on CPD programmes

  • Build in activities during the year to get feedback from staff about your CPD programme and plan how to do this at the outset.
  • Use a range of evaluation feedback tools and include face to face and online methods. Focus groups, round table discussions and online surveys will generate different kinds of commentary for you to analyse.
  • Ensure that evaluation feedback data from activities goes into one central tracking system so that summary reports enable you to identify trends.
  • Make sure that members of the CPD team attend key meetings and committees to hear comments in those forums and so that plans can respond to real needs and issues.
  • In your CPD plan and reports, make sure you respond explicitly to evaluation feedback from the staff, identifying any key action points.

5. CPD and the link with lesson observations

  • Use lesson observation reports to identify interesting examples of practice to share and individuals who could become part of a CPD network.
  • Look for commonly recurring issues in observation feedback reports and respond to them in CPD planning, e.g. if many teachers are having difficulties with differentiation, run a few workshops on this theme and add some resources online.
  • Look out for related areas of strength in lesson observation reports as you can then set up themed good practice sharing sessions, e.g. a session in which teachers share effective approaches to managing behaviour in classes of teenagers.

Written by Joanne Miles, Managing Consultant, Leadership & Management Unit


Contact us

If you need support with planning CPD in a joined up way or would like to discuss your organisations CPD planning processes, then please contact me on:

E: [email protected]
T: 020 7492 5391

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