What’s my motivation?

What motivates you?  As professional people we recognise that we have a responsibility to maintain and develop our skills, knowledge and the quality of our professional practice.

But whose responsibility is it to do that?

Is it our responsibility? Or do professional bodies and employers part of that?

Recently an acquaintance at a party questioned whether teaching can really be counted as a profession if continuous professional development (cpd) is not a regular requirement and linked to the registration status of teachers.

He described to me how, as a dentist he had to regularly submit evidence of cpd as a necessary requirement of registration status with his professional body The General Dental Council. He described how there was a similar requirement for nurses, lawyers and others. It was an interesting discussion and it made me reflect.

I was once a headteacher and I had three excellent senior teachers who wanted to become deputies. They asked me if they could they attend deputy headship cpd training.  I happily agreed and suggested that, as the suggestion had come from them, I would fund 50% of the cost if they were happy to pay the rest. I remember I was a little dismayed when all three declined. I thought I was being generous. I was offering to part fund their training that would probably – possibly imminently – enable their promotion and departure.

As a teacher, I wanted to develop the professional expertise of my fellow professionals. As the employer-manager, I felt I had a responsibility to balance the needs of the school with the aspirations of those employed by it.

Not all cpd is good cpd of course – especially if it’s tokenistic and done as a ‘tick-box’ measure to satisfy the seemingly arbitrary demands of accountability – and some professional groups openly acknowledge that.

So to return to my original question – ‘What motivates you?’ It’s an interesting and challenging question to any professional – can we be trusted to do cpd without being incentivised or even regulated to do it?  If we get cpd right, I wouldn’t have to worry about pissing-off my colleagues in future.

Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk.  You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.


16 thoughts on “What’s my motivation?

  1. Sheesh. I have no idea. I guess that depends on who wants you to do the CPD. Few teachers don’t routinely have some kind of CPD though, do they? Whether through attending of courses, or knowledge shared in staff meetings.

    1. I think that’s a good point about the values & nature of a professional community – they feel a responsibility to share knowledge, best practice, maintain & develop the competence of their peers – and I’d agree that good use of staff meetings contributes towards that.

      But what would you say are the responsibilities of the individual professional towards their own own competence. Are they responsible for ‘maintaining’ it… or ‘developing’ it… neither… or both..?

  2. I’ve said this for a long time, but I totally agree with the idea that CPD should be an integral part of continuing membership of a recognised professional body.

    I wrote about it recently when thinking about how to encourage more and deeper CPD amongst teachers: A Chartered Institute for Teaching?

    From my own experience, I now know that the key thing, from a learning perpective, is the underlying expectation – you will go and learn what you need to learn to meet your personal, team and organisational needs. When I was teaching, that expectation (in my eyes at least) was turned on its head. I tended used a lack of “training” as an excuse. From my perspective at that time, it was the school’s responsibility to give me that training. Now, I see that it is my responsibility to be aware of what learning I need and to find it, when I need it.

    1. Thanks for that berthelemy – very thoughtful post – and I liked your blog on this too. Why do you think your perspective changed only once you were outside teaching?

  3. The NMC requires all nurses & midwives who want to maintain their registration to do “35 hours of learning activity (Continuing Professional Development) in the previous three years.”

    NMC website

    This doesn’t sound much, and the NMC dont set any standards for what counts as learning activity. But it establishes a principle. And the NMC checks that registrants are meeting the requirement every year(?)
    by asking a random sample to submit details of what they have done

    Would a similar regime be acceptable to teachers? Or could you argue that it’s more important for nurses & midwives to maintain their CPD because medicine & healthcare change more rapidly than educational methods, and to be left behind could put patient’s lives in danger?

    1. Thanks for that David – very interesting. I’ll leave it for others to judge whether the cpd of those in the health professions is more ‘critical’ than in other professions – but professions like law also require cpd to be linked to registration status (being a solicitor for example). It’s also interesting to consider whether the pace of change in other professions is greater than in teaching – I can think of a lot of teachers who might argue that it is comparable at the very least – and indeed whether that should be a factor at all in the ‘responsibility’ of the professional involved to engage with it. Thanks for your post.

  4. Interesting, especially relevant in my training year. Insets, for example, are often seen as ‘box ticking’ rather than an opportunity to develop. I would personally always look to be the best I possibly could. Obviously ensuring a proper work/life balance .

  5. It is a very good question. My wife agrees that the nursing training requirement is not onerous, in fact it is a minimum benchmark that all should be doing to keep performing at best practice. If a doctor wanted to operate on me, but hadn’t been to a medical conference for a decade, gave medical journals only a cursory glance, refused to participate in any research projects and only engaged with colleagues about their golf club membership and investment options .. I would have some serious reservations about the currency of his practice and may refuse treatment. Is it reasonable to draw the same conclusions for teaching children?

  6. Another great post, thank you. And some great follow up comments.

    I don’t get much chance, in my primary GTP trainee teacher year, to bring my past to the profession but this might be an exception. As someone who managed the training and development of a group of professionals in a pharmaceuticals company, I agree totally with your post. I can say, for example, that it may come as some comfort to know that the people who take personal responsibility for the quality, efficacy and safety of every batch of medicine has to regularly prove to the Royal Society of Chemistry that they are keeping abreast of developments in their field. It’s not just them: Most businesses have training and development as an important part of keeping their staff performing at their best.

    I don’t know where I first heard or read this but there’s an alleged conversation between the head of finance and a CEO. The finance officer says, “The company can save money by not spending on training. After all, what if we train employees and then they leave?” The CEO replies, “What if we don’t and they stay?”

    So, as a Head Teacher, would you prefer not to train your talent or would you be happy for them to stay, not improving their performance? Another way of looking at it (although this may suffer from recency) is if, for example, in ICT the move towards coding is realised, are you ready to embrace that or will you need to learn it somehow?

    That said, I don’t believe that CPD is limited to training and nor, as you have already alluded, is it management’s sole responsibility. Reading this blog or TES can count – as long as you are reflecting upon it in terms of how it can affect your own growth as a teacher. I include your blog as a part of my personal learning network, which includes, other blogs, twitter feeds, other teachers in (and outside) my school, parents etc. The list goes on.

    Your point about how could CPD be measured or recorded is important. Goodness knows how much bureaucrats love to create an onerous paper trail. The last thing teachers need is to feel we have to do something that adds no value.

    Thanks again, keep up the good work!

    1. Mr Curzon I can’t tell you how much I appreciate getting a comment post like that on the blog – thank you very much. It’s full of well informed, measured and considered observation that must be so helpful to colleagues reading the blog and thinking about the issues. I really enjoyed your example of chemists and particularly loved the story of the CEO – great stuff – thanks again, and I feel privileged that you consider this blog as part of your own cpd..!

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