School Learning and Development in the Modern Era: How do We Ensure that Staff can get the Training They Need, When They Need it?
My Typical School Day as a Teacher
Anyone who has ever spent a day inside a classroom, or has worked in a school, knows that teachers and other school staff are continually moving at an incredible pace – literally all day.
When I was teaching, a typical day started with early Team Meetings about our teaching progress, with the rest of the day spent pivoting between facilitating learning, leading high-intensity conversations, problem solving and coaching, to managing and communicating non-stop with students, administration, colleagues and parents.
Somehow, I managed to wolf down a salad during lunchtime in the staff room, while attempting to finish off some pesky piece of work that had encroached on my break. After the school day had ended, there was often a bundle of marking or activity planning awaiting me when I got home. And so the cycle continued.
It was hard to keep up with much beyond caring for my students and daily learning content.
I dutifully signed myself into the 4pm Professional Development sessions, which were always some flavour of PowerPoint presentation or lecture, presented by a member of the executive or some expert tracked down by the school.
I must confess that understanding the latest Child Protection or Student Duty of Care policies didn’t seem relevant at the time. And those long PowerPoints never “stuck”.
Finding Time for Professional Development – Not an Easy Task
All school staff know that life moves fast within a school and there never seems to be enough time.
As educators, we are addressing this problem for students in the way we plan and deliver learning to our students and structure student learning platforms. The 21st Century Classroom is a rich and dynamic landscape. Spaces and furniture provide flexible options for different working styles, differentiated pathways that acknowledge prior learning and skills, and technology that takes learning beyond the classroom are all now regular fixtures of most schools.
Of course, this is all designed for the learning we deliver to our students. But what about our own learning?
When it comes to much of the learning we deliver to ourselves as school staff, it is still very much a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” A prime example is staff Compliance Training. It’s often a long series of text-filled slides containing legal-speak and complex concepts that don’t reflect learner needs or the working environment of most schools.
Where are the options for our fast-paced working styles, learner engagement and differentiated pathways, and where is the acknowledgment of our staff’s prior knowledge and experiences?
Teaching Compliance – What is the Solution?
In today’s complex learning communities, and now more than ever, we need to be well-informed and have a deep understanding of how regulatory requirements and school policies impact on how we care for our students. Schools will continue to become more complex and the demands of the job will continue to increase.
If Compliance Training is going to be impactful, we need to better understand workplace learning, and specifically understand what staff really want and need to know.
Getting all of a school’s teachers into a room together might seem like a good solution, but considering this is usually done before the school day starts or after the school day is finished, it’s not great timing for optimal engagement. All face-to-face sessions run the risk of having staff who cannot attend, or people who slip through the cracks, which means that tracking attendance and validating who heard the message isn’t always accurate. It also means that other valued members of the school staff who might not “fit” into that room – administrators, office assistants, volunteers any more – may miss out on important training.
We have ways of addressing this problem with platforms that allow staff to complete training flexibly on mobile devices and online, but are we prepared to make space and time for staff to do this and acknowledge it as a work request, OR is it an expectation that staff will complete their training outside of work hours?
As the complexity of our job continues and new Teaching Standards are put into place or updated across the country, using “the stick” approach to enforce Professional Development requirements does nothing to improve the quality of training nor acknowledge that as humans, we all have motivators.
So What can Schools do?
Training is clearly an essential part of inducting teachers and other staff on the requirements of their roles, and for ensuring these valued staff continue to grow and develop. But most of the time, we aren’t presented with the things we need to know, at the right time, and in the right format, to ensure that we are able to actually learn!
To solve this problem, we all need to take a close look at the innovative ways in which we are approaching student learning and how we have turned it into such a rich and dynamic landscape. If we applied this same approach to school staff, reinvigorating and strengthening their learning and development, maybe the training will finally “stick”.
About the author
Lori Ghezzi is Head of Learning and Development at CompliSpace. She can be contacted here.