The Liverpool Life Sciences UTC + Studio School worked closely with the educational consultants at IRIS Connect to transform their existing approach to CPD and bring the idea of a personalised model to life.
“We feel that it is time to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ CPD approach and to allow teachers the autonomy to carve their own path to development ”
– Katie Small, Assistant Principal, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC + Studio School
The general consensus post-pandemic was that with ever-growing workloads and responsibilities leading to cognitive overload and concerns about teacher wellbeing, the longer, more traditional after-school CPD sessions seemed like time that could be better spent elsewhere. The plan was to help evolve The Liverpool Life Sciences UTC + Studio School’s CPD programme, giving their teachers the time and space to develop areas of practice that they felt they could improve – working on areas with a direct impact on the quality of their teaching and consequently of their student’s learning.
Introducing a new approach
Viewing the months leading up to the summer break as an opportunity to develop their CPD model, the summer term of 2021 was used to develop a teaching and learning forum – a core group of staff that were given the term to become experts in their specified areas of development. The plan to roll out the new CPD model in the new academic year meant members of the forum had to ensure they were familiar with the IRIS Connect technology. Finding a way to make these sessions more effective, concise, and relevant led to the development of short, 3×15-minute long sessions that could be easily integrated into the workday without eating into teachers’ personal time.
The sessions were initially led by IRIS Connect in the following order:
- An open discussion around the current professional development plans and what areas and topics the members of the teaching and learning forum would like to become experts in. (For example, one forum member was responsible for aspects of delivery to include challenge, assessment, questioning and feedback while another was responsible for using data to inform teaching and learning.)
- An overview of the theory and research behind video-based PD along with an introduction on how to get from recording relevant content to reflecting upon it and highlighting specific areas of interest.
- A discussion to see if everyone was able to record and reflect, discussing when and why it’s appropriate to clip out a short section of content to possibly share with colleagues.
- Creating a shared area within the IRIS Connect platform around each chosen area of focus, where the teaching staff could share their short edited clips. In doing so they would be contributing to a fantastic bank of resources that can continue to be added to for future discussions around each particular topic.
The sessions allowed the teaching forum staff involved to gain a greater understanding of why each step was necessary and how it would help them to be more confident, self-reflective practitioners. In just 6 weeks, the training group was able to dissect an area of PD, such as feedback & assessment, EAL strategies, SEND, vocabulary and oracy etc.
At the beginning of the academic year, teaching staff were then able to select specific areas of their teaching practice that they wanted to focus on improving – in doing so, they were able to specifically tailor their CPD around their individual needs. Staff would use IRIS Connect to record their practice and share them with their ‘expert coach’ within each chosen specialist area. Through sharing their reflections online, staff were able to avoid the usual restrictions that come with in-person observation, while also maintaining autonomy and having control over what they shared.
The lack of classroom interruption meant the uploaded recordings showed completely natural classroom environments and allowed coaches and staff to create a dialogue completely online, through the IRIS Connect platform. Subsequent reflections showed how the teacher acted on advice and guidance provided by their coaches, ultimately showing proof of development in their chosen area.
How IRIS Connects video-enabled platform helped
IRIS Connect helped The Liverpool Life Sciences UTC + Studio School to run this personalised approach to CPD by following an instructional coaching model. This allowed them to have set groups of staff with different areas of focus and expertise.
The mentees at this school were asked to record segments of their lessons and share them with their coaches – the coaches would then instruct the teachers on the next steps to develop their practice further. IRIS Connect enabled teachers to have regular coaching conversations about their practice in an environment that is safe and designed specifically for personal growth. With time being such a precious commodity in teaching, especially at these times, it allowed for regular collaboration between coaches and teachers that would otherwise be difficult to accommodate in the day-to-day working of a school.
“I feel a personalised CPD approach is much more relevant to my own development as a teacher. In the past, I have found many “whole school CPD“ sessions are very limited in providing the support needed for an individual teacher’s development. Given the general pressures on teacher time, a targeted approach as “IRIS Connect” permits, is very valuable.” – Nick Wild, Maths Teacher
Staff wholeheartedly welcomed the personalised CPD approach as many teachers reported feeling frustrated at the need to follow the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that has been used so frequently in the past. Teaching staff were informed of the role that IRIS Connect would play in the implementation of the personalised approach to professional development, acting as a primary tool or vehicle to help promote the adjustment.
As in many schools, initially, some staff were reluctant to be filmed. However, once the staff understood the platform, saw the benefits of it and appreciated they had complete control over with whom they shared their reflections, their initial reluctance soon dissipated.
“Initially I was very apprehensive about it as I wouldn’t say technology is a strength of mine. However, once I had a go it was actually much easier than I thought. It has made a difference to my practice as it made me focus on what I was saying and the way I was saying it. It also enabled me to look in hindsight at the way students were engaging. ” – Amy Connolly, English Teacher
Katie Small set up a simple booking system with the school’s IT team, which meant that once booked, the IT team would set up the IRIS Connect equipment for them in their selected lesson and return at the end of the lesson to pack the equipment away. This simple process greatly impacted the number of teachers who took advantage of the value provided by a targeted approach.
Teachers gained new insights into their classroom practice
Research showed that staff were using IRIS Connect more as a result of the CPD programme revolving around the platform, with mentor Andrew Storey finding “the booking and logistical practicalities of the IRIS Connect system faultless”. The microphones enable insights to be made into the natural dialogue pupils have with each other; dialogue which may be missed in a standard lesson observation. The different perspectives offered by the dual vision and microphones provide insight into student conversations, reactions, and responses, allowing staff to modify instructions given, both verbal explicit instructions, and non-verbal signals. Mentors also found it straightforward to be able to comment on the video and create a dialogue with the teacher they were mentoring; making particular use of the timestamped commenting feature. As Lucy Henderson, one of the expert teachers put it:
“Time stamps – I love them! Such a sophisticated way of offering feedback and engaging without the feeling of intrusion.” – Lucy Henderson, English Teacher
Staff could engage in effective CPD in spite of their busy schedules
Evidence that staff were developing their own practice came from the conversations recorded in their reflections with their coaches. The teachers and coaches had the autonomy to fit their reflections and communications around their job, as it was decided they could determine when this needed to be done; it was ultimately up to the coaches to push their group to respond and submit reflections and provide feedback.
Reflective practice is now enhancing teaching & learning on a regular basis
Feedback from the forum makes it clear that this approach is certainly enhancing practice in the classroom. Staff have become used to booking out the kit and recording segments of their lessons as they are aware the best way to really improve your practice is to watch yourself teach.
“I do believe that a personalised model for CPD is the way forward. Generic CPD can at times not encourage/inspire staff who are further into their career if the topic of CPD is repeated. Working with colleagues to develop your own practice in a developmental way is the most encouraging model for a lot of staff.” – Chris Challinor, History Teacher
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