The role of continuous professional development in the teaching profession

Whether you qualify to become a teacher through college or via a school based placement, the training period can be very intense.


However, once working in a position at a school, the learning doesn’t end.


Continuous professional development is something which is vigorously encouraged within the sector and ensures that teachers are given the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and expertise as much as they want to.


Here’s a bit more information about exactly what continuous professional development (CPD) is and what it involves.


CPD – the basics

CPD is important for every teacher as it not only provides the framework to allow them to develop professionally; it ensures that their knowledge does not become out of date.


An integral part of CPD is receiving the latest information regarding policies and procedures, on both a national and local level.


CPD does not have one defined path which every teacher must follow; it is a more fluid concept which allows the individual to focus on the skills they want and need to develop in order to not only further their career but also become more effective.


Whilst CPD is actively encouraged it is far more than a simple box-ticking exercise to keep the powers-that-be happy. All teachers embarking on CPD should feel as if they are gaining something worthwhile and valuable, regardless of how long they have been in the profession.


One of the key attributes every teacher tries to impress upon their students is a thirst for knowledge and the desire to fulfil their potential so it’s only right that they should try to do the same.

Teacher training is something which never really stops no matter how long you have been in the profession

The five stages

Although CPD will not follow the same route for everyone, it has been split into five separate stages which define where a teacher is likely to be during their career and the types of needs they may have.


Stage one: Teachers still studying for their initial certificate. At this stage teachers will need more support than most, including advice on lesson planning and good teaching practice. The aims are to pass the qualification and secure a teaching post.


Stage two: Teachers who have passed their qualification but are still in the early years of their career. Building confidence and discovering more about additional resources plus gaining feedback are likely to be key activities. Goals are to consolidate the learning so far.


Stage three: Teachers who have more experience and are looking towards further qualifications or certificates.  Starting a diploma course, branching out into a speciality and enhancing existing teaching skills are likely to be the primary focus. Goals include gaining a diploma, identifying and creating a specialist subject as well as experimenting with new techniques.


Stage four: Teachers who are confident, proficient and experienced fall within this category. Activities for personal development may include taking a Masters or even becoming a mentor for less experienced teachers. Goals may include moving into either teacher training or becoming an examiner.


Stage five: Teachers who have considerable experience and possibly qualifications would be considered as stage five. Creative and competent, they often provide support for less experienced teachers and may well be in a senior teaching post. To move further they may be looking for a more active role in the profession, such as the opportunity to speak at conferences or lead workshops.


Stage six: The most advanced level of teaching. The individual will be working already in a highly responsible and senior position such as possible a trainer of teachers, an academic researcher or an examination writer. Goals are less personal and more about aspirations for the industry such as influencing the standard of teaching and collaborating with peers.


How to get there

The above stages of personal development provide a guide to the kind of goals and level teachers will have reached along the way.


However, the ways in which CPD is carried out can vary hugely regardless of what stage you might be at.


Conferences are a great source of information for teachers of all levels, although those at the top end of the scale may also be giving some presentations as well as listening.


At conferences, it is possible to network to link up with peers with similar goals in the local area, and groups are a great way to get support and discuss issues.


Mentoring and observation may feel like being back at college again but are one of the most incisive ways to get an honest opinion on what you need to do to improve.


Workshops and further training courses can be undertaken at any time in your career ad if you opt to specialise this will become particularly important.


There is also a wide range of material available from different sources such as professional magazine subscriptions, whilst membership of trade associations can also be a great help.


Whichever route you choose, none of the above will be particularly effective without time taken for personal reflection. Logs, journals and diaries can be great ways to aid the process.

Conferences can be a great way to keep up to date with the latest policy and procedural information


An oft-quoted adage is ‘A good teacher never stops learning’, and with the help of CPD there is no reason why a teacher should have to. Continuous professional development is a fundamental part of a teacher’s role whether they have just emerged from training college or whether they have been in the classroom for the last decade or longer.