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Do Batman moments happen in Teacher CPD?

Do Batman moments happen in Teacher CPD?

4 min read
  • Becoming evidence-informed

Do one-off interventions lead to lasting change?

Within the context of CPD, perhaps the most important part is the first letter of that acronym. The C stands for “continuous”. The very name itself suggest that one-off interventions, if not supported and supplemented over time, can lead to sub-optimal or even minimal impact.

Do Batman moments really exist?

Fans of Batman comics are well-versed in the origin of their main character: a young Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered and, in that one moment, his life takes a hugely different path. Without it, he would never have eventually assumed his superhero persona.

This is not too dissimilar to the story of Archimedes jumping out of the bath shouting “Eureka!” at the realisation of how buoyancy worked – a one-off event leading to long-lasting change.

However alluring the idea of a Batman or Archimedes moment may be, the reality of day-to-day improvement is typically quite different. Old habits die hard. Change can be slow – and small. Left to their own devices, people usually revert to type.

So, what does this mean for Inset days and twilight sessions as part of staff development? Introducing a new idea or concept can provide a spark of inspiration. It can enthuse and motivate a desire to travel down a different path. But that spark of initial enthusiasm requires a different type of fuel to sustain the fire.

Practical, evidence-informed Teacher CPD your staff will actually love. Develop Teaching & Learning at your school thanks to Cognitive Science research.

What does the Education Endowment Foundation suggest?

The rather brilliant Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), in their Effective Professional Development Guidance Report, highlighted four main strategies that will help teachers make the most out of CPD. These are:

  1. Building their knowledge
  2. Motivating them
  3. Developing teaching techniques
  4. Embedding practice

It is the latter of these four that this blog focuses on. The EEF states that “embedding practice” composes of four different levers – let’s take a closer look at each of those…

1. Providing prompts and cues

Frustratingly, we all have short working memories. Which means we forget things at a far quicker rate than we would like (or often realise). Providing follow-up prompts or reminders can help with this.

Even when we do remember what we set out to do, converting good intentions into behaviour change is notoriously difficult (see our blog on the “Daffodil Experiment” for more on this). Prompts and cues can act as one way to help navigate this.

2. Prompting action planning

For a long-term goal to be achievable, it needs a plan. So, encouraging staff to engage in effective goal setting could help them make substantial progress. Breaking down long-term goals into shorter chunks can help mitigate the Planning Fallacy, which highlights how bad we tend to be at predicting how long a task is actually going to take.

Action Plans can help, as they allow schools to turn the abstract into something tangible and concrete. The EEF give a lovely example of this when they talk about using time within the CPD session to plan where to use a particular strategy in an upcoming lesson.

3. Encouraging monitoring

Self-monitoring describes the process of regulating your actions, thoughts, and emotions to help achieve a goal. It is a key ingredient that is essential for success in professional development, as it ensures that people stay on track with their action plans.

According to the American Psychological Association, those who self-monitor are better able to adapt to new situations, whereas those who do not tend to act in line with their own feelings. This is one reason why writing a diary or journal can be very helpful.

4. Prompting context-specific repetition

Repeated practice is essential for improvement. Practice may not make perfect, but it is well documented that our first attempt is very rarely our best attempt (or even an indicator of how good someone may be at that thing).

So, allowing teachers to consistently apply new and improved teaching techniques in a real-life setting will help these take root. It is encouraging to hear of so many schools moving away from one-off graded lesson observation and instead adopting a coaching culture. This makes the likelihood of both receiving quality feedback and it being actioned far more likely.

Final thoughts

The big elephant in the room is that there is little time spare in education. Life and work are busy and often involve a lot of firefighting, especially in schools. Given this context, it would be lovely if Batman moments did exist when it comes to CPD, but the reality is that there are no shortcuts in continued development.

For more depth and detail, we strongly recommend reading the original EEF report. It’s really good and super helpful.


About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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