Teachers should always have access to high-quality and engaging Continuing Professional Development (CPD)/professional learning to enable them to become the best that they can be.
Research conducted by the Education Policy Institute even highlights the significant positive impact access to just 35 hours per year of first-rate CPD can have on teachers and their pupils.
However, improving CPD in schools remains a real sticking point. One of the biggest challenges for those responsible for improving professional learning/CPD strategies is establishing a balance between developing whole school priorities alongside strengthening pedagogical approaches within specific subjects.
In many Birmingham secondary schools, there is often only one music teacher in the department. If there happens to be a second teacher, it is likely they will be teaching additional subjects.
It is a similar story for primary music leads. You may have various teaching colleagues, but the chances are that you are the only teacher responsible for music lessons.
To combat this void, here are some quick and easy strategies to improve subject-specific CPD in schools.
Subject-Specific CPD Strategies for Teachers and Leaders
1. Join Your Subject Association
Subject associations can support CPD and professional learning by providing opportunities to develop subject knowledge and engage with colleagues within your subject area.
Social media channels for subject associations are often a great way to keep up with current trends. In music, the following subject associations include:
To see other subject associations, refer to the CFSA Directory.
2. Look for a Wider Teaching Community Outside of Your School
Each music hub in England is tasked with providing a community of support with a range of CPD/professional learning opportunities available.
In Birmingham, we organise termly CPD for colleagues and specific ones for music subject leads to meet virtually to share ideas, current thinking and present action research around a particular topic or area of focus.
We also develop links with local universities and ITT providers to encourage trainee teachers to join this community early in their career development.
If your school is a part of a multi-academy trust (MAT), you may be able to find similar opportunities within your local networks.
3. Further Reading, Watching and Listening
As teachers, we strive to develop the knowledge and understanding of our students. Yet, it is important to do the same in our professional learning too.
Since the pandemic, professional learning is now more multi-modal than ever, with better access to podcasts, virtual conferences and other virtual training.
Of course, finding time to focus on professional learning is always a challenge. However, investing in self-development can be as simple as reading a piece of action research recently published by a subject association. Could this research have an impact in your own context? Could it be useful to highlight or share the findings with your SLT?
Equally, could technology present a solution here?
To coincide with this commitment to personal professional learning, Services For Education has launched a unique online video resource to support new and existing music teachers.
ReelMusic is the first digital resource of its kind, created specifically for music hubs, schools and universities. It is not simply a resource bank but a tool to develop professional conversation and dialogue between colleagues and to encourage deep thinking about teaching and learning in music.
For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ReelMusic is provided FREE of charge to all Birmingham schools.
Investing time into improving CPD/professional learning may feel like a tall order, but the long-term benefits for both the pupils and teachers are substantial.
Joining a community of teachers in your specific subject area can provide an invaluable space to ask questions, share ideas around curriculum design and discuss all matters related to teaching and learning. It’s quick, simple, and the perfect starting point.
The new virtual world offers a time-efficient way to join and develop key networks to support teachers in their professional learning. It’s just a matter of tapping into these vast resources.
About the Author
Adam Hickman – BMus (Hons), PGCE, HonRBC
Adam graduated from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (formerly Birmingham Conservatoire) in 2008 with a BMus (Hons) degree, where he studied classical guitar with Mark Ashford and Mark Eden. Upon graduation, Adam completed a PGCE in Primary Education at Birmingham City University and has since worked as a peripatetic music teacher. He is currently the Deputy Head of Music Service at Services For Education.
In the past, Adam has worked as an External Examiner at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and coordinated and lectured on music education modules at both Birmingham City University and The University of Birmingham.
In June 2019, Adam was awarded Honorary Membership of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in recognition for his work in music education. Adam is also active as a conductor and ensemble director through his work with the Birmingham Schools’ Training Guitar Ensemble and the National Youth Guitar Ensemble.