September 30, 2006

Bottom-up training the way to go?

The residential training for Glow, organised by LTS, sounds like a huge task to organise (for over 600 mentors), and also seems very top-down. Wouldn’t it be great to have people use an online spreadsheet to choose the date that suits them best, and let the bottom-up approach lead the training in the same way it should lead the adoption of Glow as a whole? I was really impressed by the online spreadsheet menu David set up for our Goat dinner.

At least this way responsibility for class cover and the choosing of dates which least affect learners (I’d want to be at school for last minute exam nerves of my students, not at a residential training course) would be with the teaching professional. Would it make the management of training easier in general if Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was chosen this way all year round? The professional (i.e. the teacher) makes a decision that this is something that will make their teaching better, (s)he makes the moves to get funding from the school and chooses the dates of training from an online spreadsheet or database.

Any other member of staff can see who’s doing what and share expertise – or a car to get there. Importantly, any member of staff can see what skills are already in the school – and which are not – and justify their CPD choice to management. They might also abandon their CPD realising that the skills are already there in the school and available for tapping into. The senior management, importantly, no longer have a training cartel: every teaching professional can make an informed decision and bid for support, based upon the school’s development profile.

Is this pie in the sky or a viable way of sharing expertise, avoiding duplication and avoiding disappointment? Makes me think back to “small change” instead of “large change”. Well, in East Lothian we are going to have just this thing - an online database where you can view skills and submit requests for your desired training. You can also pop along to "small change" type professional development workshops being held by colleagues during lunch hours or after school. I can't wait for Karen to let us know when this Learning Management System (LMS) is up and running. As far as I know, it's just round the corner.


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the whole issue of "bottom up" PD is a vexed one, Ewan. For the past 7 years in NZ we've run a national PD programme for teachers with ICT that is based on a model of distributed ownership and local determination - it is a collaborative venture between groups or clusters of schools and the Ministry of Education to promote and promulgate effective practice for the use of ICTs in New Zealand Schools. (FAQ on the model is at

In the initial phase of the programme one of the local areas tried an approach similar to what you've described for East Lothian - a centralised database of skills available and reuests for training. Of the 13 models we researched over the first three years of the programme, this one proved to be least effective. This isn't to say that there isn't merit in the idea, but what we identified wa a whole range of issues that need to be in place to engage teachers in the process of professional learning - many of which weren't being addressed by simply setting up the "skills and training" brokerage that this group tried.

A key thing here is that in a process of transformative change, so many of the participants don't know what they don't know - so the requests for training tend to be exactly that - requests for skills development which may, in the short term, lead to new and innovative things occurring in classrooms, it seldom moves past the 'novelty' or 'additive' approach to something that is truly transformational.

Don't get me wrong - I'm a stong believer in the "bottom-up" appraoch, something that is now well supported through the evidence of 7 years effort here in NZ. My point, I guess, is that for it to be successful, a range of strategies and approaches need to be considered, including models of mentoring, sponsorship, leadership and empowerment that will underpin teacher activity within the model.

I'll be very interested to see how your approach to this in East Lothian works out.

Great idea Ewan. Keep pushing it and hopefully it will come about. Glow would be an ideal vehicle to roll out such a programme. The spreadsheet could be contained within the Glow tools.

Well, Con Morris and his team are working hard to create a CPD portal within Glow. As yet details are hard to come by, but it will respond to what you 'should' be interested in. I think it will also present some things you didn't know you wanted to know about.

I think Derek's comments are justified, but the whole point of the TeachMeet approach to CPD is that it is partly decided by the participants, partly pushed by the innovators and structured by the manager(s) of the programme. The result should be interesting, I hope.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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