AGTI Survey on The Teaching Council’s CPD Policy (Cosán)


The AGTI welcomes in the introduction of mandatory CPD. While we have clear views on what we think the Teaching Council’s policy on CPD should look like, we see mandatory CPD as an opportunity to contribute further to the professional development of teachers.

The AGTI surveyed Geography teachers between March and September 2015 to seek their views on mandatory CPD. This post presents the questions asked, the rationale behind each question, the respondents’ answers to the questions and where relevant, further analysis to explain or qualify the results. A total of 89 response were recorded including 2 duplicates. Not all questions were answered, so the total answering each question varied.

None of the questions asked were required. Respondents were free to answer as few or as many questions as they wished. The responses were used to draft the AGTI’s position paper on Continuing Professional Development. The AGTI is also conducting a review of the literature on CPD so as to continue to contribute meaningfully to the consultations on CPD.

1.  What is your second subject?

The purpose of this question was to get an indication of the the distribution of respondents among other subjects. There were 80 responses to this question.

History 17
Mathematics 16
Irish 14
English 13
Economics 4
French 3
Computer Science 2
CSPE 2
special needs 2
Art 1
Careers & Counselling 1
German 1
Media studies 1
Music 1
PE 1
science 1

2.  What is the balance of your teaching time between subjects?

The purpose of this question was to see whether geography was the most significant subject for respondents. The underlying assumption here is that teachers who have more timetabled hours for geography would be more keen to avail of CPD in geography.

Respondents could choose between ‘Mostly geography’, ‘Mostly a second subject’, ‘balance between geography and a second subject’ and ‘Only geography’.

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Balance of Teaching Time

Approximately 58% of respondents are teaching geography as their main or only subject. A little less than a third of geography teachers had a balance between geography and another subject. Approximately 15% of respondents were teaching geography as a second subject. It was expected that most of the respondents would be teaching geography as a significant component of their timetable.

3.  How many hours would you estimate you spend on out-of-school hours CPD each month?

The purpose of this question was to see how much time geography teachers currently spend (voluntarily) on CPD. Rather than number this in events attended, it was simpler to ask respondents to estimate the number of hours they spent on CPD.

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Hours Spent on Continuing Professional Development

The majority of respondents spend up to 5 hours each month on Continuing Professional development. However, nearly 23% of respondents are spending over 5 hours per month on CPD.

It was expected that some respondents were not participating in CPD but it was surprising that nearly 22% were not participating. There may be many valid reasons for this other than simply not participating. For example, the advent of Croke Park hours has impacted on teachers ability to participate in CPD. While some school principals allow their teachers to use some Croke Park hours for CPD events, this is not a uniform situation. It may well be that family commitments and issues accessing CPD impacted on the responses here.

4.  Considering where you teach and live, how would you describe your ability to access activities that support your practice?

The purpose of this question was to assess respondents’’ ease of access to CPD’ as this would have an impact on their ability to meet their future CPD obligations.

Three options were provided; ‘Difficult to access’, ‘Easy to access’ and ‘easy to access only school-based acitivities’.

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Ease of Access to Continuing Professional Development

A significant percentage of respondents (approx. 44%) said CPD was difficult to access considering where they teach and live. Mandatory CPD will create a demand for CPD events but only a small proportion of these will be available in school. While the Teaching Council has suggested that in-school activities – formal and informal – could be recognised as CPD it is clear that there are regions of the country where it is difficult for teachers to access CPD. This is an important point for the Teaching Council to consider when formulating their final policy.

5.  What is the quality of the best broadband connection you have access to?

The purpose of this question was to assess respondents’ access to a reliable and efficient broadband connection. This question followed on from the previous question. If respondents could not access face-to-face CPD easily, they might still access CPD via the internet, but only if they had a reliable connection.

Five options were provided; ‘ Mobile broadband connection e.g. phone or dongle’, ‘6-8 mb broadband connection or phone line’, ‘ 25+ mb Broadband connection (phone line, satellite or cable), ‘Dependent on school connection’, and ‘No broadband connection available to me’.

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Internet Access

While teachers may have difficulty accessing face-to-face CPD events as suggested by Question 4, this could be mitigated by having access to online CPD. Online CPD is dependent on a reliable and reasonably fast broadband connection. Just over 40% of respondents said that they had a connection slower than 8mb with over 11% reliant on a mobile connection. 24% were dependent on a school connection.

While it is reasonable to expect the Teaching Council would recognise CPD courses, any conception of CPD has to include what might be termed ‘short session CPD’ that recongises some teachers’ limited access to CPD either online or face-to-face.

6.  What kinds of activities would you like to see recognised as part of the Teaching Council’s policy on CPD? List as many or as few as you think appropriate in answer to the question. Examples could include lectures, workshops, school department meetings etc.

The purpose of this question was to assess which activities teachers would like to see recognized as CPD. There was also an underlying assumption that the answers provided would represent repsondents views about the CPD activities they would like to access. Responses were collated and grouped by similarity.

Fieldtrips Introduction of new course programmes Readings
Lectures Leadership development Reflections
School Department Meetings Lectures from external Agencies Resource Preparation
Accredited Courses Lectures from Senior Teachers Resource Sharing
AGTI Meetings & Branch Organisation Lesson Preparation School planning
Any in-services regardless of subject Meditation Self-evaluation
Attendance at cultural events Methodology Workshops SEN training
Certificate/Diploma/Degree studies Online Courses Subject Association membership
Chats Online Research Subject Association Meetings
Communities of Practice Organising extra-curricular events for students Subject Planning
CPD as Gaeilge Participation in Primary school CPD courses TeachMeets
Department Meetings PDST In-Services Training from agencies outside Ireland
Department Planning Peer learning Tutorials
Developing links to local schools Peer observation Webinars
Examination analysis Personal Field work Wellness
Gaeltacht Visits Personal research Working with sporting organisations such as scouting Ireland
Helpful courses (eg. Conflict Resolution) Publications Workshops (ona range of topics both subject specific and teaching in general)

The  range of activities that could count as CPD specifically for geography teachers is potentially endless. Wherever we go, we are always confronted with the job we do in the class room. This could be taking photographs on holiday that enhance a lesson, talking to local people about the landscape and people of a region, or collecting rock samples for class.

The issue here will be how the Teaching Council can validate such activity.

7.  How should CPD be recognised?

Since not all CPD events are equal, the purpose of this question was to seek respondents views about how best to recognise teachers involvement in CPD.

Six options were provided; ‘Number of CPD eventgs attended’, ‘Hours spent participating at CPD events’, ‘Different weightings depending on the level of commitment to CPD events’, ‘Level of formal qualification obtained from CPD’, ‘All of the above’, and ‘Other’.

Respondents could choose more than one option.

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How Should CPD Be Recognised?

Nearly 45% of respondents opted for a broad recognition of CPD. However, the most significant option was for recognition of CPD on the basis of the ‘number of hours spent participating in CPD events’. The results also above make it clear there should be recognition of different levels of commitment to CPD events. A combination or hours/credit system is possible.

8.  Should there be recognition of activities attended *before* the introduction of compulsory CPD or should CPD start with a ‘clean slate’?

Many teachers currently participate in CPD. The purpose of this question was to seek respondents views on how CPD should be introduced.

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Recognition for Past CPD

Over 65% of respondents felt there would be recognition for past CPD events. Nearly 29% of respondents favoured a ‘clean slate’ approach to recognising CPD. While this option is easier in terms of administration, it might be regarding as unfair by those teachers who have already been demonstrating a regular commitment to CPD. 12 of the 25 respondents who favoured a ‘Clean Slate’ approach answered that they spent 0 hours on CPD! However, some of the respondents who spend 0 hours on CPD favoured recognition for past CPD.

9.  CPD should be recognised only if it is provided by accredited course providers such as universities or online commercial providers?

The purpose of this question was to see whether respondents were in favour of CPD provided by specialist course providers.

Two options were provided; ‘Agree’ and ‘Disagree’.

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What about professional course providers?

The majority of respondents to this question did not want CPD to be composed on activities provided only by professional course providers. While professional course providers are a source of CPD, CPD should come from a much broader range of sources.

10.  How should teacher CPD be verified?

The underlying assumption of this question is that instead of a trust system, teachers will need to demonstrate that they have undertaken CPD. The purpose of this question was to seek respondents views as to how they would demonstrate their participation.

Five options were provided; ‘Record of learning (skills/knowledge acquired) submitted to the Teaching Council‘,‘ Simple record of CPD hours submitted to the Teaching Council‘,‘ A record of CPD events attended submitted to the school and forwarded to the Teaching Council‘,‘ Online Teaching Council database record completed by the teacher‘, and ‘Other ‘.

Respondents could choose only one option.

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Verifying Participation in CPD

The most favoured option from those offered wanted CPD to be verified by a record of events submitted to the school (ie. The Principal) and then forwarded to the Teaching Council. Almost 32% favoured an Online Teaching Council database record which the teacher could complete. It is possible that these two approaches could be combined.

11.  Should attendance at CPD events be a requirement for Teaching Council Registration?

The National Executive of the AGTI felt that this would be a contentious issue and so a question was included in the survey.

Four options were provided; ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Yes, but allow for a period of absence from CPD (e.g. in the case of illness)’, and ‘Other’.

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Should attendance at CPD events be a requirement for Teaching Council Registration?

The majority of respondents felt that CPD should NOT be a requirement for Registration. However, there was some recognition in comments that CPD needs to be mandatory since some teachers do not undertake any CPD. Nearly 36% felt is should be a requirement but with some latitude to take account of teachers’ personal circumstances.

12.  Is there any comment or suggestion you would like to add?

The purpose of this question was to allow respondents the freedom to contribute  any opinions they might have that were not covered by the survey questions. There was no limit on how much respondents would write in response to this question.

The comments below are as submitted on the survey form (typos included!).  Each quote is a separate respondents contribution. I have added some notes or comments after some of the comments which may offer points to reflect on for contribution to Teaching Council consultations. Some may appear negative but are not intended as such, merely as reflections that might be worth considering.

“I source and attend CPD in abd outside Ireland none of it recognised. While a growing number of Geograpby teachers who do nothing, bave no interest in it and view the subject as an easy option, do a grave injustice to the pupils, the subject and the school. Hopefully CPD will go some way to sorting this out and encourage dedicated geography teachers to grow.”
“According to the Teaching Council Act 2006 CPD will be a requirement for re registration. I believe 60-70 hours of CPD over a 5 year period unless completing formal studies should be sufficient and not an excessive expectation of teachers bearing in mind that most of this will take place in addition to their teaching timetable no doubt.”
60 hours over 5 years equating to 12 per annum is isn’t really very much but on top of Croke Park hours, teachers may react  to this.
“Interaction with colleagues to discuss programme and students is essential.”
Department meetings outside of timetabled hours should be considered CPD.
“Compulsory CPD is a worrying trend. While I recognise the importance of CPD. We dont want to see teachers taking any old course just to keep the Teaching Council happy.We also need to be careful that companies will see an opportunity to charge teachers to take courses. Courses need to the relevant to the teacher. Any compulsory CPD should be very small.”
CPD policy should encourage a positive attitude towards professional development. making something compulsory is often a quick way to kill enthusiasm for it.
“Online courses which can be completed at the discretion of the teacher must be provided. Resources must be put into developing high quality and varied online courses across a variety of subject and non-subject areas (i.e. IT based teaching and learning). Croke Park hours should be utilised to complete the required number of CPD hours. This could be an extension of the existing ‘discretionary hours’ arrangement. CPD hours should be able to be completed during Summer holidays (and all other school holidays – Easter, mid-term breaks etc) and count for the required hours of CPD for the next year. This could easily be facilitated if online courses are developed. Any relevant courses should be permitted, not just those scheduled by the Dept of Education or Subject Associations. For example, in-school CPD led by teachers with expertise in a certain area (i.e. IT), Google Educator Exams, Apple Distinguished Educator, ECDL, First Aid, Sports Coaching etc.”
Compulsory CPD will see a rapid increase in demand for CPD events. It is possible that initially, teachers might have trouble finding enough CPD events to meet their ‘quota’ (if such a thing is adopted).
Some online courses may not encourage the kinds of professional and personal development that would contribute meaningfully to the development of the profession. On the other hand, online learning is much more accessible and flexible than face-to-face events.
“I think that more opportunities for CPD should be provided in the local education centres. These sessions should focus not only on course content but on teaching methods and resources available.”
“Apologies, I know that I wrote my comments in the “other” box on 2 or 3 occasions in this survey. I feel quite strongly about CPD as being important, but I don not think it should be a definite requirement for registration. I do think that there should be a recognition by the Teaching Council of all CPD one completes in a certain time-frame (be it every 1/2/3/4/5 year(s). Any inservices, workshops, events attended to do with the teaching of your subject should be recognised as CPD.”
A time frame over a period of years in an interesting idea worth exploring. The AGTI regards all of its events as CPD.
“More provision of accessible CPD much occur if it is to be compulsory”
“Try to make CPD relevant and purposeful rather than a box ticking exercise.”
“Having a central location for everyone travelling for CPD, for example Athlone rather than Dublin. Recognition for people who are involved in their AGTI branch and give their time voluntary in promoting the branch.”
Athlone is a good spot but difficult for people from Kerry and Donegal. Face-to-face events should be available at the nearest education centre. CPD has the power to make Education Centres more purposeful.
“CPD should not be made compulsory”
“The introduction of compulsory CPD must be thought about very carefully. It may have the effect of killing any initiative on the part of individual teachers and replacing it with resentment on the part of teachers who feel that work they have carried out in the past is not recognised because it does not tick the correct box. Teaching is a vocation – there must be a love of the subject – the job -for it to really succeed. Professionalism is extremely important and improving the work of each subject department is and will always be ongoing but inspiring people is something completely different from regulating and there must always be the realisation on the part of the Teaching Council that measures introduced must reflect the needs that are there in teaching. A good teacher is not necessarily a teacher that has lots of certification regarding courses completed. Balance is needed in the approach to professional development.”
There does need to be a balance between the ‘profession-on-paper’ and the ‘vocation-in-real-life’. CPD should foster and nurture the profession rather than make a chore of it.
“CPD should be relevant, attempts should be made to hold in places which are accessible to all, not always possible to attend meetings 2/4 hrs away after work. Some people always have to travel.”
“I think most teachers will embrace the opportunity to attend good quality & “classroom” relevant CPD if it is of a high standard & practical. However it most not be too onerous & require excessive attendance at workshops, etc. I feel attendance at a one day workshop per academic year (or its equivalent) should be sufficient for CPD purposes. The time spent at such events should also be offset against our current Croke Park commitments in conjunction with the five hours currently available for such events.”
A one day workshop may not be a consistent basis on which to develop the kinds of professional conversations the Teaching Council envisages. On the other hand, one day workshops could conveniently wrap up ones CPD requirement for the year.
“CPD is outside of contracted school hours and many teachers are already doing many school related activities outside of school anyway so ” forcing CPD” or making it compulsory particularly if it is only to tick a box and is not necessarily relevant is pointless.”
“CPD should be an integral part of on going teacher learning and update. This new move should reward that and not simply be a box ticking exercise where any old thing attended will suffice . This will require the provision of many opportunities to attend appropriate useful CPD within easy access of all teachers Some CPD needs to be provided in school time.”
“The more CPD that can be during “office hours” the better. Only in exceptional cases should it be conducted during “unsocial” hours.”
“Huge potential for on-line delivery”
“There needs to be a lot more choice of CPD courses for Geography especially in relation to the Field Study & the Options section of the Higher Level course.”
While the AGTI provides upwards of 20 or so events each year on this and other topics, this training is, in the first instance, the responsibility of Initial Teacher Education. There are some weaknesses in ITE which have yet to be addressed but it is clear that there are NQTs leaving ITE with insufficient training to deliver the geography curricula.
“more cpd needed for geography, especially senior geography”
see note above.
“Given our present workload and the various new programmes we will have to undertake re new junior cycle which I consider CPD in itself, any compulsory CPD should be very broad based and include all the new programmes and plannng for them etc.”
“I have always found CPD to be a worthwhile process – sometimes individual courses don’t live up to my expectations but the basic principle of Life Long Learning is vital for a group involved in formal education. However, access to CPD has to be easy, the CPD must be seen as relevant and be well delivered and amounts of CPD undertaken must be evenly and fairly recorded.”
“CPD should not be compulsory.”
“I would like to see branch meetings recognised even when paper work not completed. It is impossible to predict what we can organise in a given year.”
The AGTI would feel very strongly that Branch participation would be recognised as CPD. This would strengthen the branches and ensure there were plenty of activities in which teachers could participate. If branch participation is not recognised, this will kill off the branches and subject associations as no one would want to spend the time doing the organising.
“I’m delighted to see this finally happening.”
“Teachers are continuously developing their professional lives in all sorts of ways, not just through attending a lecture etc. As a Geography Teacher, watching a geographical TV documentary is actually improving my ability as a teacher as I am improving my knowledge – but yet this is not seen as CPD as I haven’t attended a ‘workshop’ on it! Not every teacher has the same interests, needs, knowledge etc – this needs to be recognised in relation to CPD. What is counted as CPD needs to be looked at closely.”
Interesting point. Watch a video at home, not CPD. Watch it in an Education Centre, then it is CPD. Or is it just part of the job anyway?
“I said earlier that Irish was my second subject. It is in fact my first. Geography is my second. A major lack of Geography I services around.”
 I think there is an issue here for the PDST as geography has been increasingly whittled away. On the other hand, when the PDST put on in-services, so few people turned up. In the AGTI, we have the same issue.
“CPD is often only available for teachers with jobs this is unfair for newly qualified or young teachers who are finding it hard to secure employment but who are dedicated and want to participate in CPD. It also lessens their chance of securing employment when they have no record of CPD.”
There does need to be some recognition that an NQTs induction year is CPD. Indeed, teachers involved in the Droichead scheme should have this participation recognised as CPD.
The saved responses to the AGTI’s survey are available for inspection on request.
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