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Hugo Mathers

Hugo Mathers

Thoughts on CPD

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Most CPD programs created to help teachers implement programming in schools share a common flaw. The absence of children. Activity planning takes place almost entirely in isolation of those whom the activities are designed for.

The majority of these CPDs follow a show and tell format, a critical practice for growth in any profession, be it education, product design, software development, art etc.

The show and tell model is a powerful vehicle for spreading good ideas and best practices, but one has to question how appropriate this model is when the end goal is the design of engaging and effective activities for children in classrooms.

Look at your average CPD for example. Teachers typically gather in front of a projector to share experiences, and tools. Something a good show and tell should facilitate. The participants are then split into groups, they are given readily designed activities by the presenters, and made to practice these activities by impersonating children. The experience inevitably proves positive, because the adult impersonating the child does so from a pre-conceived assumption the given activity is a good one.

What’s presented is accepted as correct, and not much is really questioned. Mostly because the session structure in one way, and doesn’t allow for any constructive feed-back or real dialogue. The teacher walks away from the training session with a set of sure-shot exercises validated by their peers impersonating children. See something wrong here?

If there is an absolute truth we learned at Primo, is that assumptions are nothing without validation. This “truth” is in fact the bedrock of all learning, anywhere. True learning stops whenever you are told what to think rather than how to think, so why aren’t more CPD programs organised to act on this philosophy? This is clearly a problem more CPD providers should try and solve.

There is no shortage of committed teachers looking for better CPDs, and it’s not like all children disappear from the face of the planet whenever teachers need to train. Most of these training sessions already take place in schools! So what gives?

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Something needs to change. At Primo we offer full day, hands on workshops for teachers looking to introduce programming in their classroom. The workshops are split in two sessions, morning and afternoon.

In the morning, we invite teachers to first discover a new tool or product. We split attendants into groups, and we guide each group through a brainstorming session that culminates in the design of classroom activities with a quantifiable outcome. We don’t tell teachers what to do, we just tell them what is possible and let them figure things out for themselves.

The afternoon session is all about validating the designed activities with a live audience. We invite local families to bring their children along for a play session and let teachers test their assumptions. Children have fun, and teachers walk away with a set of validated methods based on real qualitative feedback. Overall, a workshop format we think more effective and ultimately more useful.

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This is our take on what a teacher training session should really look like. We normally organise these workshops at our London office, but we have also adapted our format to suit schools and groups of various sizes in several countries. If you would like more out of your training sessions and are curious to know how we can help, just get in touch on play@primo.io, we would be happy to assist.

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