Investigating critical learning episodes: a practical guide for continuing professional development

Richard Kiely

Matt Davis
Eunice Wheeler

This handbook serves as a resource for CPD policy makers, organisers and leaders who wish to develop programmes of learning that are effective, challenging and relevant to teachers of varying levels of experience.

The focus of the approach to CPD which we set out is teachers’ own practice. Our philosophy is based on the view that teaching is best enhanced when teachers analyse and reflect on what happens in their own classrooms. Interaction is central in learning, and the approach to CPD involves capturing actual instances of classroom communication, exploring how these unfold, and understanding their impact in terms of learning. We term these short units of practice ‘critical learning episodes’ (CLE – see page 7). This handbook provides guidance on implementing core and optional components of this approach, describes a case which shows an analysis of a CLE, and in the conclusion, sets out some principles which might guide others in developing an approach to CPD based on analysis of teachers’ own practice.

This handbook can be used in several ways, as:

  • a toolkit for organising a CPD programme based on each teacher’s own practice
  • a procedural frame for capturing data from teachers’ own practice
  • a means of exploring aspects of practice, particularly classroom interaction
  • a guide to setting up collaborative discussion and reflection
  • a framework for negotiating roles and investments in the programme
  • a guide to integrating learning in CPD sessions with activities outside and between sessions
  • an introduction to teacher research
  • a set of ideas which can stimulate novel, creative approaches to making organised CPD courses more effective.