What’s the point of INSET?

Over the last 10 years I have sat through hours and hours and hours and hours of INSET. I’m a bit of an INSETaholic you see. As I’m writing this a reminder has just popped up in the corner of my screen flagging up that I’m due to attend a forty five minute session on ‘reasoning’ at 3:00pm. I’m keen to attend. You see I still approach all INSET with the mindset that I will learn at least one thing. Perhaps a strategy that I can add to my classroom practice, an idea I can trial whole school, advice that prompts me to reflect on my own leadership. But just like lessons for the students who attend our schools the quality of INSET varies.

The best INSET leaves you feeling inspired; hungry to learn more. Sees teachers swapping contact details and hanging around long after it’s ended talking and talking and talking about the topic at hand. The worst leaves you sat there listing the things you could be doing if you hadn’t been ‘advised’ by your line manager to attend. 

Some of the worst INSET has left me raging with anger as my time has been sucked away listening to an intelligent adult read through each and every word of 35 slide powerpoint presentation.

Schools have got to think much smarter when it comes to the develpoment of their staff. It seems to me that too much training is done on a wim or ad hoc basis. Leaders are influenced by what’s flavour of the month–independent learning; AfL; thinking skills; brain gym (seriously!) as opposed to what their staff really need or want.

At their best, professional development programmes in schools offer  choice; a combination of internal and external speakers; value the input of new teachers and experienced teachers; reference well grounded academic research; offer staff an end product such as Masters level credits. In short offer staff a learning opportunity.

So isn’t that the point of INSET? To learn. To continue to provide time, space, connections, for staff to learn? Providing a platform for staff to focus on their areas of interest, their passions and their own improvement. For this to happen school leaders need to work hard to ensure they plan for, build and nuture a culture of learning within all staff, conveying to staff that being a teacher is a continution of learning and the training and professional development will support them in that. 

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