Cambridge Professional Development Qualifications (Cambridge PDQs) help teachers and school leaders to apply new ideas and approaches and to become reflective practitioners. Learning draws on teachers' and leaders' own teaching and learning environment making the qualification immediately applicable and improving professional practice.
Below you will meet four Cambridge PDQ candidates. You will hear their motivations for engaging with professional development, their learning journey: all the highs and lows, who supported them to reach their goal, what impact the Cambridge PDQ has had on their practice as well as their future plans regarding professional development.
Meet the candidates
Akosua completed the Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Educational Leadership and is currently working on Module 2 of the Diploma.
Amna completed the Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Teaching with Digital Technologies.
Yue Wei completed the Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Teaching and Learning.
Ivana completed the Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Teaching Bilingual Learners.
Case Study 1
Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Educational Leadership
The first time I read what would be involved in the Cambridge PDQ, I admit that I was a little apprehensive. I questioned whether I would have the time to complete it.
There were days when I would get to my office and I would think, work or Cambridge PDQ? And sometimes I would have to do work and do the Cambridge PDQ at home in the evenings when it was quiet and I wouldn’t have any interruptions. It was hard but it was a good hard. Everything that I learnt was very practical, directly related to my role. So even though it was challenging, and I would call and tell my programme leader that I wasn't sure if I could finish the work before the deadline, he and my mentor supported me through it. I really appreciated that it was directly related to my everyday work. The Cambridge PDQ required me to think, to reflect on my practice and ask questions about how I lead. And then to apply this to the work that I do. I won’t lie to you that it was extremely tough but very rewarding.
My mentor talked to me about the programme and how it would be helpful for the students. My mentor helped me see how my relationship with my teachers should focus on the impact they have on the students. My programme leader was also a great help. He set up an online page where all of us on the course could post ideas and articles and share resources. He also guided me throughout my programme, signposting me to material and resources which were very inspiring to read.
During the programme we had many opportunities to explore how other school leaders work. We were matched with people of experience in leading schools. We held interviews with leaders and met with heads of other institutions to share practice. It was very useful. We also had one on one training, individual study time and moments when all the candidates on the programme got together and discussed topics covered in the programme and had arguments over them! We found many ways to talk and collaborate.
I was previously more focused on leadership management. But now I have learnt that to be a good educational leader my focus should be on the students and their achievements and not so much on whether the timetables are good or whether there are enough resources. It was a big shift. Before the programme I was really focussed on getting everything in order, very structured but after the programme I realised that those things are equally important but that the relationship with the students and with the teachers, my influence on them, talking to them and finding out what challenges them, what are they finding difficult has more impact on learning. I learnt to be in the centre and not so much at the top.
I don't think I have learnt everything I need to learn and I would like to keep learning. I will never reach my limit for learning. Yes, it is tough combining it with work but if it will help me be a better leader I am all for it.
Once I have completed the Cambridge PDQ Diploma Programme I would like to move on to a Masters and perhaps a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. I want to continue with a course which helps me apply what I learn as much as this course has.
It is also good that we, all the candidates, are still in contact. We have conversations all the time. We call each other. We talk about what we are doing. We share ideas and some of the strategies we learnt on the course. We think about what we have done and what we have learnt, the ideas and practices and reflect on what we do. So I now have a network of leaders to talk with which helps to develop my practice further. This has been a great aspect of the programme.
Case Study 2
Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Digital Technology
There were 5-6 teachers from my branch of the Beaconhouse School Group who were interested in participating in the Cambridge PDQ programme. The school held a formal interview and 3 of us were shortlisted. I applied and when I was selected I felt very honoured. This was a big achievement for me.
I was really excited before I started the programme. This was the first Cambridge course that I could be involved in as I am an army wife and we have often moved before I had a chance to complete any professional development.
When you start something new you always have fears. Or let us rephrase ‘fears’ as ‘queries’. But I was motivated as I wanted to dig deep into how to use digital technologies in a better way for my students. Also to see whether my teaching with digital technologies is on a par with international standards. So yes, I had fears and queries, but I was very enthusiastic.
We had two types of activities running in parallel: the guided sessions which were held at one of our other centres, implementing the learning back in school and discussing this with my mentor. During the guided sessions we had the opportunity to collaborate with teachers from our other Beaconhouse schools. There were many interesting discussions. Teachers from different schools would share their experiences about how their students responded to them practically implementing what they had learnt in the guided session. This really added to the programme. From my centre there were colleagues from early years, primary and high school. We continuously shared our thoughts and experiences. When one new concept was introduced to us, we would try to implement it in our different settings. Afterwards, we would sit together and discuss and reflect on the experience. This was wonderful and really helped us move on in our learning.
However, as the guided session was from 09:00 am to 16:30 pm it meant that I would miss a day of school. It was a little tough but somehow I managed it. Our programme leader had given us his full time and we could call him at any time with queries. This helped overcome any challenges.
There was a moment which I would like to share with you. There is a child in my class with a speech impediment which means he is reluctant to speak up in class or participate in class activities. I realised through the programme that I could use technology to help him have a voice in class discussions. I discussed this with my mentor, planned in the use of voice recorders and successfully engaged the student in the activity. It was wonderful to have him finally involved in class discussions. Technology really helped that child. He was feeling emotionally safe. Because the person he was talking to was not a human being, it was a computer. Other times my use of technology was not as successful, but discussing with my colleagues and my mentor I reflected and learnt that sometimes technology doesn’t work because it isn't the appropriate tool to use for that situation or for that group of learners.
My school head is interested in supporting this programme. He has encouraged me to deliver to colleagues on the SAMR model which I have learnt about in my programme. This model has helped me greatly in planning when and how to use digital technology and I hope that it will help my colleagues also.
Since the sessions, we have set up a WhatsApp group and we now use this to share pictures, images and thoughts on our lessons and to share best practice. This is useful, as I can scroll back and look at some of the good ideas other teachers have implemented. It has really added to our collaborative culture.
This course has given me confidence and I am now thinking of continuing my learning and hopefully gaining a Diploma. I never thought that I would have the confidence to do this. I completely owe it to the collaborative sessions we had. 40% is due to my two colleagues from the same school as mine. Sitting together, discussing the learning from the perspective of different age levels, then in the guided sessions, the circle sessions, the collaboration that went on there. I have learnt so much. I will definitely keep going with my learning.
Case Study 3
Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Teaching and Learning
Our programme leader told me how useful she thought this programme would be for me especially as I graduated with a maths degree and came directly to the school to teach. I wanted to learn about the whole concept of teaching and learning, the whole concept of education. I have taught a number of students but I had little knowledge on how to improve my teaching practice. My previous teaching style was to get students to learn by repetition. I wanted to gain new understanding and new ideas. Previously, I observed other teachers but without very clear goals of what I wanted to learn.
I have always studied maths and science subjects so I haven’t had a lot of practice writing essays. I haven’t written a long piece of writing in 10 years. I am Chinese and to do this programme in English was a little scary for me. On our Cambridge PDQ programme, we had regular weekly meetings. In the meeting, we would have a combination of presentation and discussion. Things that I wasn’t clear about, I would share with my fellow candidates and mentor and we would have a discussion, which was very helpful. I was observed twice for the programme and I wrote a reflection on the lessons observed. A good aspect of the programme is that my mentor and I would discuss my lesson and I would reflect during this discussion.
Once I was happy with my portfolio I would pass to my programme leader who then went through it to make sure all the assessment criteria and the learning outcomes were met. This gave me confidence that I was meeting the Cambridge standard.The programme leaders provided textbooks and suggested journals and resources. I initially found there was a lot to read but I learnt to use the books as a reference and pick out the topics I wanted to learn more about. During the observed lessons, I tried to ensure that I planned my new learning into my lesson and to try new activities and concepts. Since going through this process of observation I do not feel nervous when my Head of Department or other teachers observe me.
During the programme, I had a discussion with my mentor to help clarify a teaching strategy. I thought I had understood the idea of active learning, but I was still unsure. I thought active learning was purely discussion and playing games. I teach further maths and I wondered how I could implement this into my lesson. I talked about this with my mentor and he explained that active learning is a concept and idea rather than just games.
So now I am much more learner centred in my lessons. I plan more activities as well as implementing assessment for learning. Now when a student has solved a mathematical problem I ask them to reflect. This has deepened their understanding and helped them apply their learning.
I can tell there is a difference in my students during the lesson since the programme. Mainly that they ask more questions of me! I was a reflective practitioner before the programme but this has helped me engage in it more actively and with meaning. I am still trying to improve this and find out how to build in more reflection, how to develop more assessment for learningstrategies and plan more active learning activities.This is not just for the sake of doing the programme but trying to improve my teaching.
The Cambridge PDQ programme has helped develop a whole school concept of professional development. As a school, we now understand the importance of professional development and how it supports our daily practice. We as teachers discuss more. We follow the habit formed during the Cambridge PDQ programme over the last four months. We have continued our communication and discussion since the programme has finished.Other teachers in the school have asked me about the course. ‘Is it worth it and is it very helpful?’ I tell them it is hard work, but that it is really worth it. It is helpful and that the work is very meaningful. It is not just to gain a pass and get a certificate or fulfil the conditions. When doing this programme you gain a lot from it. To show how the Cambridge PDQ programme has helped in our teaching those of us on the programme delivered four showcase lessons four times during a professional development day. One group of teachers would come for one session and then move to another classroom. This was repeated for other teachers. Initially, it was scary as many colleagues came to the classroom to watch me. However, the feedback was very positive and I could tell we achieved our goal. That was a very special moment.
Case Study 4
Cambridge PDQ Certificate in Teaching Bilingual Learners
I was keen to take part in a programme which was not a one-day event. The Cambridge PDQ programme appealed to me as it would give me time to learn with and from my colleagues. I had taken part in curriculum and content PD before, but I had not had experience of a programme such as this, so I was very excited about taking part.
There were initial problems regarding finding mentors for us all and to then ensure that our timetables were compatible to enable us to meet regularly with our mentor and for them to observe our lessons. Luckily our school was keen for us to complete the qualification and so supported the programme leader and created flexibility for us around the timetabling.
During the programme our programme leader signposted us to many resources on language awareness and strategies such as Content and Language Integrated Learning(CLIL). As a group, we were all motivated to learn more about these different strategies and so we also carried out a lot of research on our own and shared the resources with each other. When we met face to face we could then discuss what we had read and how we had used this learning in our teaching. This is an aspect I really enjoyed. I felt that there were a lot of people around me supporting me with my learning and that was very motivating.
To develop my portfolio the programme leader held support sessions. These came after our teaching practice and so I was able to receive support in how to collate my evidence and then reflect on my learning. I must admit, that I bombarded my programme leader with many questions! But she was very patient and showed me sample writing texts and a model portfolio so I knew how everything needed to be. My programme leader and I would discuss my draft assignments and she would give me very useful feedback.To be honest, I think my success on this course was due to the support of my programme leader and the support we all gave each other.
My practice developed quickly as I was keen to try my new learning in the classroom during the programme. As my teaching strategies developed I realised that my learners were working much harder and that they were more tired. I reflected that I had always planned for Higher Order Thinking (HOT) activities in my lessons, but that I did not always achieve these. During my post-observation discussion with my mentor, I could really analyse what was working in the lesson. It was then that I realised I needed to improve my questioning techniques, introduce more wait time and sequence the activities to include language building more explicitly. As I adapted my teaching I saw that the learners were more cognitively stimulated and were accessing the curriculum more easily.
Once I had gained the Certificate in Teaching Bilingual Learners I moved into a coordination role. This has allowed me to implement the strategies I have learnt across the whole school. I now carry out many observation of teaching practice myself and have brought the learning I gained on the programme to this role. The area I enjoy most about my role is that I can share my experience of learning. I always state that I am not the expert - that we can learn together. I am continuously learning from my teachers as I encourage them to try new teaching strategies in the classroom. We have become a school where language awareness is at the heart of our teaching.
1. Reflect on your own professional development needs
It is good to take time to reflect on your own professional development needs. You will want to consider what areas of your practice you would like to develop. You can carry out a small amount of research to help you with your thinking. You can incorporate your last review, discuss your practice with a colleague whose opinion you trust and who will be honest. Look at the year ahead and see if there are changes which you may need more support in.
2. Explore different Professional development offers
Once you have reflected on your own needs, look at what is on offer in your school and local area. Ask colleagues what PD they have taken part in.Think about how you like to learn best as well as the outcome you are hoping to gain.
3. Read the Cambridge Professional Development syllabus
Now you have an understanding of how the qualifications work in practice, read the syllabuses to explore the learning you will be engaged in.
4. Find your nearest Cambridge PD centre
We have over 100 centres globally, and the network is growing! Contact our customer services team to find out where your nearest centre is.
If there is not a centre close enough to you, or you are interested in your school becoming a Cambridge PD centre then read our support pages
5. Measuring success
It is important at this stage to think about how you will measure the impact of your professional development activities on your practice and on your learners. If you have thought of this early on you will be able to design a simple measure and share with colleagues. This will help you in evaluating how successful your professional development programme has been.
To find out more about Cambridge PDQs, please visit our website.
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