Last year’s publication of the Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development (DfE, 2016) launched a concise, clear line of advice which, if we take it to heart, is potentially a game changer. The Standard is based on the Teacher Development Trust research released in 2015. The good news is that, whether you read on or not, you already have enough information to make a positive impact on school improvement in your school or MAT. The supporting guidance provides further help.
The essential ingredients for CPD that has an impact are:
- A focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes
- Robust evidence and expertise
- Collaboration and expert challenge
- Sustained over time
- Prioritised by school leadership.
The message from the Standard is that professionals need to continually develop and support each other for the benefit of pupils, which requires us all to work together and be clear about our respective roles.
Professor Judyth Sachs, likens teacher CPD to phases in a building project and writes about CPD that retools; remodels; revitalises; and re-imagines (Sachs, 2007). The former being entwined with government accountability and a top down approach. The interesting models are revitalising and re-imagining. Sachs describes these as being teacher-driven; about rethinking and renewing, and transformation; and involving collaboration, networks, inquiry and research (see table below). She argues that “CPD needs to incorporate all four of the elements of retooling, remodelling, revitalising and re-imagining to have two interrelated effects: first to ensure that the goal of improving student learning is achieved and second that a strong and autonomous teaching profession is supported.”
Does practice reflect the evidence?
CUREE’s 2011 research into teacher CPD made it clear that there isn’t enough collaboration back in schools and that significant improvement could be made from making relatively small adjustments such as: encouraging related action research projects; having at least two colleagues trained at the same time; and establishing mentors in schools. Additionally CUREE reported that needs analysis was neglected and that reflective practice needed much more depth than was in evidence because when CPD fails to provide a deep understanding of why and how things work, the level of adoption remains only surface level.
Alarmingly CUREE reported that there was only a very low level impact on children’s outcomes with only 16% of providers in 2011 (including schools) delivering CPD that was capable of embedding practice. It may be useful to reproduce my checklist of how to ensure effective CPD based on this CUREE research:
Planning effective CPD:
- Probe trainers (whether in-house or not) on content and the learning processes, particularly in the four areas discussed in the CUREE report: needs analysis; impact of the CPD on learner outcomes; collaborative approaches; and reflective practice
- Explore how providers will support and encourage collaboration in school once they’ve gone. Ask them how both of you can provide for peer support
- When your staff return from CPD do you ask them to make connections between their changing practice and their learners? Are there examples of CPD your staff have experienced where there have been useful activities and resources for explaining impacts on learners which you could use more widely?
- Do you make links between your staff development needs and the selection process for CPD? Do you explicitly match CPD with identified needs in performance reviews?
- Do your colleagues return from CPD able to explain the theory and underlying rationale for the practice they have been introduced to? Do you provide dissemination opportunities where your staff can be briefed by their colleagues?
When we planned our Teachers’ Professional Development Membership for 2017/18 we really wanted to reflect the Standard and be true to the researched principles behind it. One Education teachers’ training has always been based on research and evidence-based programmes but we are working harder to reference our research more explicitly this year, to include reading lists where appropriate, and to include meaningful intersession tasks. We have also built in more opportunities for collaboration through our membership benefits such as webinars, resource sharing, speaker events and drop-ins which will provide you with not just an opportunity to hear from us, but also the opportunity to hear from each other and sustain CPD. To help school leadership to prioritise professional development, membership guarantees schools will save money and if all of that doesn’t convince you, we are also offering a 20% discount on The Key’s CPD Toolkit.
It’s important that teachers themselves don’t become a barrier to accessing CPD. “Teacher demand for CPD represents teachers’ perceptions of constraints on availability and not necessarily their need for development” (Pedder, Storey and Opfer, 2008). In other words, don’t let tightening school budgets get in the way of the very important job of improving outcomes for children.
Department for Education, Standard for teachers’ professional development, 2016.
Cordingley, P., Higgins, S., Greany, T., Buckler, N., Coles-Jordan, D., Crisp, B., Saunders, L., Coe, R. Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. Teacher Development Trust, 2015.
Department for Education, Standard for teachers’ professional development. Implementation guidance for school leaders, teachers, and organisations that offer professional development for teachers, 2016.
Sachs, J., Learning to improve or improving learning: the dilemma of teacher continuing professional development, International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement, 2007.
CUREE, Evaluation of CPD providers in England 2010-2011 Report for School Leaders, 2011.
Pedder, D., Storey, A., and Opfer, V. D., Schools and continuing professional development (CPD) in England - State of the Nation research project. A report commissioned by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, 2008.