The Thinking Behind TES Courses

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The most important factor in any education system is the quality of the teaching.[i]

And the best way to improve it is to give teachers who are already in schools the opportunity to develop their practice and stay inspired.[ii]

A problem for teachers, though, is that “CPD” has almost become a synonym for “time-wasting boredom”. For too many it has become something that is done to them.

At TES, we wanted to find a way to change that.

So we gathered information from thousands of teachers to try to create a new approach that they would find more practical. Schools had also complained that training courses cost them too much time as well as money, so we wanted to fix that as well.

As the world’s biggest digital network for schools, teachers correctly expected that we would create a system that would feature online learning. This offers the opportunity of something that is more flexible, more cost effective and more responsive to what teachers need.  But it also present challenges.

We not only had to make teacher CPD interesting, we had to find a way to break online learning away from dull courses that simply required learners to click the “next” button or do multiple choice tests. 

The trials of our courses suggest we are finding an effective pedagogy that delivers engaging online learning for teachers.  We have now created a set of courses - with some of the world’s best-recognised universities for teacher training - which we believe can change teacher development.


Professional development, professional development, professional development

McKinsey’s influential report How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top stressed the importance of professional development for teachers.

“If you do not have inspired teachers, how can you have inspired students?” said one official in Singapore, pointing to the country’s emphasis on giving its school staff at least 100 hours professional development a year.

Similarly, a policy-maker in Boston explained that: “The three pillars of the reform were professional development, professional development, professional development’”


Creating engaging online learning

The difficulty with online learning is it often fails to be engaging or effective.  

A typical experience of digital learning in the workplace – such as courses on health and safety or occupational hazards – has involved clicking through a series of slide pages and then answering a multiple choice.  Even the widely-hyped MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have seen high drop-out rates and been criticised for mirroring old-fashioned pedagogies.[iii]

We faced the additional challenge that our learners are teachers – and they know what good teaching looks like.

Teachers can see the potentials benefits of online learning for CPD. Most quizzed by YouGov for TES felt that the positives  included “flexibility of when to learn” (67%); “downloadable resources” (65%); “ability to learn at your own pace” (63%) and “reduced travel” (56%).[iv]



YouGov: sample of 2,498 teachers

But teachers are also aware of its potential downsides – principally a lack of human interaction and a lack of mixing with colleagues (cited by 71% and 60%). An aspect they most wanted for training was an opportunity to “work and reflect with others”.

Addressing this issue, by making the learning social, has been crucial for us.

The case for social learning was also made in a report published by the Department for Education. It suggested that online courses could have an important role to play in teacher development – but only if they were social.[v]



[i] Barber, Michael, and Mona Mourshed. "How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out On Top." McKinsey Education (2007)

[ii] Ibid – see panel

[iii] Shaw, Michael, “Open Education in Practice”, Advances In Digital Education and Lifelong Learning Volume 1: Openness and Education, Emerald Books (2014)

[iv] YouGov for TES Global, “Developing CPD for teaching professionals”, survey of 2,498 teaching professionals (2014)

[v] Koxvold, Ian, “MOOCs: opportunities for their use in compulsory-age education”, Caineagle Associates for the Department for Education (2014)