This is a summary of a full response from the authors, which can be found at bit.ly/CPDanswers
Sam Sims and Harry Fletcher-Wood single out the Developing Great Teaching (DGT) review in their critique and, as the authors of that review, we both welcome the scrutiny – that’s how science progresses – and we challenge a number of the points they make.
Firstly, we don’t recognise the ‘consensus’ view about CPD they assert and we certainly don’t accept that DGT is representative of it. Their consensus is an artificial construct assembled by selectively including or excluding features from a number of sources and claiming they are all the same.
Second, reviews are intended to provide an overview of a field of research. They are a broad guide and respond to broad questions. They are not prescriptions or formulae, so DGT found that no individual or combination of characteristics was common across the most reliable reviews, studies and claims.
Third, reviews bring together a diversity of evidence selected against rigorous quality thresholds and relevance standards. This was how DGT, a systematic review of reviews, was conducted though we accept that the public reports of the review – commissioned for a practitioner and policy audience - provided little detail of the methodology (an omission corrected in our recent blogs).
Sam and Harry’s critique boils down to one point: the review includes research studies that were not randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The place of RCTs in education research is disputed. Even accepting the value of RCTs, they remain rare in education generally and rarer still in studies of teacher professional development which, like education leadership, is a complex, multi-variate and expensive context for RCT study design.
We, like the authors, would welcome more trial studies but, unlike them, we believe that we have an obligation to work with the best evidence available on the simple grounds that knowing something is better than knowing nothing. We acknowledge that the quality of the underpinning research is an issue.