Cast your mind back 20 years.
The year 2000. The dawn of a new century: the 21st century. A time of progress and development.
The internet had given us a world of information at our fingertips and teaching looked set to reach new levels, with educators becoming all-powerful masters of their craft.
But in reality, the new millennium didn’t usher in a new dawn for teacher development – 20 years ago, CPD didn’t seem to be a priority for school leaders and, in the following years, it remained that way.
If you were lucky, you might be sent on a course; a day out, a nice lunch (always the highlight), perhaps a few useful resources that would languish in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. And then it was back to the daily grind.
In schools, there would be inset days, but these usually consisted of ad hoc sessions driven by the latest fad (Brain Gym, anyone?) or perhaps a consultant who would come in and impart wisdom at great expense.
A new era in CPD
However, in recent years, we have seen a shift in focus and a movement in education.
Driven by events such as researchED and organisations such as the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Research Schools Network, schools are increasingly placing CPD and teacher development at the heart of what they do.
Schools are now engaging in evidence-informed practice, in order to work out the best bets for their pupils.
They design CPD and performance development programmes that are sustained and relevant, and which drive improvement in the classroom, reduce workload and ultimately impact positively on outcomes for pupils.
Good CPD today is both personalised and subject-specific, while also being collaborative and in line with school priorities. Local academy trusts are able to draw on expertise across their schools to support and challenge teachers to improve.
Progress in practice
The Education Alliance in East Yorkshire is one such trust that has made the move from performance management to performance development. Teachers no longer have targets to meet based on exam results or generic targets, for example.
Leaders have developed an evidence-based programme that empowers teachers at different stages of their careers to take ownership of their own development.
In its early stages, this programme begins by supporting and encouraging all teachers to engage with educational research in various forms; resources, time and collaborative opportunities are provided to avoid negative impact on workload.
As teachers become more confident and critical consumers of research, opportunities for undertaking a disciplined inquiry or to benefit from a coaching programme allows them to put evidenced ideas into practice and to evaluate impact in a way that supports their own classroom context and career stage.
Putting pupil outcomes first
So, what do we know now that we didn’t 20 years ago? The Teacher Development Trust provides excellent summaries of evidence and tools to support schools in delivering quality continuing professional development and learning.
In the Developing Great Teaching report, they presented a review of international research and the key finding was that ”professional development opportunities that are carefully designed and have a strong focus on pupil outcomes have a significant impact on student achievement”.
Current trends for CPD involve action research, lesson study or subject-specific provision. All of these things are useful ingredients of effective CPD, but implementation is key.
The EEF implementation guidance report offers clear advice and structures that can help leaders to plan for successful implementation.
A research revolution
As teachers become increasingly evidence informed and benefit from collaborative platforms such as Twitter, it has meant that alternative CPD provision is being offered by people determined to see that ”polite revolution” take effect.
These networks allows access to subject specialists and strengthen the knowledge base in multiple schools – a clear indication that there is a demand for professional development and collaboration to supplement in-house provision.
The importance of explicitly supporting teachers is evidenced in the findings of Kraft and Papay (2014) who studied rates of teacher development in relation to their working environment.
They considered the evidence that teachers improve in the first three years of their career but, after that, they plateau and there is often no further significant improvement.
In examples where this was not the case, they found six factors that supported further development, leading to an average increase of a 40 per cent positive impact on pupil outcomes in the first 10 years of a career.
These factors are behaviour, peer collaboration, leadership, professional development, culture and appraisal.
Clearly school leaders have a duty to provide quality provision for continuing professional development and learning for teachers.
Five factors for successful CPD:
Be clear what it is you want to achieve. Context is key. It must be relevant to individuals but also allow a sense of collaborating in a shared purpose and goal in order to get buy-in from participants.
2. Expert modelling
Provide facilitators who are experts in their field: whether external or internal, generic pedagogy or subject specific. Model practical implications for the classroom.
CPD must challenge current beliefs; it must provoke thought and reflection. While chief executive at the EEF, Kevan Collins suggested: “If you’re not using evidence to inform your decisions, you must be using prejudice.” Utilise educational evidence but develop teachers as critical consumers.
Time must be ring-fenced for initial instruction and for opportunities to put learning into practice, and to review and refine. For individual development to be successful, CPD must take place over at least two terms, with iterative input taking place through a regular rhythm and over longer time periods.
5. Focus on pupils
At the core, there must be a focus on driving improvement in the classroom and improving outcomes for pupils.
Joanne Tiplady is trust curriculum and research lead and English teacher at The Education Alliance, East Yorkshire