'For too long, schools have accepted a culture of low expectations for CPD'

David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, writes:

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When professional development is done right, then not only do teachers feel enthused but the young people in our classes achieve more.

Unfortunately, too much current professional development is passive: teachers are experiencing too many one-off lectures with insufficient time to embed ideas. They are being given theory with no time to explore and embed the practical implications.

Some schools are doing a wonderful job, but the average standard of professional development provision for teachers across the country needs significant improvement.

Part of the issue is time; we’ve become so busy in schools delivering the every-day that it’s become increasingly difficult to find time for slower, longer-term processes of helping teachers grow.

Another issue is money, with budgets increasingly tight, schools struggle to invest in training and the supply or cover necessary to facilitate it.

Finally, we have, for too long, accepted a culture where the expectations of CPD are too low, with too much focus on ‘fixing’ generic teacher performance for accountability reasons.

Our new report, Developing Great Teaching: lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development, sheds some light on the sorts of activities that are actually worth our while. Supported by the TES, the Teacher Development Trust commissioned a world-class team of researchers from Durham University, CUREE and UCL Institute of Education to trawl the international research and clarify what CPD should be offered in schools.

A few things are clear:

  • Sending teachers on one-day external courses is likely to be wasted time unless participants also have in-school collaborative and iterative activities for preparation and follow-up.
  • However, schools who have stopped using external expertise completely are missing a key ingredient of effective CPD. External experts and courses are an important element of in-school processes if we want to improve pupil outcomes.
  • We need to focus teacher development activities more directly on subject- or topic-based pupil issues and outcomes, using collaborative problem solving approaches over several months. We must move away from a focus on purely generic teaching practices delivered through one-size-fits-nobody, whole staff, one-off lectures.
  • Professional development is much less likely to be successful unless teachers are helped to see their own impact on pupils, with explicit and subject-specific development of formative assessment skills.
  • Schools must create and protect substantial amounts of time every week for professional development, collaborative planning, collaborative planning/moderation, and peer observation.

We hope that schools and providers will use our findings to start the transformation in the quality of what’s on offer for our teachers. There will be tough challenges for us all, but ultimately we will gain in improved outcomes for young people and greater morale and retention of the teaching professional workforce.

David Weston (@informed_edu) is the chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust (@TeacherDevTrust) and the chair of the Department for Education’s CPD Expert Group. Find out more about the research and TDT at http://TDTrust.org/dgt and share your thoughts on the research on Twitter using the hashtag #DGTLaunch.


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