what is effective CPD?

The teacher development trust have worked with the IOE to consider what makes the most effective CPD in schools. Some of the findings are shown below with a link to the full PDF at the base of the text.


The review shows us that content is also key to achieving impact on teachers’ practice. All reviews found that an essential element of successful professional development is generating buy-in: creating an overt relevance of the content to its participants – their day-to-day experiences with, and aspirations for, their pupils. The reviews also noted the importance of programmes that provide differentiation: opportunities for recognising the differences between individual teachers and their starting points. Similarly important were opportunities for individual teachers both to reveal and discuss their beliefs and to engage in peer learning and support.
Schools must consider how they support teachers’ skills in identifying and understanding needs. We must develop the capacity for teachers to reflect on their classroom and students’ learning, and map this onto areas of need for their own practice. This can be supported by providers – who should take time to identify and understand the particular needs of participants and their students. They must create opportunities for participants to share these and understand the content in overt relation to these.


The review points out that achieving a shared sense of purpose during professional development is an important factor for success. Whether teachers were conscripted or had volunteered to take part in an activity did not appear to be a highly significant factor – a positive professional learning environment, sufficient time, and a consistency with participants’ wider context were all more important.
Within schools, this might suggest there should be less of a focus on splitting between voluntary and conscripted activities. Rather, CPD programmes should create a coherent and shared sense of purpose across staff, and demonstrate an explicit relation to their everyday experiences and context. Providers should focus on providing course content that builds a sense of purpose. This can be done in a number of ways; examples found during the review included peer support, the use of evidence from experimenting with new approaches, and working on why things work, as well as what does and does not work.


The review indicates that effective programmes will feature a variety of activities to reinforce their messages and test ideas from different perspectives. No single particular type of activity – or configurations of multiple activities – was shown to be universally effective or crucial to success. What matters is a logical thread between the various components of the programme, and creating opportunities for teacher learning that are consistent with the principles of the student learning being promoted.
For the providers of CPD, this will require important consideration around how best to reflect and model the approaches they share with teachers in the delivery models used. Schools, meanwhile, should consider how in-school processes reflect and support the elements sought in external opportunities. School leaders should support staff to develop strategic approaches to professional development that allow for clear links across activities.


The review also highlighted certain types of activities that, with specialist support, should lead to successful outcomes. Successful facilitators employed activities that aim to:
  •  Introduce new knowledge and skills to participants.
  •  Help participants access the theory and evidence underlying the relevant pedagogy, subject knowledge, and strategies.
  • Help participants believe better outcomes are possible, particularly among schools where achievement has been depressed over time.
  • Make the link between professional learning and pupil learning explicit through discussion of pupil progression and analysis of assessment data.
  • Take account of different teachers’ starting points and – from the strongest review – the emotional content of the learning.
Specialists should also support teachers through modelling, providing observation and feedback, and coaching. Again, it is important for facilitators and specialists to balance support and challenge while building relationships with participants. The exact nature of effective specialist support can, however, vary depending on the subject specialism involved. In maths and science opportunities, for example, to be observed and receive feedback were not always prerequisites for successful professional development.
Finally, some evidence in the review suggested that effective specialists mobilised, encouraged and guided teacher peer support. They might also offer remote support in a variety of media such as e-networking and provision of instructional and other materials.

The review identified four core roles for school leaders in effective professional development.

These were adapted according to the school context and the nature of changes being implemented:
  • Developing vision – including helping teachers believe alternative outcomes are possible and creating coherence so teachers understand the relevance of CPD to wider priorities.
  • Managing and organising – including establishing priorities, resolving competing demands, sourcing appropriate expertise and ensuring appropriate opportunities to learn are in place.
  • Leading professional learning – including promoting a challenging learning culture, knowing what content and activities are likely to be of benefit, and promoting “evidence-informed, self-regulated learning”.
  •  Developing the leadership of others – including encouraging teachers to lead a particular aspect of pedagogy or of the curriculum.

read the full summary on;







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