A new review published by the Teacher Development Trust has analysed existing research into effective professional development for teachers. The authors say their findings emphasise the importance of the use of evidence; both evidence from pupils’ responses to teachers’ developing understanding and practices, and the strength of the evidence and rationale underpinning the CPD activity or programme.
The review also found that those CPD opportunities that are carefully designed and have a strong focus on pupil outcomes have a significant impact on pupil achievement. Successful programmes should be underpinned by:
Both subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy;
Clarity around learner progression, starting points and next steps; and
Content and activities dedicated to helping teachers understand how pupils learn, both generally and in specific subject areas.
The authors identified several key design features that increased the likelihood of CPD having a lasting impact on teacher practice and pupils’ outcomes. These were:
Appropriate duration. CPD has to be prolonged in order to produce profound and lasting change. The most effective CPD lasted at least two terms, more usually a year or longer.
Rhythm. It was important that programmes created a rhythm of follow-up, consolidation, and support activities.
Designing for participants’ needs. CPD should create an overt sense of relevance for participants, including recognising the differences between different teachers and their starting points.
Creating a shared sense of purpose through a positive professional learning environment, sufficient time, and consistency with participants’ wider context.
Alignment across various activities. There should be a logical thread through components of the programme, and consistency between the teacher learning and the principles of pupil learning being promoted.
Source: Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the International Reviews into Effective Professional Development (2015), Teacher Development Trust.