Schools should be no different. Teaching is one of the most important professions that affects our future generation; improvement can only be achieved if we invest in professional development that will help build skills and develop classroom practices.
As Dylan William, educationalist and emeritus professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London puts it, “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”
Surely then it will only be through the improvement of teaching skills that we can start to improve teaching standards.
Thankfully, the Department for Education (DfE) is now "A school has to know the specific developmental needs of its staff."recognising this anomaly with its recent ‘Standard for teachers’ professional development’ and the associated guidance for schools.
The two should be used in conjunction to enable effective professional development; combining a strong partnership between headteachers, senior leadership, teachers and the providers of the training themselves with ongoing discussion, support and collaboration.
So should schools therefore look to invest in a number of training courses for its teachers? The answer is yes, however to be truly effective, a school has to know the specific developmental needs of its staff, and ensure that the training will positively impact student outcomes.
It is not just about curriculum knowledge either; with an increase in the available classroom technologies and resources, education is constantly changing and teachers need on-going training to ensure the benefits are realised.
Added to this is the fact that the DfE’s guidance highlights the reality that not all professional development is equally effective. “Helping teachers to improve their practice takes thought, planning and effort.”
When looking into professional development, this planning must take a number of factors into consideration; the new DfE standard sets out five core expectations.
But before we look at these expectations and how best to approach them, there is one particular point that the framework stresses. This is the need for everyone (teachers, headteachers, leadership teams and organisations providing professional development) to be clear about their respective roles to ensure they all work together effectively.
Expectation 1: Improving and evaluating student outcomes
For many years, teachers have worked hard to deliver a personalised approach to students’ developmental pathway, often now using IT systems to assess, grade and assign appropriate learning objectives to each child. Therefore, while there is no doubt that training and development creates a positive impact on teaching and learning, schools must ensure there is a clear link to improving student outcomes as part of this personalised approach.
Recording developmental needs and assigning appropriate training can be complex without using associated systems but when managed effectively, CPD activities can be designed around each individual teacher’s existing experience, knowledge and needs.
So, complying with the DfE’s first expectation comes in three stages: i) the leadership team needs to make the objectives clear and show the links between activities and the intended outcomes, ii) the teachers need to be clear about the intended outcomes of activities and iii) the training providers must ensure they achieve the expected impact of their course on teachers and students.
After the training has been delivered, it must be evaluated by all parties and reported into the system for future reference and refinement.
Expectation 2: Robust evidence and expertise
Professional development is best achieved when practice and theory come together. In the teaching profession this involves combining pedagogical and subject/specialist knowledge with new and innovative ways of teaching. For example, rather than simply sticking to more traditional methods of teaching, teachers could consider introducing new technologies, techniques or learning environments.
Therefore, all CPD courses must be fully researched beforehand to ensure they are providing the most effective outcomes, both from a cost-benefit and teaching point of view.
Drawing on expert input and seeking feedback from participants who have already taken part in the training will mean schools can assess whether it will be valuable for others. This can be rated by staff, who can then manage the success of these programmes and promote the effective ones to other teachers, where appropriate.
Expectation 3: Encouraging collaboration
Collaboration between teachers creates a strong network that can improve standards more effectively."The DfE says that teachers should implement what they have learned across the year." Therefore, teachers should share the expertise and ideas that come from CPD courses with other colleagues in order to maximise talents and skills across the school.
Sharing these ideas can introduce new and improved ways of teaching and learning, which may otherwise not have been considered.
Teachers also need to recognise how these new practices can be fully implemented in the classroom to ensure they will positively affect students. Together, staff can build on what already works well, and then introduce new practices to take teaching and learning to the next level.
Once again, keeping a record of these activities, their effectiveness and recommendations will ensure schools have a system that evolves over time.
Expectation 4: Make it sustainable
While a one-day course may provide valuable insight and knowledge, the DfE’s evidence suggests, that as a stand-alone activity without being embedded and actioned any further, it is unlikely to have a lasting impact on students outcomes.
In order to realise its full potential, the DfE recommends that teachers should look to implement what they have learned across the school year, and aim for an ongoing series of training covering at least two terms.
As teachers will be aware, taking what has been learned, incorporating it into lessons, and sharing with colleagues produces a sustainable learning environment. This creates the opportunity for whole school collaboration and encourages others to embed these new practices and activities.
Sharing experiences with others also allows for a discussion that may lead to practices being improved even further, which will have a lasting impact on teaching and learning.
Expectation 5: Where the responsibility lies
Professional development ideally needs to be led by senior leaders, who can recommend and provide feedback and guidance on the most effective CPD for their staff. In turn, the training provider needs to be tasked with achieving the set objectives. Discussions about the impact of teaching between staff and senior leadership teams will allow staff to address any challenges regarding ineffective training or practices.
The impact of professional development needs to make a lasting impression on both the teacher and the education of students. Therefore, in the same way as a personalised approach to learning has been rolled out over recent years, it is just as important now to focus on teacher development, to ensure we are building skills and effectively teaching our future generation.
How do you enhance CPD? Let us know below.