Here at the Teacher Development Trust we’ve been collating the evidence about the effectiveness of professional development as a means of improving student outcomes and reducing inequality. For a full list of articles and scholarly papers that might prove of use, just click here.
Why focus on professional development?
The research evidence is clear that the most important action that schools can take to improve outcomes for students is supporting their teachers to be more effective, and the most reliable way to achieve this is to develop a professional culture where teachers are continually adapting and refining their skills and methods. In a New Zealand study, classes where the teachers had taken part in high-quality professional development were improving twice as fast as those in other classes. Even more startlingly, the 20% of pupils who were deemed the ‘least able’ made improvements four to six times as fast as their peers in other classes. More generally, a 2007 study of several randomised controlled trials of well-designed CPD suggested it had an average Effect Size of +0.56 which would put it in the ‘High’ effectiveness grouping in the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit.
For more details, see our presentation on the reason for choosing professional development.
How good is the current provision of training and development for teachers?
In England, schools reported spending around £180million pounds on staff development and training. That’s just 0.5% of their budgets, equivalent to around £15 per student. Of this tiny amount, just under half was spent on cover teachers to free staff up for courses, so the actual spend was nearer £8 per student, from a budget of about £3000! Contrast that to the amount spent on entering students in exams (around £25) or textbooks (starting at around £20 for one copy).
Sadly, most of this money didn’t do much to help improve classroom practice. Research shows that the most common training involved sitting watching a PowerPoint and the most common reason for selecting a course was ‘the teacher wanted to go’ – not hugely systematic. When CUREE conducted a snapshot of training provision for the TDA, they found that barely 1% of training they looked at was effectively transforming classroom practice. Finally, in research from NFER, when teachers got back to classrooms only 7% of schools checked to see if there was any effect on student attainment.
On the whole, the most commonly booked courses tend to be in reaction to external threats and changes (e.g. Ofsted inspections, new regulations, changing exam syllabuses).
For more details, see our presentation on the state of CPD in England.
Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development
In September 2014 the Teacher Development Trust, with kind support from TES Global, commissioned a review of the international research into what constitutes effective professional development for teachers. The review was conducted by an expert team of Professors Steve Higgins and Rob Coe of Durham University, Philippa Cordingley of CUREE and Professor Toby Greany of the UCL Institute of Education. On June 9th 2015, TDT were proud to launch the review’s emerging findings: “Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development”. This important review of reviews provides a rigorous update and overview of the lessons that can be taken from the international reviews into effective professional development. The key finding of the review was that professional development opportunities that are carefully designed and have a strong focus on pupil outcomes have a significant impact on student achievement. front page full reportThe review has also been able to add crucial nuance and detail to the components that constitute this “careful design”, including the duration, structure, content and activities associated with effective professional development. The review’s findings also give detail around the role of external facilitators, and some insight into the importance of leadership around professional development. You can find the full report and summary here.