This blog first appeared on the Pearson School Model blog

“Absolutely not” was the resounding answer to the question Should CPD providers require a license to train teachers? This question was the focus of the fifth webinar debate on CPD hosted by the Teacher Development Trust. In the first unanimous vote of the series, there was no support for any sort of licensing programme, although there were several examples of the sort of CPD that should be discouraged. Read on to hear more about the debate from David Weston, CEO of the Teacher Development Trust.


The professional development that participants really valued was teacher-led, collaborative, involved action research, and tended to be more informal. For example, Leon Cych described his social enterprise Social Media for Schools which enables schools to work with each other effectively using a variety of online tools combined with face-to-face meetings. Anna Pedroza described how videos from Teachers Mediaare used by groups of teachers to spark discussion and further enquiry, while video tools from IRIS Connect can facilitate peer-observation without having to arrange cover.

On the other hand, Alison Kent described a more ‘traditional’ INSET course where she and her colleagues were subjected to a series of boring PowerPoint slides with a long lecture from a consultant who listed a large number of tips and tricks to improve whole-school behaviour which included avoiding sanctions, giving more chances, and using more praise. When these were put in to practice by many colleagues then behaviour tended to get worse, and most teachers abandoned the ideas after a few weeks.

Paul Crisp, a Director of the Centre for the Use of Research end Evidence in Education (which carried out the research for a new research synthesis about effective CPD), drew the parallel between classroom teaching and effective CPD. Where learning is most effective, teachers have the opportunity to relate new ideas to their existing understanding, whereas the least effective learning happens where they passively listen to someone else describe their own understanding. He described how some schools spend a huge amount of money on compliance-based training, such as exam-board courses where teachers are only there to make sure they’re ticking all of the boxes. Another attendee described a similar experience with a consultant offering help with Ofsted where the suggestions amounted to a checklist of elements that should be in every lesson, rather than any sort of information about why they might result in better learning.

Three weaknesses were identified with all CPD, whether formal or informal, top-down or bottom-up.

  1. They are very often based on issues that teachers are interested in, or are having to deal with, rather than specifically focused on pupil learning needs.
  2. There is very little effective evaluation that takes place both during and afterwards. In fact, research would suggest that only 7% of schools evaluate the effect of teacher professional development on pupil outcomes.
  3. It is very difficult for schools to determine who the relevant experts to consult are. School leaders often report choosing consultants via word-of-mouth recommendation, or simply because they picked up a flyer.

By the end of the debate, participants key take-away points were:

  • There is a bigger diversity of CPD provision across schools that many had previously realised
  • That schools need to spend more time iterating ideas in-house, rather than trying new things all the time
  • That all types of professional development are more effective when teachers keep a clear focus on specific pupils who they are trying to help as a result of the training.

There will be on-going discussion and comment on Twitter using the hashtag#betterCPD.

The slides used in this debate are available here.