This blog was written by David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust and Visiting Fellow of the Institute of Education. It originally appeared on the IRIS Connect blogIt is one of the articles in our National Teacher Enquiry Network February half term newsletter (sign up here).

daveface2_smallGreat Continued Professional Development (CPD) ensures that pupils are learning more effectively and teachers are feeling inspired, motivated and challenged. Studies have shown that the most effective CPD is:

  • Focused on real and specific improvements in pupil learning
  • Sustained for several months on the same goal
  • Collaborative and teacher-driven
  • Supported by an external expert
  • Built upon evidence of approaches that work

CPD with all of these characteristics has been shown to lead to genuine improvements in pupils’ learning and enthusiasm, as well as help teachers enjoy their jobs and gain more confidence. The key to sustaining the focus on improving teaching for several months is to combine different approaches to CPD.

Here are 5 suggestions of great ideas to try:

1. TeachMeets

These are organised, informal meetings for teachers to share ideas. Find your nearest here.

Pros: Incredibly inspiring to share in the enthusiasm of colleagues from different schools; a great way to meet new people for potential collaborations; and energising and motivating when you need some new input.

Cons: There can be so many different ideas that it makes it easy to keep trying new things without ever sticking to one; you can’t always be sure of the evidence-base behind ideas; and ideas are often focused on teacher practice rather than helping deal with specific pupil learning needs.

2. Twitter

This social network is one of the best ways to link up with teachers around the country (and the world) and find ideas, research, and current news as well as engage in debate. Try following #ukedchat as a great starting point.

Pros: Massive amounts of links, blogs, resources and ideas and a great way to find like-minded people who can support and inspire you. Some topics (e.g. certain subjects or roles) have regular chats and events so you can engage with colleagues and experts in one place.

Cons: There is a deluge of information and it can be hard to find out what is evidence-based and what isn’t. It can also take up a lot of time (if you get addicted) and throws so many ideas at you that it’s hard to stay focused on one thing.

3. Lesson Study

This is a popular approach with teachers in the Far East where teams of teachers collaboratively plan lessons and watch each other carry them out then come back to reflect and improve. Click here for UK-focused resources.

Pros: An inexpensive way to collaborate and improve teaching over time, co-planning and peer-observation are some of the best ways to change practice.

Cons: It needs a lot of dedicated time (unless you use video technology) and can lead to simply recycling existing mediocre practice and ideas unless an expert is brought in. It can also be quite a culture shock in some schools.

4. Get reading

Try getting some information from further reading. The Teacher Development Trust has some great book ideas to get you started.

Pros: Books are an inexpensive source of new ideas and resources you can re-use and share. Many books explore ideas deeply and have plenty of examples to help you implement ideas in practice and are usually based on research and evidence.

Cons: It’s easy to get carried away with a generic principle when books are written as a sales-pitch for an idea without a critical analysis or evidence. Unless you’re in a reading group then you end up trying ideas alone, and it’s easy to get a ‘bee in your bonnet’ about an exciting idea that is really just a vague solution without a clearly defined problem.

5. Go on a course

Get out of school and find a lecture or course to help with new ideas or solve problems. Try the Good CPD Guide which lists hundreds of courses and explains how to get the most out of them.

Pros: Inspiring and motivating, a great way to get out of the classroom to get a fresh perspective. The best courses keep you up to date, challenge you, and provide ideas from well-regarded experts. You can also meet like-minded colleagues to help you in the future.

Cons: By itself a one-off course is very unlikely to result in long-term changes to your practice – you need a well-established collaborative and sustained CPD process in school that can help you implement the ideas. Some courses are not as up-to-date or evidence-based as they could be.

There are many more ideas out there including coaching, consultants, video coaching, best practice boards or newsletters, summer schools, peer-observation and moderation. For more ideas and advice on carrying out effective CPD have a look at the Teacher Development Trust’s free national database, the GoodCPDGuide