In this guest blog, Haili Hughes, Director of Education at IRIS Connect, shares her thoughts around why adaptive professional learning is essential to teacher wellbeing

In a 2022 survey by Teacher Tapp, teachers were asked to comment on the statement: “My school’s professional development provision is helping me to become a better teacher.” Only 34% of classroom teachers agreed with this statement, with only 7.6% strongly agreeing. Interestingly, 67% of the headteachers questioned believed that they were providing PD opportunities which helped their teachers become better – this shows a significant gap between their perceptions and their teacher’s experiences.

Why does this matter?

Professional development is an important part of ensuring that teachers are teaching to the best of their capabilities and as Dylan Wiliam said, ‘the quality of teachers in our classroom is one of the most important determinants of how much children learn in those classrooms, with the very best teachers generating four times as much progress for their students as the least effective’ (William, 2016: 182). This is further reinforced by Zuccollo and Fletcher Wood, who add ‘high-quality professional development for teachers has a significant effect on the effectiveness of teaching.’ (Zuccollo & Fletcher-Wood, 2020).

Professional development opportunities for teachers are absolutely vital and as Zoe and Mark Enser wrote in their blog for IRIS Connect, ‘CPD does and can make a difference to the practice of teachers and the consequent outcomes of pupils.’ In addition to this, teacher professional development links to job satisfaction and both of these have a positive and significant influence on teacher performance (Tahir et al., 2021).

Staff who don’t receive effective training or targets risk their skills becoming stagnant and losing motivation. So, it is no surprise then that a lack of professional development is also intrinsically linked to staff retention – a lack of training and development leads to low morale among staff, which in turn results in staff turnover.

In February 2020, Harry Fletcher-Wood and James Zuccollo published a report entitled ‘The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students.’ The report suggests that staff CPD has even more impact on pupil outcomes than interventions, performance related pay or lengthening of the school day.

Teacher wellbeing

However, professional development is not only important to ensure teachers are effective in the classroom, it also helps teacher wellbeing. The TES wellbeing survey last year (2023) revealed that teachers felt they had limited opportunities to explore how well they’re doing at work. Teachers questioned also spoke about the knock-on effect this had on their wellbeing and how they felt they were doing in their careers.

The teaching profession has increasingly been associated with stress, burn-out and an overwhelming workload. The NFER’s 2016 report, ‘Engaging Teachers,’ found that a high workload is associated with poor health and feeling undervalued, perhaps explaining the well-documented retention problems in the profession.

One way of ensuring that school staff don’t feel like this is by running an adaptive and bespoke CPD programme, which is useful and highly attuned to teachers’ needs and goals. It communicates a clear message: you understand their goals, care about their futures, and want to see them grow and progress at your school. It is simple, in order for staff to feel secure and equipped to manage their stress levels and wellbeing, they need to have the resources needed to meet the challenges they may face.

What can we do?

It starts with identifying some of the challenges that exist in teaching and the ways in which high-quality CPD can help overcome them. This might be professional development on behaviour management or building better relationships with colleagues, as well as how to help students retain prior knowledge or ask better questions.

Coaching cultures are a great way of ensuring that CPD is bespoke and attuned to teacher’s needs, as it involves colleagues working together to share reflections on teaching through dialogue, based on what goes on in the classroom.

It’s essential to recognise that each teacher has unique areas for improvement. If teachers lack a sense of empowerment or adequate preparation for impactful teaching, they may feel the weight of disappointment affecting not only themselves but also their students. Consequently, it is of utmost importance for teachers to be confident in their teaching abilities and have access to the necessary support to capitalise on the best opportunities available to improve.


Enser, M, Enser, Z. (2021) ‘Why A CPD Curriculum Matters & How To Build One.’ IRIS Connect, available online at:

National Foundation  for Educational Research (2016) ‘Engaging Teachers: NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention.’ Available online at:

Tahir, L.,  Musah, M.B., Ali, M., Abdullah, A., Hamzah, M. H. (2021) ‘Principals’ views on continuing professional development programmes: Evidence from Malaysia.’ Educational Management Administration and Leadership. 51

TES (2023) ‘The Wellbeing Report.’ TES, available online at:

William, D. (2016) Leadership for Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve So That All Students Succeed. Pennsylvania, USA: Learning Sciences International.

Zuccollo, J, Fletcher-Wood, H. (2020) ‘Evidence review: The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students.’ Education Policy Institute, available online:

About the author & IRIS Connect

Haili Hughes is Director of Education at IRIS Connect and combines her role with another as Principal lecturer in mentoring and PD at the University of Sunderland. Alongside this, she facilitates the Early Career Framework and NPQs and delivers CPD at hundreds of schools across the world, as well as working at the Department for Education as an ITT Quality Associate and serving on various expert groups.  In addition, she has written five education books, including the bestselling ‘Mentoring in Schools’ and  has publishing contracts for six more in this academic year.

IRIS Connect, trusted by 100k+ teachers worldwide, enables adaptive professional instructional coaching, reflection & collaboration for every teacher in diverse contexts. Our market leading video technology and integrated development platform contains all of the PD mechanisms (EEF) that have been shown to lead to sustainable, positive change in teaching practice.