A focused, sustained and iterative approach

Related framework criteria:

2a. Staff feel that their CPD across a year allows for focussed, sustained and iterative changes to key areas.

Research shows that for effective professional learning to have an impact on pupil outcomes, colleagues need to be spending c.30-50 hours and a report carried out by the TDT found that the most effective CPD lasted at least 2 terms, more usually a year.

More limited change on very specific learning tasks could be achieved through shorter-term interventions, but to transform general practice, longer duration seems key. However, longer duration in itself is not sufficient – the use of time in a longer term programme is key.

  • School leaders must ensure that staff are given time to engage with longer term programmes – to cover not only a programme’s initial input but also subsequent in-class experimentation and collaboration with colleagues.
  • Leaders must support an approach to professional development in which staff are encouraged to focus strategically and meaningfully on particular areas of learning and practice over time.
  • When engaging with external facilitators, leaders should move away from a model of one-off, one-day support – and consider how to embed sessions within a longer programme of support and engagement.

Research also shows it is important that professional development programmes create a “rhythm” of follow-up, consolidation and support activities. This process reinforces key messages sufficiently to have an impact on practice. The specific frequency of activities varied across studies, but the key aim remained constant – teachers were able to grasp the rationale that underpinned the strategy being explored, and use this understanding to refine practices and support implementation.

  • School leaders should plan iterative, cyclical development opportunities over time, to allow staff to develop, refine and improve on a focussed area.
  • When engaging with external partners, leaders should look for programmes that allow for frequent, meaningful engagement from participants. Programmes must be underpinned by strong evidence and a clear rationale; time must be taken to surface participants’ own theories and align these with those of the programme. Providers should consider how they develop participants’ skills to critically engage with this knowledge base, and balance this with opportunities to implement and apply to practice.