Selecting External Expertise

In 2014, the Teacher Development Trust undertook research around the structures and processes of CPD in English schools. The findings bring together the results of:

  • an initial survey of 94 teachers, middle and senior leaders by the Teacher Development Trust
  • a survey of 1,020 school leaders by The Key (representative of all schools in England by type, phase and region)
  • telephone interviews undertaken with a focus group of 15 teaching staff, middle leaders and senior leaders

All qualitative data has undergone joint analysis with research partner EdYou.

A quick summary of the results shows the following:

  • 67.4% of school leaders said that they found new external CPD providers by selecting a provider used previously by their own school or by colleagues
  • “Word of mouth” and flyers and brochures sent directly to schools still influence the majority – over 60% – of decisions around external CPD
  • Nevertheless, and despite their apparent demise, almost 1 in 5 school leaders still use a Local Authority (LA) database to find CPD opportunities
  • Approval for most CPD opportunities rests with senior leaders – this was the case for 91% of school leaders.
  • Only 50.2% school leaders said that teachers in their school were allowed to choose an external organisation or resource to support their professional development
  • 1 in 10 school leaders stated that their “most common motivation” for engaging staff in CPD was as a response to accountability pressures such as league tables or inspection. When considering secondary school leaders only, this figure rose to 1 in 5.
  • More generally, over 60% of all respondents – 62% of primary schools and 72% of secondary schools – either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they feel under pressure to change professional development priorities due to accountability measures
  • Over half of respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that financial pressure has made it harder to meet teachers’ development needs. The figure increased to 60% when considering secondary schools only

Read the full report: Teacher Development Trust Annual Report – full findings

This shows that there is an ongoing lack of awareness about the difference options for sourcing professional development, a topic that we will address in this section.

You can also read the Teacher Development Trust’s summary of how England measures up to other countries in its CPD provision, working conditions and learning environments, in the 2014 TALIS report in our blog post

Seemingly countless courses and resources are on offer to help teachers improve their practice, but you need to choose high-quality expertise and input in order to facilitate effective learning back in the classroom.

With so much to choose from, how can teachers and schools leaders identify high-quality courses, resources and services? How can you sort the bad from the good, the “flash-in-the-pan” quick fixes from evidence-based resources that will have a sustained impact in the classroom?

At the Teacher Development Trust, there are a few questions we ask of providers in our TDT Advisor to assess how effective a CPD resource is likely to be. Not every resource will suit your school’s or pupils’ needs, and teachers must show commitment to sustain the implementation and evaluation of any training.

Nevertheless, asking the following questions will help you to gauge whether the resource you are choosing is likely to give good results.

  1. Where is the evidence?
  2. What follow-up and support is on offer?
  3. How can I evaluate the impact?
  4. You say you’re good – but who can corroborate your quality?

Blog, David Weston: Overcoming barriers to professional learning – Poor Mechanisms to select strategic support.

Blog, Sarah Coskeran: The Four tests of good CPD

Blog, David Weston: Should we ban one off CPD courses for teachers?

Read a more detail on these questions in our article for SecEd ‘The Four Tests for Good CPD in Your School’

You can also read a short summary of SchoolZone’s 2013 research into CPD experiences of schools using external providers.

TDT Advisor – the ‘trip advisor’ for CPD

The TDT Advisor is a free, national database of high-quality professional development resources for teachers.

Launched in 2012 (as the GoodCPDGuide), TDT Advisor lists over 2,500 resources from more than 350 providers, including charities, independent consultants, Teaching Schools and local authorities. Resources on offer include:

  • Training courses
  • Conferences
  • Consultancy services
  • Books
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

Used by thousands of teachers every month, visitors to the Advisor can search for professional development to match their needs according to:

  • Location
  • Target audience
  • Subject
  • Focus
  • Phase

Users can then review the CPD they have used or recommend listings for the TDT Advisor.