Our Story

Leading the narrative on teacher professional development

 

 

Teacher Development Trust (TDT) is the smart, heart, humble charity for effective professional development in schools

Founded in 2012 by teachers and school leaders, our mission is to support extraordinary leaders to empower staff and build expert schools. We want to see powerful professional development in every school and college so that teachers thrive and children succeed. With support from globally leading partners, researchers and advisors, we curate and disseminate the most rigorous evidence and support school leaders around the country to network, and to improve their staff development approaches

Our work is underpinned by the key principles of effective teacher professional development and learning. Using a strong international evidence base of what constitutes successful teacher professional development, we are working with the entire education sector to promote the principles of good CPD.

  • Teachers are burning out. 21% of secondary teachers are expected to leave the profession in the next five years.
  • 83% of leaders now describe themselves as mentally exhausted
  • We have he highest number of teacher vacancies ever across the country
  • 3.2 million teaching days are lost per year, the highest ever recorded
  • Too many settings have not yet established conditions (culture, structures, processes & policies) that are conducive to effective teaching and professional development
  • Leaders often lack the support and training to help them put these conditions in place in a way that engages and empowers staff to thrive and help pupils to achieve
  • Without these conditions, staff are not developed, morale is low, retention is poor and outcomes for pupils – particularly the most disadvantaged – are held back

Source: Education Support Commission on Teacher Retention (2023)

Our charitable mission is to advance education for the benefit of the public, in particular by promoting and encouraging effective professional development in teaching and education.

Everything we do is deisgned to improve leaders’ abilities to create more effective conditions that drive empowering improvement in schools. We:

  • Support leaders to enact and embed these changes with tools, training, support and networks
  • Increase awareness of effective leadership, organisational culture and professional development in leaders and policy makers, and campaign for wider adoption
  • Focus on leadership in state-funded schools in England 
  • Contunue to campaign for change with system-leaders, policy-makers, and key influenceers in these sectors

Expertise in Teacher and Leader Development: We are dedicated to advancing the field of teacher and leader development and possess deep expertise in this area. We offer research-backed programmes to support school and system leaders in implementing effective professional development strategies.

Building on what works: We meet each school where they are at, taking a strengths based approach to unlocking their ability to improve themselves, supporting leaders to build on what works and focus strategically on what needs improvement 

School Improvement Focus: We recognise that effective teacher development drives school improvement. We provide support and challenge to school leaders in designing and implementing professional development plans that align with school improvement plans. By focusing on teacher development,  we contribute to enhancing overall school performance.

Evidence-Based Approach: We emphasise the importance of evidence-based practices in teacher and leader development. We promote research-driven strategies and work to bridge the gap between educational research and classroom practice. By leveraging evidence, we ensure that professional learning strategies are meaningful,  impactful and result in improved teaching and learning outcomes that also support the recruitment, retention and wellbeing of empowered teachers and leaders.

Collaboration and Networking: We foster collaboration and networking among teachers, school and system leaders, and educational organisations. We facilitate knowledge-sharing, promote best practices, and create opportunities for colleagues to connect, learn from each other, and collectively drive improvements in teaching quality.

Advocacy and Policy Influence: We play an active role in advocating for the importance of teacher development at  policy level. We work with policymakers, educational bodies, and government agencies to shape policies that prioritise and support high-quality professional learning opportunities for teachers.

Sector Partnerships: We are outward looking and work in partnership with organisations across the sector who share our principles and belief in the value of teacher development and wellbeing

We are SMART – all of our programmes are deeply rooted in evidence. We want to know what works and seek out the brightest and the best minds to help shape our programmes.

We have HEART – teaching and learning is about people and connection. Even the strongest evidence for improvement will be ineffective if not implemented by expert, empowered teachers at the front of the classroom. The best interventions are also realistic.

We are HUMBLE – we are always curious, we are always learning. We are led by the evidence, but we also have the humility to keep testing our understanding and adapt.

Our journey

In 2013 we launched our National Teacher Enquiry Network (NTEN) which later became the TDT Network and now our Expert Schools Programme. This programme of work helped (and still helps) schools to review their current effectiveness, culture and processes, then coach them through improvement, working in a community of like-minded leaders alongside our national experts.

In 2014 we piloted a regional model of work, in partnership with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, working with a group of schools across Northumberland to review and improve their approach to CPD, with a particular focus on numeracy and literacy and a process of Lesson Study.

In 2015 we collaborated with TES Global to commission and publish Developing Great Teaching, an umbrella review of global literature on effective teacher development. Carried out by a consortium of leading organisations (CUREE, Durham University and UCL Institute of Education), this document underpinned the development of the Department of Education (England)’s Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development in 2016. The development of this Standard was led by an Expert group chaired by our co-CEO and founder, David Weston. 

In 2017 we launched our CPD Excellence Hubs project, funded by the Department for Education’s Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund. Working with 39 schools across five of the most disadvantaged areas in England, the project built on our pilot from the regional hub work in 2014/15, using our diagnostic tools, expert support and local networks to improve culture, processes and leadership of staff development. This work later expanded to a further project in the Ipswich Opportunity Area.

In 2018 with co-author Bridget Clay, David published Unleashing Great Teaching, setting out a practical, evidence based and highly accessible approach to unleashing the very best in our teachers, day by day, month by month, year by year. The book became a sector bestseller. 

In 2020, we became a Lead Provider for the DfE’s National Professional Qualifications, reaching over 4000 school leaders to date with our thoughtful, reflective approach to bringing the frameworks to life and a 99% satisfaction rate from our participants.

Also in 2020 we ran a special pandemic-inspired programme of free events for teachers and school leaders around the world, our #CPDConnectUps, bringing some of the world’s most brilliant researchers and experts to speak to thousands of schools.

In 2021, we published our working paper A Culture of Improvement which reviewed the global literature on leadership and conditions that are most conducive to improving teaching quality and teacher retention.

In 2023, we:

    • launched an expert advisory group to advise current and future governments on how to effectively create a CPD entitlement for teachers that works, led by co-CEO Gareth Conyard.
    • are leading the way in AI for teacher development with a major new publication on leading AI in schools, partnering with ISTE, NAHT, ASCL and CST.
    • are pioneering developing leaders to deliver effective sustainability education with Climate Wise Schools, a groundbreaking pilot Professional Development Programme for Climate Change Education. 
    • are launching the development of new tools using AI to support teacher development with simulations, in partnership with the Salesforce Foundation

Professional development opportunities that are carefully designed and have a strong focus on pupil outcomes have a significant impact on student achievement.

So what does effective teacher professional development look like?

Effective teacher development processes

Teachers are most likely to improve when:

  • They engage in sustained improvement programmes and support that has a regular rhythm of support and experimentation over a period of two terms or longer;
  • Their experience, needs and their vision of pupils’ success are taken into account during development processes – less ‘one size fits all’ and more effort on helping teachers understand how to relate new ideas with their own experience and the particular demands of topics and pupils that they teach;
  • They get opportunities to discuss with each other both the theory and practice of new ideas, to test practices and ideas out in classrooms, to see practices expertly modelled and to receive expert feedback on their own efforts;
  • They are clear on the intended impact of development upon pupils and use formative assessment to gauge the impact of ideas and practices, adapting their approaches (with expert guidance) accordingly;.they engage in processes that both challenge/disrupt and deepen/extend their thinking – this is most likely to occur when some external ideas, support and challenge are included in their development so that they are not just having the same discussions with the same people and reinforcing the same orthodoxies and biases.

This evidence is drawn primarily from our own evidence review (in partnership with TES Global) conducted by Cordingley et al in 2015. Other important reviews of research in this area include:

  • Timperley et al, 2007 – a seminal review upon which many others are still built;
  • Yoon et al (2007) – a review that excluded many more papers by considering only the best quality randomised trials;
  • Kennedy (2016) – a really interesting recent review that took a different approach to categorising programmes;
  • Mandaag et al (2016) – a recent review that explores whether different approaches appear to be more appropriate for early or later-career teachers;
  • Darling-Hammond et al (2017) – a review for Learning Policy International;
  • Kraft, Blazar and Hogan (2018) – a review that focused specifically on programmes using instructional coaching as a mechanism for improvement.

It is worth noting a recent critique of the evidence base by Fletcher-Wood and Sims (2018) and a response from Cordingley et al (2018).

There is also a helpful literature on the evaluation of impact of professional development, with a helpful five-level framework provided by Thomas Guskey.

Creating the right conditions

There is evidence (Kraft & Papay, 2014) that in schools where teachers improve, the following aspects of the professional environment seem to relate to whether teachers are improving:

  • Behaviour: the extent to which the school is a safe environment where rules are consistently enforced and school leaders assist teachers in their efforts to maintain an orderly classroom;
  • Peer Collaboration: the extent to which teachers are able to collaborate to refine their teaching practices and work together to solve problems in the school;
  • Leadership: the extent to which school leaders support teachers and address their concerns about school issues;
  • Professional Development: the extent to which the school provides sufficient time and resources for professional development and uses them in ways that enhance teaching;
  • Culture: the extent to which the school environment is characterised by mutual trust, respect, openness, and commitment to student achievement;
  • Appraisal: the extent to which teacher evaluation provides meaningful feedback that helps teachers improve their instruction, and is conducted in an objective and consistent manner.

Additional research carried out by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) into Teacher Autonomy further supports this.

Leadership for improvement in teaching and learning

Key evidence on leadership from Robinson (2009) of improvement suggests that the following elements are particularly important:

  • Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development;
  • Planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum;
  • Establishing goals and expectations
  • Strategic resourcing;
  • Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment.

It suggests that there are 3 cross-cutting dimensions to all these elements:

  • Creating educationally powerful connections;
  • Engaging in constructive problem talk;
  • Selecting, developing, and using smart tools.

Two more recent studies stand out in particular around leadership. 

Firstly, Kraft and Papay’s 2014 study suggests that professional collaborative culture, leadership responsiveness, support for behaviour-for-learning and provision of relevant and timely professional development are all associated with teacher improvement. (See above for more details).

Secondly, Helal and Coeli (2016) suggest that two key leadership factors are associated with improvement in results:

  • Professional growth (access to relevant CPD with encouragement and interest of leaders)
  • Goal congruence (shared staff commitment to well-understood school goals that teachers feel are aligned to their own goals)

Finally, we can also review evidence of how leaders use performance management – a cross-sector evidence review by Gifford et al for CIPD in 2016 found that performance management is effective when:

  • Goals are set with staff (not just given to them by leaders);
  • Goals for complex tasks are focused on effort, goals for simple tasks (in which the employee has substantial control) are focused on measurable outcomes;
  • The effectiveness of the goal depends on employees’ reactions to feedback they receive about their performance against it – i.e. whether it is fair and useful;
  • Feedback must occurs on a regular basis – annual goal-setting and feedback is not effective.

This is backed up in a literature review of teacher professional development systems across the world (Cortez-Ochoa et al, 2018) in which it was found that:

  • Successful performance management systems tend to be designed and implemented collaboratively with teachers – buy-in is key to effectiveness;
  • There is very little evidence that is reliable enough to make high-stakes judgements that are both reliable and valid – internal systems are often better focused on formative assessment, development and support.

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Our impact

On school improvement, teaching and learning, morale and teacher retention

Our Blog

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