Developing Great Teaching by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How can we all develop great teaching and learning in every school?

This is a blog about developing teachers and is a must-read about a professional development event that I attended yesterday at The House of Commons on Tuesday 9th June 2015. The event saw the launch of the new Teacher Development Trust and TES report, Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. Speakers included Professor Steve Higgins, Philippa Cordingley and Professor Toby Greany.

NTEN Teacher Development Trust

Conversations in the room paused for founder David Weston to say a few words about how far the Teacher Development Trust has come in the three years since it began. I’m proud to have known David since the beginning of his vision to develop CPD for all teachers nationally and NTEN’s mission to achieve access to powerful professional development for all teachers.

In this post I share my takeaway thoughts. The notes are brief in parts, as was my appearance. Thank you to the NTEN network and David Weston for their exceptional work in this area of importance.

Why Review CPD?

In recent years, a number of consultations have reported that opportunities for teachers in England:

  • are insufficiently evidence-based.
  • do not focus sufficiently on specific pupil needs.
  • are too inconsistent in quality.
  • lag behind those experienced by colleagues elsewhere internationally.

The Headline Findings:

  1. Duration and rhythm of effective CPD support requires a longer-term focus.
  2. Step away from a ‘one-size fits all’ approach so individual needs are carefully considered.
  3. Aligning professional development processes, content and activities
  4. Content of effective professional development should consider both subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy
  5. Effective CPD is associated with certain activities such as explicit discussions
  6. External input from providers/specialists must challenge orthodoxies within a school & provide diverse perspectives
  7. Empower teachers through collaboration and peer learning
  8. Powerful leadership is pivotal in defining staff opportunities and embedding cultural change. (Report)


The following are my notes from each of the following teachers, academics and educators:

1st presenter: Professor Steve Higgins, Professor at Durham University.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 22.55.28

  • We know what improves teaching.
  • We don’t know (yet) how to help teachers do it well …

2nd presenter: Philippa Cordingley, Chief Executive of the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education,

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 22.49.51

  • Quick fixes do not work.
  • Time on its own doesn’t work. Not what you do, it’s how you do it. One size doesn’t fit all.
  • Teachers need recognition of their CPD development.
  • Learning processes of students. We need to aid teachers how to do it.
  • Opportunities to look at existing practices; challenge is really important. ‘How’
  • CPD needs to be relevant.
  • Formative assessment in an input-process-output. We need to illustrate to teachers what formative assessment looks like.
  • Above all, peer support to take risks.
  • Not one single thing works.
  • Generic pedagogic CPD doesn’t work. Absolutely crucial to give teachers tailored resources.

3rd presenter: Professor Toby Greany, Professor of Leadership and Innovation and Head of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 22.48.24

  • So what?
  • School leaders being clear and demanding about what we want to do.
  • This is the kind of learning; how we will get there; data to support.
  • If it’s not challenging, it’s not learning. Let people choose.
  • Policy implications. Caveat from overseas. Tend to be well-designed, not in-school led CPD. Hard to evaluate.
  • Time is critical.
  • Resources / staffing 90%
  • Introverted schools – expertise within – but looking outside.
  • Focus on science, maths and literacy. We need to know about the mechanics of making CPD work in schools.
  • Evidence translation – CPD need = to improve learning outcomes for students.

Liz Free, from Oxford University Press:

  • The days of a nice lunch are over.
  • CPD for learning. – time and funded.

Russell Hobby:

  • There’s not one right way. Teacher-led; school-led.
  • It’s how not what you do.
  • Time and leadership of CPD is vital.
  • Politics not attracted to CPD. 30 hours/5 INSETs
  • Profession must solve issue for itself.
  • On-going leadership within the school. Not leadership alone. Middle leaders responsibility in their subjects / knowledge.
  • Training budgets not to be cut first!
  • Demise of the INSET day as the default model for CPD. Give teachers the time to brief at start of the year due to constant reform. And allow rest of year for creativity.

Lord Jim Knight:

  • Teacher capacity
  • Recruitment.
  • TES delivering their own ITT now.
  • TALIS survey.
  • Value feedback – not enough of it.
  • Collaborative / CPD
  • Teachers really want it. To be better teachers; for nothing else.

What the Report Says?

Duration: The most effective professional development lasted at least 2 terms – more usually a year (or longer). School leaders must ensure that staff are given time to engage with longer term programmes.

Rhythm: The review tells us it is important that professional development programmes create a “rhythm” of follow-up, consolidation and support activities. Time here is key – school leaders must consider how staff are supported to engage in this rhythm and adapt workloads accordingly.

Needs: Buy-in is needed; creating an overt relevance of the content to its participants – their day-to-day experiences with, and aspirations for, their pupils. We must develop the capacity for teachers to reflect on their classroom and students’ learning, and map this onto areas of need for their own practice.

Purpose: The review points out that achieving a shared sense of purpose during professional development is an important factor for success. Within schools, this might suggest there should be less of a focus on splitting between voluntary and conscripted activities. Rather, CPD programmes should create a coherent and shared sense of purpose across staff, and demonstrate an explicit relation to their everyday experiences and context.

Alignment: The review indicates that effective programmes will feature a variety of activities to reinforce their messages and test ideas from different perspectives. No single particular type of activity was shown to be universally effective or crucial to success.

Effectiveness: professional development focussed on generic pedagogy is insufficient. Instead, we should consider the importance of focussing on generic and subject-specific pedagogy.

Activities: teachers must be able to translate CPD content into the classroom, implementing what they had learned by experimenting in the classroom.

Providers: The review points out that external facilitation is a common factor in successful outcomes, with the most successful programmes act as coaches and/or mentor.

Support: The review also highlighted certain types of activities that, with specialist support, should lead to successful outcomes; using activities that are able to explicitly link professional development to improvements in student outcomes.

Collaboration: What makes collaboration effective is still contested. All reviews analysed in this overview found that peer support a common feature in effective professional development. There is evidence to suggest that access to some form of collegial support for problem solving is essential. However, the strongest review included in this overview found that while collaboration was necessary, it alone is not sufficient.

Leadership: “Effective leaders did not leave the learning to their teachers – they became involved themselves”. However, school leaders must distinguish between: professional development opportunities that are aimed at operational and procedural knowledge (e.g. simple briefing) and professional learning directly aimed at building on teachers’ starting points.

What Doesn’t Work?

  1. A didactic model in which facilitators simply tell teachers what to do.
  2. Professional development which does not have a strong focus on aspirations for students and assessing the impact of changed teacher practices on pupil learning.


You can download the summary report here, or the full report here.

Developing Great Teachers NTEN

7 thoughts on “Developing Great Teaching by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Ross, thank you for the brilliant summary of both the report and the event! It’s got some big implications. I’d love your thoughts on how we can help people understand the key ideas, take action, and support each other. I’m also looking forward to coming to visit you and your school as part of the TDT Network NTEN audit!

    1. Look forward to it too. My Takeaway message was the re-occurring ‘time’ Factor; but what Russell Hobby said is clear, politicians aren’t going to helpers so we need to get on with it ourselves. This is CPD’s achilles heel and without investment from school leadership teams, teachers cannot have enough time/consolidation to improve their own practice …

  2. Pingback: The CPD Achilles Heel by @TeacherToolkit | @TeacherToolkit

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