Characteristics of Effective Professional Development


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What are the hallmarks that constitute effective professional development?

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a systematic review and meta-analysis of continued professional development for schools.

Education Endowment Foundation Professional DevelopmentThis guidance is intended to support those who design and select professional development aimed at improving the attainment of pupils aged three to 18.

Having led teacher professional development in some shape or form since 2000, I’d like to consider that I have a secure understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

However, I accept that we all – including myself – can improve and that we should all be open to new ways of working as well as keeping up to date with the latest research.

I’m slowly working my way through the documents to discover a few nuggets to see what I can learn and how I may change the way I work…

High-quality CPD should…

Three recommendations have been published:

  1. When designing and selecting professional development, focus on the mechanisms (page 29)
  2. Ensure that professional development effectively builds knowledge, motivates staff, develops teaching techniques, and embeds practice
  3. Implement professional development programmes with care, taking into consideration the context and needs of the school

What does this mean in practice?

  1. Mechanisms are defined as “observable, can be replicated, and could not be removed without making PD less effective.” For example, references to work already completed, future school priorities, feedback and action planning. An interesting toothpaste analogy is provided on page 12. We can all purchase a range of different kinds of toothpaste. There are different types and brands from specific companies. However, the key mechanism is that you need fluoride, the specific, observable ingredient that prevents cavities.
  2. These mechanisms can be split into four groups: 1) building knowledge 2) motivating staff 3) developing teaching techniques and 4) embedding practice. I am reminded of how Mark Plan Teach was built using these four principles. A great case study is offered on page 19 about embedding formative assessment.
  3. The last is critical given the complex world of teaching. Teachers must be provided with guidance on how to adapt professional development to work in their context, meeting the needs of the school, supported by leadership and design which can align with the busy nature of school life.

An excellent poster is provided (page 29) to help individuals identify the 14 mechanisms present in professional development opportunities. I’ll be using this myself when evaluating the content I offer to schools and will return to this in a separate blog. This interesting diagram also highlights why knowing more information is unlikely to bring about change.

Educaiton Endowment Foundation Professional Development

This is a superb contribution; reminding school leaders how to design, sustain and embed high-quality CPD.


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