Elizabeth Holmes

Developing Great Teaching: 8 key points from the TDT report

A major international review of CPD has recently been published, revealing what many of us have long suspected. There should be ‘an urgent move away from models of one-off, one-day continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers to more effective longer-term programmes of support and engagement.’ Optimus expert, Elizabeth Holmes, speaks to David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. R. Buckminster Fuller The review was commissioned by the Teacher Development Trust with support from TES Global. The research was conducted by an expert team: Professor Steve Higgins from Durham University, Philippa Cordingley from The Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) and Professor Toby Greany from the UCL Institute of Education. It offers a comprehensive, relevant overview of the lessons that might usefully be taken from the international reviews into effective CPD that are already out there.

The potential to impact positively

Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development is a must read for professional learning leaders, and any others in a school's community with an interest in or responsibility for CPD (not to mention policy makers).

David Weston David Weston


David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, is understandably enthusiastic about the review. The potential to impact positively the quality of CPD accessed by teachers might well be great if we take on board the report's suggestions. When we spoke about it he said: ‘I'm very excited about this seminal review of teacher development research. At the TDT we're committed to helping every school, teacher and pupil benefit from the most effective approaches to professional development, and this report will underpin our work for the coming years. The research team, drawn from internationally renowned centres at Durham University, CUREE and UCL Institute of Education, have amazing credentials and have produced a report that is clear, challenging and enlightening.’

A process of change and improvement

Together with their partners at the TES, the TDT will be working hard to help everyone understand the implications of these findings. David feels that the report makes it clear that there needs to be a significant shift in practice if we are to move to the types of CPD that make a genuine difference to the young people in our schools. He explains: ‘Some schools and training providers will find this report challenging, and we look forward to working with them to help them undertake a process of change and improvement.’ The core message is that one size most certainly does not fit all when it comes to teacher development. Context is crucial and support with contextualising learning is key. Training and development providers, whether from within schools or outside, need to ensure that this learning is truly absorbed.

The main findings of the review

These have been distilled into eight key points:

  1. The duration and rhythm of effective CPD support requires a longer-term focus. At least two terms to a year or longer is most effective, with follow up, consolidation and support activities built in.
  2. Participants’ needs should be carefully considered. This requires stepping away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach and creating content for teachers that integrates their day-to-day experiences and aspirations for their pupils with a shared and powerful sense of purpose.
  3. Alignment of professional development processes, content and activities: ensuring there is a logical thread between the various components of the programme and creating opportunities for teacher learning that are consistent.
  4. The content of effective professional development should consider both subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy in order to achieve the full potential of CPD, with clarity around learners’ progress. In addition, content and activities should help teachers understand how pupils learn, both generally and in specific subject areas.
  5. Effective professional development is associated with certain activities. These include explicit discussions, experimenting and testing ideas in the classroom and analysis of, and reflection around, the evidence and relevant assessment data.
  6. External input from providers and specialists must challenge orthodoxies within a school and provide multiple, diverse perspectives. Facilitators acting as coaches and/or mentors should provide support through modelling, observation and feedback.
  7. Empowering teachers through collaboration and peer learning: teachers should have opportunities to work together, try out and refine new approaches and tackle teaching and learning challenges.
  8. Powerful leadership around professional development is pivotal in defining staff opportunities and embedding cultural change. School leaders should not leave the learning to teachers, they should be actively involved themselves.

This review of research is, at the very least, food for thought for all in schools. At best, though, it may be the impetus required for real and lasting change for the better for all teachers undertaking professional learning.

Further reading

Download the report, Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. A summary paper is available, providing a snapshot of the review’s findings.

Having trouble accessing the resources above? Why not find out how Optimus supports schools with their CPD provision and request a demo of In-House Training and Knowledge Centre. It’s obligation free, and a great way to support staff development in your school.

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