The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lizzie Gait

CPD in the news: Sutton Trust

Across the education sector, colleagues are calling for a greater focus on professional learning for teachers. Lizzie Gait, training development lead, looks at some of the key research and policy documents which are paving the way to improved professional development.

In light of the government’s recent consultation on developing a world-class school system, teacher professional development has been subject to a greater focus than ever before. A number of recent announcements and research documents serve to emphasise this increased focus and I took advantage of the Easter break to have a good read through some of these, starting with ‘Developing Teachers: Improving professional development for teachers’. The report, from the Sutton Trust, came out in January 2015 as a follow on from the useful ‘What makes great teaching’ report from late last year. The report begins by outlining the rationale: that high-achieving systems globally ‘invest heavily in the learning and professional development (PD) of their teachers’.

Policy proposals

The authors then go on to include a number of policy proposals based on the Gates/Sutton Trust Summit on Feedback and Improving Teacher Practice. This meeting of school leaders from across the world provided an opportunity for teachers from around the world to share practical tools and strategies for improving observation and feedback in schools. They proposed that:

  • there should be an increase in professional autonomy of school leaders and teachers to encourage them to be innovative in improving school standards
  • teachers and school leaders should have a strong entitlement to professional development
  • all school policies should be evidence-based and provide teachers and leaders with the knowledge to evaluate and use evidence to improve results in the classroom
  • the government should facilitate a national debate about school accountability which genuinely encourage achievement
  • professional collaboration should be incentivised, encouraging all schools to join partnerships with other schools.
These recommendations are supported by a number of case studies from a range of schools worldwide. One example, Coaching Triplets, comes from Cardiff, Wales.
  • Teachers work in groups of threes to observe and coach each other.
  • In the first term, teachers are given training on carrying out lesson observations, what an ‘excellent’ lesson looks like and coaching skills.
  • Each teacher then records themselves teaching a lesson.
  • They pick an area of their practice for improvement and set a ‘teaching target’. They then meet with the two others in their ‘Coaching Triplet’ and share their targets.
  • In the second term, the Triplets observe each other teach a lesson.
  • In the third term, the observations are repeated with a senior leader providing quality assurance.

How to make time for learning

To round off the report, there are interesting insights from @johntomsett and @headguruteacher on what schools can do practically to make time for professional learning.

  • Change your structures to accommodate your core purpose, rather than contort your core purpose to fit within your existing structures. For example, shorten the school day for pupils every fortnight for dedicated professional development sessions.
  • Increase class sizes so that each teacher has more students in each class, but less teaching time for peer observation and collaboration.
  • Appoint a specialist teacher to mentor colleagues and occasionally cover lessons so they are free to undertake professional learning activities.

By Lizzie Gait

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