Supporting high quality teaching is pivotal in improving children’s outcomes. Indeed, research tells us that high quality teaching can narrow the disadvantage gap.1
It is therefore hugely encouraging to see a host of new initiatives and reforms that recognise the importance of teacher quality such as the Early Career Framework and the new National Professional Qualifications. These exemplify a growing consensus that promoting effective professional development plays a crucial role in improving classroom practice and pupil outcomes, and this guidance further reflects this, offering recommendations on how to improve professional development and design and select more impactful PD.
PD has great potential; but it also comes with costs. We know that teachers engage in professional development activities whilst balancing multiple and, at times, competing commitments and time pressures. The need is clear, therefore, for PD to be well-designed, selected, and implemented so that the investment is justified.
To date, the research evidence has failed to provide a set of clear principles for how to design and deliver effective PD that improves pupil outcomes and ensures this investment is worthwhile. While reviews have pointed towards potentially impactful traits of professional development, conflicting findings and loose definitions have made providing clear guidance challenging.2
This guidance is underpinned by a new review of evidence that seeks to move the evidence base forward. It points to the role of mechanisms within professional development, the crucial elements that cause impact, and this guidance explains the impact these mechanisms may have, and how they may be incorporated into effective PD design.
These findings offer valuable new insights that are not only important for the research community but also practically helpful for those who design and select PD. This guidance will support schools in selecting external PD and designing and delivering their own PD as well as external providers in designing, delivering, and explaining their offering to schools.
This guidance is also supported by a review of practice that reiterates the importance of good implementation and consideration of the school context.
1. Slater, Davies, and Burgess (2012), Do Teachers Matter? Measuring the Variation in Teacher Effectiveness in England, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 74 (5), pp. 629 – 645.
2. Sims and Fletcher-Wood (2021), Identifying the Characteristics of Effective Teacher Professional Development: A Critical Review, School Effectiveness and Improvement, vol. 32.
EEF publishes new guidance on professional development