New EEF rapid evidence assessment on remote professional development

The EEF has published a new rapid evidence assessment which shows that professional development for teachers can be effective when delivered remotely.

Delivering professional development for teachers remotely can lead to positive impacts on pupil outcomes when supportive conditions are in place, according to a new rapid evidence review published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The review, produced in partnership with Durham University, examined existing research from 17 systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the effectiveness of remote professional development. The review was commissioned to support school leaders to decide how to approach professional development in the coming academic year.

The findings show that whilst social distancing remains necessary, school leaders could consider delivering professional development sessions remotely, rather than delaying until face-to-face training becomes possible again. Remote coaching and mentoring can improve the skills and knowledge of education professionals, with the added benefit that it is both cost-effective and time efficient.

The study highlights that it is how remote professional development is delivered and the support that goes with it that matters. School leaders can support staff to prioritise their professional development by creating protected time within the working day for staff to engage with sessions or learning materials. Setting clear objectives for professional development sessions and clarifying roles and expectations also help to maximise the benefits of remote professional development. Additionally, schools should ensure that staff members have access to the technology required for sessions.

The review also explains that a blended approach to professional development sessions can help to establish a sense of cohesion amongst staff members. Combining remote professional development sessions with coaching from colleagues can help to mitigate feelings of isolation that might result from limited social contact with other adults at school due to social distancing.

Other findings include:

  • Remote coaching, mentoring and expert support can be effective alone or as part of broader professional development programmes.
  • Making remote content interactive maximises its benefit in terms of teachers’ knowledge and skill acquisition. Spaced approaches enable ongoing interaction with professional development content. 
  • The use of video is identified as a particularly effective element of professional development that enables teaching staff to review their own and reflect on others’ actions in the classroom, although it should be paired with other learning resources rather than being used in isolation. 

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

Professional development plays a critical role in maintaining high-quality teaching in schools. It provides opportunities for staff members to reflect on their practice and consider new approaches that could benefit their pupils.

This academic year, delivering effective training to staff members will require extra thought to ensure that it remains a meaningful use of teachers’ time and complies with the social distancing guidelines that are in place to keep them safe.

As our review shows, remote professional development sessions are not only effective means of improving pupil outcomes, but they also ensure that a sense of community and support endures amongst staff members in these unprecedented times.