There is no improvement for pupils without improvement in teaching, and no improvement in teaching without the best professional development for teachers.
“Knowledge-building: School improvement at scale” – Confederation of School Trusts
Teacher development should be at the heart of driving improvement in schools. But what is effective PD and how do we achieve this in our own setting?
- How should senior leaders go about planning a strategic and robust programme of PD that is relevant to their context, cost effective, encompasses the strengths and needs of all staff and has a real and sustainable impact on the outcomes of pupils?
- How can we personalise learning for our staff and get them “on board,” ensuring we have staff buy-in and investment?
- How can we involve staff in shaping their own professional development and ensure they have a voice which is listened to?
- How do we choose training providers and materials which are proven to be effective and raise standards?
- Finally, how do we do all of this without adding to teacher workload?
In September 2022, I was appointed as Assistant Head Teacher for Professional Development; an area which was high on the agenda in our Trust’s Improvement Strategy. Here I recount the journey we have undergone as a school and some key lessons we have learned along the way.
Our aim in a nutshell… to develop a PD programme which was based on evidence-informed strategies, yet relevant to our context and personalised to the individual needs of staff. We wanted staff to be involved in directing their own learning; developing reflective practice and empowering them. Above all, teacher development had to have lasting impact and make a difference for the children.
In addition to traditional training methods, we decided to use an instructional coaching approach, where staff worked in triads to access evidence-based research, tailored to their chosen area of pedagogy. They then applied this within their own context, adapting strategies for their pupils.
To ensure that our teacher development is based on approaches which are proven to have impact (the “best bet” for making a difference) our PD is based on evidence-informed practice. In order to make this work within our setting, we must take account of several factors:
In order to make the coaching approach to PD work, it is vital to develop a whole-school culture of learning, where staff feel able to make mistakes and all participants are open to trying out new approaches and learning from each other. It was also imperative to involve staff in identifying their own areas for development and give dedicated time in order for the improvement process to happen.
Essential ingredients for developing professional learning