CPD for Better Student Outcomes: Why We Need to Prioritise Pedagogy and Address Barriers to Professional Development

This CPD focussed post is based on the recent DFE publication The Working Lives of Teachers and Leaders – Wave 1. This was published in April 2023.

Satisfaction and Impact of CPD in Schools 2023

It’s heartening to see that the majority of ECTs feel satisfied with their initial teacher training, but they do feel less prepared for certain aspects of teaching, such as working with students from multicultural backgrounds or those with special educational needs and disabilities. I think this highlights an important area for improvement in teacher training programs. We work closely with our local ITT provider to host pupils on the BA and PGCE for a placement. This is currently too short but gives an insight into SEND. For the first time we have a PGCE student on her contrasting placement in our primary department for 3 months.

CPD satisfaction teachers graph

The report states that almost all teachers have engaged in formal continuing professional development (CPD) over the past year. However, it’s concerning to hear that teachers and leaders have mixed views on the impact that CPD has on their ability to perform their role. I believe it’s crucial for CPD to have a positive impact on teachers’ development, as this ultimately affects the outcomes of their students.

Safeguarding as CPD?

The most common topic covered in CPD is student safeguarding. For those who have sat through a generic yearly “Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022” powerpoint I wonder if the emphasis on this topic is taking away from other important areas, such as subject-specific knowledge and pedagogy. a carefully designed safeguarding course can provide insights into the needs of the pupils and how effective working with partner agencies can be, but all too often this is a box ticking exercise. I would argue that we maybe shouldn’t class information or fact sharing as “Professional Development”.

Impact on Student Outcomes

In terms of the impact of safeguarding CPD on student outcomes, while student safety is critical, it’s far from the only factor that contributes to their educational success. It should also be a multi-agency responsibility. If statutory training courses are taking away from other important areas, such as subject-specific knowledge and pedagogy, then they could potentially be hindering student outcomes. It’s difficult to make a blanket statement about the impact of safeguarding CPD without considering the specific context and implementation.

Teachers are more likely to want further CPD on subject or phase-specific themes. Leaders prioritise training on leading the school culture, and curriculum design & planning.

Barriers and Challenges to Effective CPD

It’s not surprising to hear that lack of time is the biggest barrier to accessing CPD. With teachers already facing heavy workloads and competing priorities, it’s no wonder that finding time for professional development is challenging. It’s unfortunate that funding and lack of cover are also common barriers, as these are things that can and should be addressed by schools and policymakers. I know first hand the current challenge of making sure the school is fully staffed with appropriately trained staff.

Teachers and leaders have participated in an average of 4 different CPD activities in the last year, out of a list of 13 possible options. Interestingly, primary teachers and leaders have participated in slightly more CPD activities (an average of 4.5) than their secondary counterparts (an average of 4.3).

There were some differences in the nature of CPD activities undertaken by school staff according to phase. Primary teachers and leaders were more likely than their secondary peers to have participated in training provided by external providers or to have joined a network of teachers. They were also more likely to have taken part in training designed externally but delivered by their own school, multi-academy trust, or local authority.

Impact of External CPD

While external CPD opportunities can be beneficial for schools, it’s important to question the impact they have on student outcomes. Is the time and money spent on external CPD resulting in tangible benefits for students? Are schools seeing improved performance or engagement from their students as a result of this training?

we need to carefully consider these questions, especially given the barriers to accessing CPD that many teachers and leaders face. These include as lack of time and funding. We must ensure that we are investing in activities that have a measurable impact.

What Makes Effective CPD?

The EEF have produced a research paper on Effective CPD that is essential reading for any school professional development lead. The EEF talk about using mechanisms to make sure your CPD is effective.

The article provides three key strategies for implementing effective professional development in teaching. Firstly, identifying an implementation team of teacher educators who support new techniques within their subject areas. Secondly, aligning whole school priorities with professional development to monitor the fidelity of implementation. Third and finally, aiming for a balance of mechanisms by including mechanisms from all four categories of the Effective Professional Development guidance report.

Post Summary

The 2023 DfE report states that slightly more than 50% of teachers and leaders believe that their development opportunities were effective. 57% agreed that their manager provided sufficient, clear, and actionable feedback. Around 56% agreed that there was good quality CPD and qualifications to support their career advancement.

54% found lesson observations to be an effective part of their professional development. However, only 49% agreed that their manager was actively involved in their professional development. This demonstrates that there is plenty of room for improvement in how we invest in CPD in schools.

3 thoughts on “CPD for Better Student Outcomes: Why We Need to Prioritise Pedagogy and Address Barriers to Professional Development”

  1. Pingback: Teacher Appraisal: 5 Essential Questions to Discuss

  2. Pingback: EEF Guidance on Implementing Effective Change in Schools

  3. Pingback: Effective SENCO: Having a Whole School Impact - Special Education and Inclusive Learning

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