The four tests of good CPD for your school

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Not every CPD resource or event will suit your teachers or your school. Sarah Coskeran explains the four key questions you must ask before committing to any CPD activity.

Research shows that ensuring good professional development for all staff is one of the most effective ways to improve outcomes for all students.

Seemingly countless courses and resources are on offer to help teachers improve their practice, but you need to choose high-quality expertise and input in order to facilitate effective learning back in the classroom.

With so much to choose from, how can teachers and schools leaders identify high-quality courses, resources and services? How can you sort the bad from the good, the “flash-in-the-pan” quick fixes from evidence-based resources that will have a sustained impact in the classroom?

At the Teacher Development Trust, there are a few questions we ask of providers in our Good CPD Guide to assess how effective a CPD resource is likely to be. Not every resource will suit your school’s or pupils’ needs, and teachers must show commitment to sustain the implementation and evaluation of any training.

Nevertheless, asking the following questions will help you to gauge whether the resource you are choosing is likely to give good results.

Where is the evidence?

Your first question for any intervention or training should always be: “What is the evidence to show that this will help me and my students?”

In the Good CPD Guide, we ask all providers to list the research they have used to develop their services. Ann Bridgland Education Services, for example, cites the research of Professors John Hattie and Carol Dweck as the evidence base for bespoke CPD services. 

Knowing that a provider has used a solid foundation of research leaves you more confident in the integrity and usefulness of the training you will receive.

What follow-up and support is on offer?

The standard “one-day training” is all too familiar. After all, time is precious, and a one-day course can be effective if used as part of a more sustained learning process back in school.

However, most of the time, effective professional learning requires input beyond a single session. You should therefore prioritise courses or services with opportunities for further support.

Music Education Solutions, for example, runs a one-day workshop on reading and teaching musical notation. This is followed by an extended programme of online “e-support” to reinforce and supplement the training at no extra cost.

Ideally you will also have access to long-term, school-based programmes of professional development. Members of our National Teacher Enquiry Network (NTEN), for example, take part in year-round, collaborative teacher enquiry. With resources and training sessions on offer throughout the year, this ensures long-term, school-wide professional development.

How can I evaluate the impact?

If you do not evaluate the impact on learners of a CPD experience, you will never know how the training has helped in your classroom. 

Changing your teaching does not necessarily mean that your pupils have benefited. Evaluating the impact shows how the CPD has been useful and what can be done to sustain its impact.

The best providers will help you to evaluate the impact of any CPD they offer. Ideally providers should communicate with participants:

  • Before a resource or training is used, to assess the participant’s needs and expectations.

  • Immediately after the training has taken place, to gauge the immediate impact.

  • In the weeks and months following the training, to measure the long-term impact and areas for future development.

They might also offer you tools and assessments to evaluate the changes in the classroom yourself. 

You say you're good – but who can corroborate your quality?

Providers should also evaluate their own practice and approaches. Look for providers whose services have been independently assured for quality and evidence.

One form of independent quality assurance is you. In the Good CPD Guide, teachers and school leaders who use the resources listed are able to write reviews to share their feedback and experiences. 

In this way, colleagues across the country can assess the quality and appropriateness of the CPD on offer. Your opinion matters: it is no coincidence that highly reviewed courses in the Good CPD Guide, such as TT Education’s “Raising Attainment in Writing”, are also the most viewed.

At the Good CPD Guide, we also work in partnership with the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE).

CUREE offers an independent Quality Rating (QR) award to any provider whose services have been audited and classified as effective, evidence-based CPD. 

In summary

For the best results, ask the following questions of every piece of CPD you use:

  • Where is the evidence? 

  • What follow up and support is on offer?

  • How can I evaluate the impact?

  • Who has independently assured the quality of the services?

  • Sarah Coskeran is programme support intern at the Teacher Development Trust.

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