Effective staff training

Making CPD effective

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) aims to improve students’ learning by developing the skills of teaching staff.

The research cited below shows that CPD can be the most effective way to improve learning, exam grades etc. However, much CPD is ineffective.

Ineffective CPD

Ineffective for you

Too often this is what happens:

  • You go an a training day (INSET), or attend an in-house training session.
  • You hear about a new teaching technique and try it out in the session.
  • You then come back to work but do not try any new ideas, or try them and, because they don’t work well first time, you abandon them.

Repeated research shows that the effect on your student’s learning a few months later is too small to measure. It was a waste of your time and the college’s money.

Ineffective for the school/college

Too often we see well-meaning and hard-working CPD teams put on training which costs £10,000s which will have very little effect on improving learning.
Much higher effects can be achieved at much lower costs.

The classic ‘high-spend, low-effect’ CPD day
  • The CPD team have employed a wide range of trainers for workshops.
  • Each presenter offers short sessions to a small group of staff.
  • The speakers all offer interesting subjects in the field of education, but there is no link or plan for the material.
  • Staff are given options and may attend several workshops in the day.

Why this has so little effect.

You wouldn’t teach this way: you would not offer our students bite-size talks with no follow-up or practice.
Staff training is a form of learning, so the same rules apply as for general teaching. The main difference is that while students require at least 3 repeats to learn something new, teachers require many more because they have to replace old habits with new ones. Unless the new methods are practised over an extended period, teachers lapse to their old ways.

Effective CPD

The same research also shows what does work:

  • Senior staff make a strategic decision to ‘go evidence-based’.
  • The whole staff (including managers) attend a training day and hear about evidence-based teaching methods.
  • Staff meet regularly in groups of 3 or 4 to support each other.
  • You identify learning needs and pick one or two methods which address these needs and try them out in your classroom. (Note: the lesson may go badly the first time you try something.)
  • You discuss how things went with your team members and decide how to improve.
  • You try the method again several times getting feedback by self-review, peer observation (no senior staff at this stage) or simply through discussion and reflection.
  • After about 3 tries, you will know if this method will work with you/your subject/your students.
  • After about 10 tries you will become competent. After using the method 25 times over 6-24 months you will achieve the effect-sizes shown by the research.
  • Because you picked from highly-effective methods, your students benefit significantly.

Note: the role of senior staff is to enable this process to happen and monitor only that it is happening in a meaningful and high quality way.  It is not ‘evidence-based’ for senior staff to choose methods which all staff are required to use.

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Joyce and Showers: “Student Achievement through Staff Development”
Dylan Wiliam; “Assessment for Learning: What, Why and How”
Helen Timperley et al (2007) “Teacher Professional Learning and Development” (see attached summary)