Research carried out by Teacher Tapp provides an evidence-base for future policy making on continual professional development (CPD) for teachers.
This new report from Teacher Tapp, funded by Gatsby, highlights shortcomings in current teacher professional development. The biggest weakness, identified by 9,000 teachers surveyed in England, is that the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provision currently available does not help to improve their weaknesses in the classroom.
The Gatsby Foundation commissioned this research in response to the Labour Party’s announcement that each teacher would receive a 'CPD entitlement' if the party enters government. A key question for Labour in the coming months will therefore be: what CPD should qualify towards teachers’ entitlement? Teachers’ views on this question are unambiguous: fewer than one-in-ten teachers would support an external regulatory approval of the CPD available to them.
Teachers are committed to improving their practice but do not always have clear improvement goals. They are also highly sceptical regarding the impact of the diet of professional development that is currently available to them. In-service training (INSET) is a cornerstone of schools’ CPD offer and is often delivered in the form of ‘Baker Days’ at the start of the school year. However these sessions rarely prioritise classroom practice. Instead, such provision tends to focus on policies and procedures. As such, it is far more effective in meeting heads and senior leaders' needs, than the needs of teachers in relation to instructional practice. In contrast, out of school (online and in-person) CPD is much more likely to be subject specific or to focus on curriculum, and SEND and inclusion.
Even though teachers do not perceive the professional development they have participated in over the last 12 months to have been particularly effective, they remain optimistic about CPD’s potential future impact. They want the autonomy to choose CPD for themselves, or, at the very least, for their Heads to be able to sign-off on their choices. They are particularly eager for more subject specific training and they want to be confident that CPD will be applicable to their classroom practice. Teachers’ preferences regarding CPD content are not just shaped by what areas they want to make improvements in. Beliefs about what is likely to be effective play a considerable role. For example, teachers are eager to make improvements to their behaviour management, but do not generally believe that CPD will deliver the improvements they desire.
The format of CPD matters to teachers too. They want to be able to fit professional development around their lives and therefore have a preference for online CPD, particularly when this can be completed at a time of their choosing. This would give them a degree of flexibility that is lacking from much of the rest of their working life. Despite their preference for online CPD, teachers are social beings. They have a significant appetite for attending after school sessions with colleagues from other schools, particularly if these focus on topics of interest to them. Secondary school teachers working in small specialist subjects who might be somewhat isolated have a particular desire to meet colleagues who share their specialism.
Gatsby commissioned this research in response to the Labour Party’s announcement that each teacher would receive a “CPD entitlement” if the party enters government. A key question for Labour in the coming months will therefore be: what CPD should qualify towards teachers’ entitlement? Teachers’ views on this question are unambiguous: fewer than one-in-ten teachers would support an external regulatory approval of the CPD available to them.