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What is effective professional development?

03 Dec 2019

From my time in teaching, there were 3 types of teachers when it came to CPD:

  1. CPD is a regular aspect of their day-to-day. They are constantly scrolling through Twitter (#edutwitter) or Facebook, talking to colleagues and engaged with how they get better as a teacher.
  2. CPD is an occasional activity, whether it’s attending an INSET session, a course, or doing summer exam marking.
  3. CPD is something to think of when it comes to appraisal and you have to justify what you did in the last year to support your professional development. And then the thought goes away again until next September.

As with the different types of teachers, CPD provision is not consistent; it varies from country to country, and whilst some teachers have spoken to me of having “fantastic CPD opportunities in their school”, others have said, “there are no CPD opportunities and so I’ve had to do a masters”.

In 2011, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education found that only 10% of CPD in English schools was transformative. Of the informative CPD, some are mandatory and statutory (such as safeguarding and asthma training) but that still leaves a lot of teachers for whom passive listening is the staple of their CPD provision. That coupled with budget cuts affecting all areas of school administration (including CPD) leads to a Catch 22...


How can schools develop their staff as cost-effectively as possible?

What if there was a solution where every teacher could choose their own development, act upon it, but still feed into the overall development of the school? Better still, what if it was done during class time and the resources needed amounted to the cost of a book per member of staff, or even just access to the world-wide-web?

Enter action research

When I first started teaching, I hadn’t heard of action research. In my RQT year, I heard of a school that had spent £3,000 on getting a university in to run an action research trial. When I came to my 4th year it was a mainstay in my school, no universities involved, no external speakers, just teachers and the internet.

What is action research?

Action research itself has been around for decades, but as mentioned above it was in the universities’ domain. In short, action research is more likely to lead to transformative CPD as it is asking a teacher to physically implement something in their classroom and reflect upon it. Whilst you can get an expensive 

(This is also OneStep CPD’s approach to professional development, and our logic model has been inspired by the work of the Education Endowment Foundation who lead lots of fantastic trials and evidence evaluations in schools.)

So how can you put action research into place in your classroom? Read on for our essential summary of action research...


1) Choosing a focus

This could be an area you are interested in or a problem you want to solve.


2) Choose your strategy

- If you are looking to solve a problem, find a tried and tested approach that has worked in a similar context to you. (Look at our case studies which also include school contexts.)

- If you are just interested in an area, find a strategy that you can engage with.


3) Set a time limit and also set what you want to see

- An in-class intervention generally should last no longer than 6 weeks before you see some improvement or impact. If you don't see some impact in this time then it is unlikely to work.

- A whole-school intervention may take a whole term to see any impact.

- When setting your targets, think of what does Utopia look like? If you solved your problem entirely, what would your classroom be like?

- To set specific targets, look at where you want to see the impact: behaviour, assessment results, engagement, etc.


4) Collect the data throughout the implementation

Whilst you are planning, decide the types of evidence you are going to collect and dates you are going to collect it. For example, if you are looking to see an improvement in how pupils are responding to feedback, you will want images of your marking and how pupil's respond to it throughout your implementation.


5) Analyse the data

At the end reflect on the process and look at your evidence - what was the impact on behaviour/assessment results/engagement?


6) Share your results with people in your school

Is your strategy worth trying? This is interesting if you find a positive or negative impact.

- If there is a positive impact you should want to share it with people in your team or with SLT so they can see a tried and tested method within your context.

- If there is a negative impact and you know other teachers use this strategy, you should still share it with people in your school so they can make an informed decision or can run a similar implementation.


7) Next steps

Do you do more research (put it into place for more time) or was it so effective it becomes part of your teaching arsenal? If it didn't work should you try it with another class in another way or never touch it again?


If you are interested in implementing an action research approach into your classroom, we have some free strategies available so you can see the results for yourself for free.

Sally Hill is the CPD Manager at OneStep CPD. She taught History in Manchester for 5 years, with time as a CPD lead and Head of History.


OneStep CPD champions authors, teachers and pedagogists through our strategies, allowing everyone to test ideas and adopt what works. Our blog does the same, providing a platform for anyone with an interest in education to share good practice and great ideas.

All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily OneStep CPD.

OneStep CPD is a trading name of Twinkl Ltd. Twinkl Ltd. is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 07201458 at Wards Exchange, 197 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, England, S11 8HW