Tuesday, 18 November 2014


We know what works, from the Sutton Trust and EEF toolkits, EPPI studies, John Hattie, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves, and importantly we know what doesn’t work! 
We must remember that teaching and learning is a team game and to develop world class learning critically depends on sharing, networking and collaboration. We must stop chasing accountability and focus instead on impact and outcomes. We must remember that all colleagues, and not just teachers, are part of the team. We must stop trying to do everything and systematically focus on the things that matter. We must learn that courses and events are wonderful opportunities to share and celebrate, but do not improve practice. Feedback, reflection and coaching over a sustained and focused approach do!

Interestingly primary school colleagues have always recognised that professional development is more effective when the schools approach is not through one off, episodic and fragmented workshop sessions but rather as a sustained, coherent and intense part of a whole school approach linking curriculum, assessment, standards and professional learning around a theme that the school wants to address. Research suggests that collaborative approaches that develop communities of practice to promote whole school development that extends beyond individual classrooms have the greatest impact on standards and outcomes. This approach also provides a framework for reflection and feedback, allowing teachers to raise issues, take risks and address their own practice.

Although time is not the only variable that matters, it is a prerequisite for effective learning. Research has shown that the teachers that who engage in high quality, sustained and intensive professional development go on to produce significant improvements in student achievement. Research I have read, and re-read recently, shows that professional development lasting 14 or fewer hours showed no effect on student learning while programme offering more than 14 hours of sustained teacher learning opportunities showed positive effects. The largest effects were found for programmes offering between 30 and 100 hours spread out over 6-12 months. 

Experience from the best schools I know and the research suggest that teachers need to experience sustained, job-embedded, collaborative teacher learning strategies through the development of professional learning communities. Communities where, teachers work together and engage in reflection and dialogue to examine their practice and student performance and to develop and implement more effective teaching and learning practices. Communities where, teachers have opportunities to work together, to learn together, to network, try out and reflect on new practices and share their individual knowledge and expertise.

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