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Research School Network: Effective Professional Development ELE Mark Enser shares his thoughts on why the recent EEF guidance report on professional development is so important


Effective Professional Development

ELE Mark Enser shares his thoughts on why the recent EEF guidance report on professional development is so important

by Durrington Research School
on the

Ask teachers about CPD and sadly you are likely to be bombarded with a litany of complaints. Teachers will tell you of time spent in drafty school halls at the end of another busy day, of ice breaker activities, dubious role play and entire INSET days spent exploring something like Brain Gym, Learning Styles or, at best, being lectured on Assessment for Learning for the billionth time. It is probably no wonder that despite countless hours being dedicated to it, CPD seems to have so little impact in the classroom.

The problem seems to be that much of what gets called Continuing Professional Development isn’t really designed to develop professionals. Not enough thought is given to what it means to put together a curriculum for teachers and how to deliver this curriculum in a way that leads to some kind of change in practice. It is this gap in thinking that the new Education Endowment Foundation’s guidance report on Professional Development attempts to fill. And it does so admirably.

The guidance report focuses on just three recommendations:

- When designing and selecting professional development, focus on the mechanisms

- Ensure that professional development effectively builds knowledge, motivates staff, develops teaching techniques, and embeds practice

- Implement professional development programmes with care, taking into consideration the context and needs of the school


I really like the focus on mechanisms, which they define as the core building blocks of professional development. They are observable, can be replicated, and could not be removed without making PD less effective.” What this means is that we are finally thinking of CPD as something that should lead to learning and are approaching it as such. When we do this, we will hopefully see that putting all your staff in a hall on a monday afternoon and talking at them for an hour about a new initiative without giving them time to plan how to use it, is unlikely to be a mechanism that will lead to a change in behaviour.

The report then identifies four groups of mechanisms that schools should consider when building a programme of professional development:

- Building knowledge

- Motivating staff

- Developing teaching technique

- Embedding practice


The mechanisms for achieving these goals is then explored with practical advice offered on putting it into place. What this begins is a discussion about the pedagogy (or, since we are dealing with adults, andragogy) that we use to support teachers to learn.

This guidance report will hopefully mean that those leading on professional development will consider that teachers need to be motivated to change their practice and need to be shown how it will benefit their pupils in a way that aligns with their values and professional identity. It should also mean that CPD is structured in such a way that previous sessions are built on over time so that expertise and understanding grows, in the same way that we would with a curriculum for our pupils’ learning. Most importantly, it should mean that we think about professional development as being more than the input of new information and instead consider how that information is used by teachers, planned with and embedded into their practice. It will mean we spend as much time planning for what happens when someone leaves a session as we do planning what happens during the session.

A knowledge-turn’ in our schools has led to a greater focus on thinking through the curriculum that we want our pupils to learn. With the publication of this report from the EEF it feels as though that same thinking is finally making its way into the curriculum for teacher learning.

If you are interested in developing a more evidence informed approach to professional development in your school, you might be interested in our forthcoming training programme Training & Retaining Great Teachers’, starting 11th November 2021. During this programme we will explore the recommendations from this guidance report.

Mark Enser is head of geography and research lead at Heathfield Community College and an ELE with Durrington Research School. He co-authored The CPD Curriculum: Creating Conditions for Growth and tweets @EnserMark

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