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Research School Network: Implementation and CPD ELE Mark Enser discusses the importance of effective implementation when it comes to CPD

Implementation and CPD

ELE Mark Enser discusses the importance of effective implementation when it comes to CPD

by Durrington Research School
on the

Of all the EEF guidance reports my favourite (I assume we all have a favourite?) is their one on implementation. If we don’t get the implementation right then none of their other guidance reports are going to make a difference. The guidance on implementation suggests that schools work through four stages:


I particularly like that the explore stage begins with identifying a tight area for improvement using a robust diagnostic process.” This feels like an important change from what can happen in schools where people think of something that could be done (Metacognition! Feedback! Questioning!) and then think about how they could make the changes in school. This suggests taking a step back and first identifying what problems exist in the school and then looking for a solution. This may sound obvious but years working in dozens of schools as a Specialist Lead in Education (SLE) and now as an Evidence Lead in Education (ELE) shows that this common sense may not be as common as we’d hope.

Once we have explored the issues and identified a potential solution we can then start to prepare to implement any proposed changes. This not only involves devising a plan but, importantly, ensuring that the school has the capacity to deliver the plan. Do you have the time, resources and expertise to do what you need to do? If not, the plan needs adjusting to source those things. This helpfully slows down the process from plan to launch and means that we are really ready before we take things out to the sometimes critical and cynical eye of the staffroom. The final part of the preparation stage is to begin getting staff ready for the implementation of the changes, and this is where CPD comes in.

My co-author, Zoe Enser, and I have spent much of the last year reading research on effective teacher development for our new book The CPD Curriculum. What this has revealed is just how complex this field is and, sadly, how much implementation falls down at the delivery stage where the CPD doesn’t lead to the expected changes. The Teacher Development Agency’s evaluation into CPD providers found that whilst CPD may do a good job at informing teachers it didn’t tend to lead to a transformation in their practice. Opfer and Pedder’s review into the teacher learning suggests that this is a particular problem when CPD is limited to a style show in which teachers are shown what the finished product of the implementation may look like without the time to consider it in their own context or to plan to use it themselves.

Kelly’s paper on teacher learning suggests that another stumbling block is that much CPD ignores the teacher’s identity, their view of themselves and of their role. When we are thinking of implementing a change to how teachers perform their roles we need to consider how this aligns to their existing views. If we are introducing a change designed to improve exam results, how will this be seen by those who feel their role is the development of a child’s social consciousness or to develop work skills? If they view their role as being to pass on the accumulated wisdom of previous generations, how will they respond to a change designed to embed careers education into all lessons?

These complications are reflected in the EEF implementation guidance when they talk about ongoing support for staff, rather than a one off CPD session and then hoping it is being done, as well as intelligent adaptation. We need to carefully monitor how the changes are going and that there is fidelity to the project. If there isn’t, we need to be brave enough to rethink the plan. Does the delivery need improving or the proposal itself? Only once we are satisfied that the delivery is working and we are seeing the changes we want to see, even if only in performance at this stage rather than in outcomes (which may come much further down the line) can we start to ensure the sustainability of the project. If we don’t plan for sustainability, changes fizzle out and die. What happens when new staff join? Or new school leaders? How will the project outlive you? Staff turnover in schools can sadly mean that nothing becomes embedded because no one is around to keep the fire burning, every year it needs to be rekindled. How is that going to work?

After 18 years of teaching, and of working with numerous schools, I have seen too many ideas come and go. Initiatives are launched, many with perfectly sensible ideas about how we could do things more effectively or more efficiently, but then after a fanfare, and possibly some posters and groovy slogans, they are forgotten and time has just been wasted. If we want to transform the way we do things in schools then implementation needs to be tied to an excellent curriculum for CPD that leaves teachers capable of taking the idea and making it their own. Without this we leave no legacy but half remembered launches.

Mark Enser
is head of geography and research lead at Heathfield Community College. He is also a an SLE and an ELE with Durrington Research School, a TES columnist and author. He tweets @EnserMark


Education Endowment Foundation, Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation (2019) Available at

Peter Kelly, What is teacher learning? A socio-cultural perspective, Oxford Review of Education 32(4) (2006): 505 – 519.

TDA and CUREE, Evaluation of CPD Providers in England 2010 – 2011: Report for Schools (Coventry: Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, 2011), Available at:…[site-timestamp]/CPD%20 providers%20report%20-school%20leaders%20final.pdf

V. Darleen Opfer and David Pedder, Conceptualizing teacher professional learning, Review of Educational Research 81(3) (2011): 376 – 407.

Zoe Enser and Mark Enser, The CPD Curriculum: Creating Conditions for Growth. Carmarthen: Crown House (2021)

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