Research School Network: Effective Professional Development and Motivating Teachers Julie Kettlewell, the EEF’s new Learning Behaviours content specialist, on how to motivate behaviour change with effective PD.


Effective Professional Development and Motivating Teachers

Julie Kettlewell, the EEF’s new Learning Behaviours content specialist, on how to motivate behaviour change with effective PD.

by Research Schools Network
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I may just be one of the most enthusiastic presenters when it comes to professional development sessions!

I bound into any planned training, delighted to have the opportunity to work with teachers, on Learning Behaviours or similar, and keen to help make a difference for their students.

However, over the past couple of years, I have realised that my puppy-like excitement isn’t enough. To my dismay, I have delivered many whole staff training sessions where I clearly didn’t succeed in motivating teachers to engage with the evidence (this was made all too clear when one teacher got their marking out mid-way through my session!).

It was clear I needed to adapt my approach and I knew it would be vital to consult the evidence in order to do so. So„ I went hunting in the new Effective Professional Development guidance report for answers.

The report sets out three central mechanisms which impact teacher motivation:

(1) setting and agreeing goals’;

(2) presenting information from a credible source’; and

(3) providing affirmation and reinforcement after progress’.

So what do they mean and how can we mobilise them in our school PD?

Setting and agreeing goals

Rather than merely informing practitioners of the goal of the PD, the guidance report advises that they should be included in this discussion, so that they generate a meaningful, specific and appropriately challenging goal.

This can ensure there is clarity about the purpose of the training and increase levels of practitioner buy in.

One way this could be done is by meeting with all colleagues prior to delivering training about the challenges they are experiencing in student behaviour. We can ask: what the ideal behaviour is that they would like to see? Then the training can de designed so that it clearly links to this outcome.

Presenting information from a credible source

We can’t be an expert in everything so asking others to deliver training or sections of training where appropriate can work really well.

For instance, when we include colleagues in our school who do great things in their classroom, asking them to share their experiences, it can prove to be powerful. It drives a feeling and a culture of social support, whereby colleagues inspire others and work collectively.

Taking the time to recognise where someone has engaged well and sharing this is can be so effective in encouraging others to persevere. Due to time constraints this is one step that often gets missed. And yet, it does not need to be onerous. It could simply be a note in the staff bulletin, a shout-out in staff briefing, or just a positive comment in the corridor.

As we know from our attempts with the children in our classrooms, motivating others is not easy and there are a number of external factors that can have an impact. In his brilliant blog, Harry Fletcher-Wood (one of the co-authors of the systematic review underpinning the guidance) refers to this and the importance of providing resources for practitioners. He reiterates many of the messages in the guidance report, but also refers to the need to consider delegates’ feeling of competence as this increases their willingness to take on challenges and success in doing so’.

Teacher self-efficacy, the belief in your ability to achieve a challenging goal, is a vital component and teachers will not develop unless they know how to make that change. 

Therefore, we need to support practitioners so that they feel able to achieve. The ways we do this will be similar to how we support children in the classroom, through scaffolding, modelling and giving opportunities for practice.

Nothing will stop me from continuing to bound into training sessions with the same intent and enthusiasm as before, but before doing so I will be a little bit more thoughtful about mechanisms for sustaining successful changes.

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