Elements of successful PLD

I'm currently in the UK, meeting up with colleagues and preparing to participate in the International Conference on Thinking in Belfast, Northern Ireland, next week.

Since arriving here I've been involved in several discussions about the things that are happening in the area of continuing professional development (CPD) here in England and other parts of the UK. Among other things, there is an emphasis on successful and failing schools, with an announcement just this week that 200 of the nation's worst performing schools are to be closed soon and re-opened as 'academies' where they will, in effect, be run by a nearby 'successful' school.

So it was with interest that I came across a publication from late last year titled A Case for Change which outlines much of the thinking and evidence base for what is happening. In particular, I was interested in the detail on page 10 that states:

A systematic review of research on professional development found that there are some key features of professional development which are linked to better achievement by children:

  1. Observation of teaching;
  2. Feedback to teachers;
  3. The use of external expertise linked to school-based activities;
  4. Scope for teachers to identify their own CPD focus;
  5. An emphasis on peer support;
  6. Processes to encourage, extend and structure professional dialogue; and
  7. Processes for sustaining CPD over time to enable teachers to embed practice in their classrooms.

As I ran my eye down this list I felt proud of the system we've developed in NZ and have been working with for more than a decade now. It appears to tick all of the boxes above. I thought point 3 (use of external expertise) is well stated, as in the NZ context, the role of the national facilitation team has been particularly beneficial in suporting the regioal and cluster-based facilittors.

The report also states:

Evidence from inspections has found that better sharing of good practice in teaching and learning within and between schools led to improvement.

Again, I thought of NZ and the hugely successful ULearn and Learning@School conferences , together with the regional events and cluster-based showcases – we've certainly developed an excellent culture of 'celebrating' success in our schools – not just in these face to face situations, but also online.

We often hear that the thing we need to be concerned about is the impact on student learning, and improving student learning outcomes – this report provides an evidence-based link that is certainly very encouraging.

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