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How to ensure professional learning and development make a difference

In this article Vivienne Porritt, Karen Spence-Thomas and Carol Taylor discuss what wecurrently know about leading effective professional learning and development in schools.
Colleagues working together

The need for a common language 

School leaders often struggle to ensure that professional learning and development (PLD) makes a difference to teachers and students.  The Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation, A world-class teaching profession, states ‘There is currently too little robust evidence on the impact of different types of professional development for teachers’ (2015:10). To ensure that PLD improves teachers’ practice and has an impact on students’ learning, we need to establish a shared understanding of what effective professional learning and development looks like, how to achieve it and how to evidence its impact. The language is used and understood in different ways by practitioners and throughout the literature. The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) refers to CPD (continuing professional development) which suggests that this term is in use internationally. Some schools in England refer to In-service Training or Inset; universities often refer to Teacher Education.  Helen Timperley from New Zealand promotes a focus on professional learning because ‘much professional development has little meaning for teachers’ (2011:2). Cordingley et al., (2015) offer CPDL – continuing professional development and learning.  This variation reflects some of the tensions in thinking that exist in this field. If we do not yet have a sharply defined and agreed language, it is no surprise that we are still working towards an understanding of what quality looks like, how best to lead this and how to evaluate the impact of PLD.  

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