CPD for teachers

Paul Main

Rethinking how we approach CPD for teachers when we are time-poor but need to advance whole-school learning outcomes.

What is CPD for Teachers?

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a continuous, planned, and lifelong process through which educators develop their professional and personal qualities, and expand their practice, knowledge and skills, resulting in their empowerment, and growth of their organisation and their learners. CPD is a term used to describe learning activities that help keep educators current with the latest developments in their field. It's especially important for teachers because it helps them stay abreast of the latest educational practices and technologies.

Teachers who participate in CPD programs tend to be better prepared to teach students, and therefore, they're able to improve student achievement.

CPD is also beneficial for school leaders because it allows them to identify emerging issues and develop strategies to address those issues. There are many ways to participate in CPD. Some examples include attending conferences, reading journals, taking online courses, participating in webinars, and joining discussion groups.

CPD is a process of documenting and reflecting on learning and development; the action of tracking and recording the techniques, knowledge and experience that educators achieve both informally and formally as they teach, other than any initial training. It's an account of what they apply, learn and experience.

As stated in the standards for teachers professional development, educators CPD must be:

  • Underpinned by strong evidence and expertise;
  • Focused on enhancing and analysing students outcomes;
  • Sustained over time;
  • Given priority by the leadership;
  • including expert challenge and collaboration.

Also, research shows that CPD must provide educators with the basic knowledge and theory behind the new teaching methods they’re learning, alongside providing the opportunities and demonstrations to practice these high-quality teaching methods in their classrooms.



Collaborative CPD opportunities
collaborative CPD opportunities

Why is CPD for Teachers so important?

The CPD process provides a wide range of experience and professional development for teachers on an ongoing basis. It's not a simple assessment for learning that records the details of their training activities. It should be more comprehensive than that. CPD helps teachers by:

Ensuring that the teacher's approach to teaching should keep pace with the contemporary standards and approach to education.

  • Causing teachers subject knowledge enhancement, helping them in delivering high-quality teaching and improving students learning
  • Improving their teaching skills and making them more effective for the workplace.
  • Providing opportunities for a teacher to advance their teaching career and become authentic school leader in the long run.
  • Opening teachers up to new skills, new knowledge and new possibilities.
  • Increasing teachers' confidence in themselves, others and their teaching profession as a whole.

CPD is also very effective for:

  • Reminding teachers of their accomplishments and how far they’ve developed;
  • Directing teachers career and helping them to keep an eye on their objectives;
  • Uncovering gaps in teachers abilities and skills;
  • Opening up more advanced development opportunities.


Action research cycles for teachers
Action research cycles for teachers


What are the features of an effective CPD for Teachers programme?

The effectiveness of a CPD programme has almost nothing to do with the expertise of the trainer, but the level of improvement in the learners' practice and outcomes.

The systematic reflection on and evaluation of the effectiveness of the teaching approaches must be everyone’s topmost priority - teachers, school leaders and CPD providers. When teachers feel responsible for their professional learning and when they get the opportunity to contribute to the learning culture, and they find trust and openness, these have a substantial impact on their CPD outcomes. 

According to the DfE Guidance and Standards for Teachers’ Professional Development Programme, these last more than 2 terms and involve ‘building a pace of ongoing support and follow-up professional learning activities’. This shows that a traditional way of one-off activities for teachers would not help.

It also shows the effectiveness of the programmes on basis of the tried and tested techniques, strong evidence and impact of what’s sustainable and effective in classroom learning. There are so many CPD providers, so teachers must engage in professional development activities that are verified by the research to enhance their career-long professional learning and outcomes. In terms of effectiveness, there is a huge impact of training under a challenging CPD provider.

The positive impact of CPD that provides teachers with a lot of practice and is tailored to every teacher, is also evident. Hence, an effective CPD programme can be easily integrated into each teacher's classroom context and addresses the particular areas of a teacher's day-to-day practice they are trying to improve, for example, learning about a wide range of behaviour management strategies etc.

Also, according to the DfE guidance an effective teaching staff development programme promotes collaboration between teachers, peer group exchanges, focussed discussions about practice, involves amazing resources and leaves a lasting impact on teachers classroom practice.

Since there is an undeniable place for external expertise in teachers professional development courses, educators also get a chance to learn from each other and modify their autonomous journey to teaching into a professional one, especially within classroom contexts or while dealing with any common challenge of teaching.

Informing teacher CPD with student observations
Informing teacher CPD with student observations



Embracing action research as a CPD mechanism

Keeping up to speed with evidence-informed education is a challenging task. Twitter is saturated with the latest reports and whilst the education endowment foundation are good at signposting us to 'what works', teachers need time to implement these ideas in their classrooms. Engaging in research projects are a great form of career-long professional learning. Access to courses can sometimes be a problem as management teams have to take teachers out of class. Many of these professional development courses aren't accessible to those who need them the most.

CPD is a great opportunity for educators to improve their skills and knowledge base. But CPD can be expensive, especially when you're paying out of pocket.

That's where professional learning networks on social media can come in. Schools often offer free or cheap CPD courses to help teachers learn new techniques and develop better teaching practices. With a good framework for facilitating your own professional learning, schools with low budgets can run affective improvement exercises independently.

Schools should encourage teachers to participate in these programs because they benefit students too. Students who attend classes taught by well-trained teachers perform better than those taught by poorly trained teachers. Teachers who take advantage of this opportunity not only become better teachers, but they also become role models for students. This helps them build positive relationships with students and encourages them to continue learning throughout their careers.

At Structural Learning, we have developed a learning process that enables educators to carefully unpick the classroom challenges they are facing. We then present research evidence that could remedy the situation. We find that, at the very least, considering a new perspective can shed light on the problem in a new way. As we take a blended learning approach, the support can be delivered in twilight sessions when staff have more 'headspace'. Through a collaborative webinar, we are able to sift through robust evidence that might pave the way for an innovative project. Over the last three years, we have seen teachers from both primary and secondary schools engaging in projects around the following topics:

1. Dual coding

2. Mind mapping

3. Formative assessment

4. Metacognition

5. Rosenshine Principles

6. Knowledge organisers

7. Thinking strategies

8. Interleaving

9. Generative learning

10. SOLO Taxonomy

Teachers professional development can be collaborative
Professional development activities for teachers



Who is providing CPD for teachers?

There are many local and government bodies providing both physical and online courses in CPD for teachers. These include:

  • Individual schools: These may provide training internally; Individual Teachers at senior positions may specify the days, timing, focus and organisation of CPD and are not liable for any legal minimum time to be spent by the educators on CPD; schools are free to hire experienced teacher at senior or middle leaders positions – their primary motive is to lead and model the improvement of instruction skills through teacher training (their salaries are more than classroom teachers)
  • Teaching schools: These are the government’s topmost choice for school-to-school cooperation. They are used for both preliminary and ongoing training and they provide the foundation for a Teaching School Alliance – a coordinated body that may cross sector, phase and private authority lines; Teaching Schools Council supports the Teaching School Alliances.
  • Local authorities (LAs)
  • Further and Higher Education Institutions: These include higher or further education institutions or their groups, an association of universities and university colleges and teaching and learning academy;
  • Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)
  • Subject Organisations: For example, the Institute of Physics, the Geographical Association and the STEM Careers and Learning network;
  • Private companies: For example, third party education sector organisations and charities, offering a wide variety of physical and online learning through accredited and non-accredited career development programmes;
  • Collaborative organisations: For example, the PiXL Club and the Whole Education Network.

In 2013, a report on 'School Partnerships and Cooperation' was published by the House of Commons Education Committee, describing the expected goals of some of these contributors. Also, in 2015 the DfE published 'Effective School Partnerships and Collaboration for School Improvement' explaining the partnerships and collaboration between schools and their role in school improvement.



What is included in the Legal Framework for CPD?

Every teaching staff has a professional obligation to take part in the CPD. According to the Teachers’ Standards, an educator needs to accomplish wider professional duties and take responsibility to improve teaching strategies by participating in career professional development training courses, and by responding to suggestions, feedback and collaboration with peers.

Legally, there is no minimum requirement for the time duration (within and outside of working hours) primary schools or secondary schools beginner teachers may spend on CPD.

STPCD (The School Teachers Pay and Document) has documented a list of specific professional duties for the teachers to undertake, including contributing in professional development.