Great Professional Development Which Leads To Great

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Inspiring leaders toimprove children’s livesSchools and academiesGreat professional development whichleads to great pedagogy: nine claims fromresearchLouise Stoll, Alma Harris and Graham HandscombResourceResearch and development network national themes:theme twoAutumn 2012

Great professional development which leadsto great pedagogy: nine claims from researchIt seems obvious to state that great professional development is fundamental to great pedagogy, but whatare the characteristics of great professional development? A recent international review concludes thatteachers must become ‘active agents of their own professional growth’ (Schleicher, 2012:73). What is neededfor this to become a reality? Teaching schools demonstrate excellence in and commitment to professionaldevelopment. With alliance partners, they have a mission to develop and enhance this across their schools.Working together, teaching school alliances have great potential to secure improvement gains across thesystem, through clusters of institutions sharing resources, to meet a range of staff needs, distributinginnovation and transferring professional knowledge (Hargreaves, 2011). How can research on professionaldevelopment help with this endeavour and support all schools’ and school partnerships’ improvementefforts? This research review offers nine claims about great professional development that leads to greatpedagogy.What’s in a word?Looking at the question ‘What makes great professional development which leads to consistently greatpedagogy?’ the word ‘great’ needs explanation. For professional development, the word ‘great’ indicates thatpowerful learning experiences must have an impact. The following definition of professional development bySara Bubb and Peter Earley strongly reinforces the importance of making a difference to pupil outcomes byimproving pedagogy and teachers’ learning:an ongoing process encompassing all formal and informal learning experiences that enableall staff in schools, individually and with others, to think about what they are doing,enhance their knowledge and skills and improve ways of working so that pupil learning andwellbeing are enhanced as a result. creating opportunities for adult learning, ultimately forthe purpose of enhancing the quality of education in the classroom.Bubb & Earley, 2007:4These authors and others (Opfer & Pedder, 2011; Timperley et al, 2008; Garet et al, 2001) emphasise thatgreat professional learning and development consistently makes a difference to the learning of both pupilsand teachers:Effective continuing professional development is likely to consist of that which first andforemost enhances pupil outcomes, but which also helps to bring about changes in practiceand improves teaching.Bubb & Earley, 2007:4Our review broadly takes this line. It’s important to note that while there should be strong links betweenprofessional development experiences and pupil outcomes, the research doesn’t always track exactlyhow professional development improved pedagogy or what it was about the changed pedagogy thatresulted in positive pupil outcomes. This provides teaching school alliances, and any other schools or schoolpartnerships, with exciting opportunities to think about evaluating impact in planning projects.The word ‘consistently’ also needs some explanation. This means that pedagogy consistently focuses onthose aspects that make a difference, and that pedagogy has to be great all the time, across the school(addressing in-school variation) and, in the case of alliances, across alliance schools. That’s the big challenge.For our purposes, effective professional development is the process of professional learning which results ingreat pedagogy within and across schools. This process, which includes putting in place supporting conditionsfor professional learning, leads to improved pupil learning, achievement and wellbeing.2 National College for School Leadership

The need to consider both great and consistently effective professional learning is at the core of thisliterature review which is an indicative summary of what is known and can be claimed, based on theevidence, rather than a comprehensive research review. We have largely identified research or syntheses ofresearch to provide evidence of the impact of professional learning and development on pupil and teacherlearning, and which in turn directly support school improvement.At times, we use the term ‘professional learning’ synonymously with ‘professional development’ as,increasingly, teachers and other professionals are interested in their learning and it has been argued thatprofessional learning better reflects the kinds of experiences that are effective (Timperley et al, 2008). AsLois Brown Easton argues:It is clearer today than ever that educators need to learn, and that’s why ‘professionallearning’ has replaced ‘professional development’. Developing is not enough. Educators mustbe knowledgeable and wise. They must know enough in order to change. They must changein order to get different results. They must become learners.Easton, 2008:756John Hattie, based on his synthesis of more than 800 meta-analyses of factors and interventions related topupil achievement, also concludes that:The more the student becomes the teacher and the more the teacher becomes the learner,then the more successful are the outcomes.Hattie, 2009:25Our review of the literature, based on these considerations, has led to nine claims from the research.Although these are articulated separately, in reality they are frequently connected.1. Effective professional development starts with the end in mind.2. Effective professional development challenges thinking as part of changing practice.3. Effective professional development is based on the assessment of individual and school needs.4. Effective professional development involves connecting work-based learning and external expertise.5. Effective professional learning opportunities are varied, rich and sustainable.6. Effective professional development uses action research and enquiry as key tools.7. Effective professional development is strongly enhanced through collaborative learning and joint practicedevelopment.8. Effective professional development is enhanced by creating professional learning communities withinand between schools.9. Effective professional development requires leadership to create the necessary conditions.3 National College for School Leadership

1. Effective professional development starts with the end in mindIf professional development is to make a difference to pupils’ learning outcomes, it has to start with ananalysis of their needs. Pupils’ learning needs should directly influence what teachers need to learn. Detailedanalysis of pupil data that leads to the identification of potential areas for further development in teachers’knowledge, skills and understanding drives many examples of effective professional development (Harris &Jones, 2010; Ofsted, 2006; Butler et al, 2004; Fishman et al, 2003).Evaluating impact has to be planned at the outset, and the data to support judgements of impact needs tobe identified (Earley & Porritt, 2009; Guskey, 2000). Clear baseline evidence prior to the professional learningexperience helps gauge accurately the impact of the intervention, innovation or learning opportunity andsupports the evaluation of progress. Impact on staff is the difference in behaviours, attitudes, skills andpractice that occurs as a result of the professional development. This difference is found in:—— practice for example changes in subject or process knowledge and classroom practice—— personal capacity including learning or improving skills, increased self-confidence, greater motivation,improved reflection on practice and greater ability to take part in or lead change initiatives—— interpersonal capacity for example working more effectively with colleagues, increased confidenceabout sharing great practice and greater ability to question alternative viewpoints (Earley & Porritt, 2009;Frost & Durrant, 2003)Starting with the end in mind (Earl et al, 2006 based on Covey, 1989) involves tracking actions through tooutcomes. Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (1978) introduced the idea of a theory of action, a set of logicallyconnected statements that connect people’s actions with their consequences for quality and performance.Theories of action describe the set of assumptions that explain the mini-steps that lead to the long-term goaland connections between activities and outcomes that occur at each step of the way. They provide storylinesand maps of how change is intended to happen, which can be revised as intentions are checked againstwhat happens in reality (City et al, 2010).2. Effective professional development challenges thinking as afundamental part of changing practiceThe result of professional learning is visible in changes in practice and also ‘in one’s thinking about thehow and why of that practice’ (Kelchtermans, 2004:220). Developing great pedagogy is more than doingsomething differently. It involves digging deep and understanding why one strategy is more effective thananother at a particular time. Powerful professional learning challenges and interrupts assumptions (Timperleyet al, 2008; Argyris & Schön, 1978), and encourages teachers to develop their own theory from their practice.Teachers are challenged by professional learning experiences that stretch them ‘to do more than they thinkpossible’ (Barber, Whelan & Clark, 2010:20) and benefit from being aware of and understanding their ownlearning processes (ie, metalearning: see Watkins, 2000) exploring what motivates and influences theirlearning, what hinders it and what it feels like as they are learning. This helps them better understand pupillearning.Skilled and informed exchange about teaching is critical to developing teaching expertise. Deep and enduringconversations stimulate reflection and inform action. In focused learning conversations, educators makemeaning together, and jointly come up with new insights and knowledge that lead to intentional change toenhance their practice and pupils’ learning. Exploring new ideas and evidence, participants bring differentperspectives and challenge each other respectfully. They are open to being honest, and push themselves toreflect deeply in ways that challenge their thinking (Stoll, 2012; Earl & Timperley, 2008; Little & Horn, 2007).Coaching stimulates powerful conversations and provides a structured learning process focused on particularaspects of practice. Within a coaching culture that fosters trusting, respectful relationships, narrative andevaluative feedback challenges thinking and improves teachers’ practice and student learning (Robertson,2009).4 National College for School Leadership

3. Effective professional development is based on the assessment ofindividual and school needsIndividual and collective professional learning needs both have an explicit focus in studies of effectiveprofessional development (Ofsted, 2006). Individual needs relate both to the content of professionaldevelopment, and also to teachers’ personal concerns. Personal drivers such as life history, personalcircumstances and professional life phase can affect teachers’ needs at any particular time (Day et al, 2007;Grundy & Robinson, 2004), as well as learning needs, performance management and professional standards.When professional development is effective, it allows for a range of starting points and differentiatesappropriately between diverse professional learning requirements (Loucks-Horsley & Matsumoto, 1999). Itinvolves teachers in shaping their learning agenda and influencing the means by which this will be takenforward. Such development needs must also be matched to the best sources of support (Ofsted, 2006).Understanding specific needs helps promote ownership of professional learning which is essential forpositive impact (Timperley et al, 2008).To create consistently great pedagogy and widespread impact, team needs also have to be considered(Bubb, Earley & Hempel-Jorgensen, 2009). Professional development tends to be more effective when itis an integral part of a larger school improvement effort, rather than isolated activities that have little todo with other school initiatives or changes (Darling-Hammond et al, 2009). This is best set within a cultureof professional learning where there is no tension between the respective needs of the individual, teamand institution. Rather, there is a learning environment in which individual development contributes tothe whole, and collaborative experiences and opportunities help to empower and provide meaningful andstrategic context to the work of the individual.4. Effective professional development involves connectingwork-based learning and external expertiseThe workplace is a critical site for experiential learning as a continuous process that is grounded inexperience (Kolb, 1984) and which fosters development through work activities and tasks. The key pointis learning from action in real situations, with concrete, hands-on experience and, often, the feedbackof a mentor. Teachers value professional learning approaches that enable them to experiment with theirclassroom practice and adapt it in the light of reflection and feedback from pupils and colleagues (Opfer,Pedder & Lavicza, 2008).Successful professional development alliances draw together three principles: collaboration between schools;collaboration across time; and collaboration with external partners (Husbands, 2011). The challenge broughtby external partners is an important ingredient. Many agree that good professional learning involves learningin context, ie, classroom and school settings (Buck & Francis, 2011). High-quality professional developmentcomprises a thoughtful mix of school-based and facilitated development experiences with key contributionsfrom external expertise (Timperley et al, 2008; Cordingley et al