Commentary

Transforming teacher professional development: a case study from England

Tony McAleavy

The need to improve the quality of learning outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged students, is the greatest challenge facing education policymakers around the world – and improved teaching quality is perhaps the biggest driver for improving learning outcomes. In this report, we reflect on the practical steps that have been taken in England to improve teacher professionalism, but we believe that the insights this example provides will have a resonance and relevance for policymakers and education leaders in many other countries across the world.

In recent years, the Department for Education (DfE) has pursued a distinctive policy of support for the teacher workforce in England. This support is based on the principle that teachers need high-quality support throughout their careers – from initial teacher training and early career guidance to support with specialist and leadership roles within and across schools. A career-long programme of evidence-based professional development has therefore been established to help provide this support to teaching professionals.  

In this report, we delve into the evolution and functioning of the English teacher development model. Although the latest iteration of the model is very new – with some components only being put into place this year – and it is too early to judge how successful it will be in terms of improved outcomes for students, we believe that its evolution and direction constitutes a significant case study in education reform that will be of interest to policymakers in other countries.

We believe that the approach to the professional development of teachers in England presents an interesting and promising case study in education reform. Of course, context is important policies must be adapted to account for the unique circumstances of different education systems, but it can be argued that teachers worldwide could benefit from the underpinning practices and principles outlined in this report. Specifically, these include:

  • End-to-end professional development that supports teachers at various stages of their careers
  • Authoritative evidence-based documents or frameworks setting out professional expectations for different stages and roles within the teaching profession 
  • Objective, indepdent advice on pedagogical practice from a trusted, respected body or organisation
  • The use of a supported network of excellent schools as training venues for pre-service and in-service teacher training
  • Opportunities for teachers to undertake accredited courses linked to specific roles within the education system.

Such an approach has, we believe, potential to bring about significant change in teacher professionalism and performance – and thereby to improve student learning outcomes.

 

To find out more about our work in teacher professional development, please click here.