We need to radically change Inset days, says research from the Teacher Development Trust

Teachers’ on-the-job training courses need to last for at least two terms – or even a year – in order to be effective, new research has found.

An international research review, published today, reveals that schools need to move away from single-day, one-off continuing professional development (CPD) sessions – also known as Inset or Baker Days – and instead offer longer-term programmes.

“The duration and rhythm of effective CPD support requires a longer-term focus – at least two terms to a year or longer is most effective, with follow-up, consolidation and support activities built in,” according to the Developing Great Teaching report.

The report was commissioned by the Teacher Development Trust, with support from TES Global, the parent company of TES. David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, believes that too much existing CPD has “inconsistent quality and a lack of focus on pupil needs”.

He commissioned a team of academics, from Durham University, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, and the UCL Institute of Education, to survey CPD-related academic research published over the last 15 years.

The academics found that schools wanting to offer effective CPD should move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, they should create tailored content for teachers, which builds on their day-to-day experiences with pupils, along with their professional aspirations.

Good CPD should also be internally coherent, ensuring a logical continuation between the various elements of the programme and the classroom opportunities offered to teachers at the end, their report states. It would include explicit discussions, classroom experimentation and analysis of available assessment data.

There should also be elements of subject-specific training, as well as activities which help teachers to understand more about how pupils learn across all subjects.

“Teachers should have opportunities to work together, try out and refine new approaches and tackle problem solving,” the report states.

The academics say the programme should be delivered by specialists willing to challenge existing orthodoxies within a school, and offer alternative perspectives. “Powerful leadership around professional development is pivotal in defining staff opportunities and embedding cultural change” their report says.

“School leaders should not leave the learning to teachers – they should be actively involved themselves.”

Mr Weston added: “Teaching is the most fundamentally important profession for our future generation, and we need to harness the very best evidence about how to grow our teachers.

“This means ensuring that all teachers in England have access to the types of activities and processes that are most likely to make a positive difference to their practice.”

The full report is available here.

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