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How we’re helping England’s teachers provide an excellent education

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16 February 2022

How we’re helping England’s teachers provide an excellent education

REF 2021

This case study was included as part of the Research Excellence Framework for 2021:

By Professor Emily Perry, Professor Mark Boylan, Professor Mike Coldwell, Professor Bronwen Maxwell and Professor Sam Twiselton

Wednesday 16 February • Viewing time: 1 minute

Our research is helping every new teacher in England access ongoing support and high-quality professional development, from the start of their career and throughout.

Providing our children with a good education is crucial — both for their future, and for the future of the country. So it’s important that teachers are supported to do their job, especially in the first few years of their career.

Every year, tens of thousands of new teachers qualify in England. But recent data shows that one in six of these quits the profession after just one year.

At Sheffield Institute of Education, we have been improving professional development for teachers, changing policy and practice in England, and helping to create new frameworks for career-long training.

So far, our work has helped over 10,000 teachers improve their knowledge, skills — and their motivation to keep teaching.

We’ve achieved this by highlighting the importance of professional development (PD) in teaching, understanding the factors which support good PD, and working to make sure that more teachers can benefit from it.

The role of professional development

So what do we mean by professional development? In short, it’s ongoing training and support that nurtures teachers, from when they start in the profession and through the rest of their career.

High-quality PD has been shown to help teachers stay in the profession. But in the past, PD has been sporadic and of mixed quality. Some schools offered a lot of support; other schools didn’t offer any. Through our research we developed evidence that shows you need consistent PD to make a difference.

Our research has influenced the government to set national standards of support for all, both in their first years of teaching and in the years that follow.

The Early Career Framework sets out the support teachers should have access to when they start their careers. It means all teachers in England are now entitled to two years of professional development that develops their practice, knowledge and working habits. These policies are a move towards an entitlement for all teachers to engage with PD throughout their careers.

Training the trainers

As well as increasing the amount of professional development teachers are entitled to, we have played a significant role in improving its quality.

We concentrated on PD leaders — the people who design and deliver professional development. Often PD leaders in schools find themselves in this role because they’re good teachers who instinctively want to help their colleagues. But we found they often didn’t have the specific training they needed to allow them to most effectively train their colleagues.

You can't expect high-quality PD without well-trained people to lead that development. So we set about helping train the trainers.

After researching exactly what skills and knowledge PD leaders need to do their job, we then developed a way of making sure they have access to ways of gaining those skills. Our findings influenced the government to offer a new professional qualification for PD leaders — the National Professional Qualification for Leading Teacher Development.

The new NPQ became available in autumn 2021, and will help teachers become more effective at leading and delivering professional development for their colleagues.

Raising standards at home and abroad

Our work in teacher development has encompassed many projects over the years. From 2018 to 2021, we ran the CPD Challenge in 40 schools in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The schools had to meet criteria related to the quality and quantity of PD their teachers participated in.

Each school identified a CPD Champion, who we supported with workshops, networking events and a mentor from Sheffield Hallam who coached them throughout the project. By the end of the CPD Challenge, the schools had an effective PD leader who could take on the job of supporting their colleagues by planning, leading, delivering and evaluating PD programmes.

We also ran a mentoring scheme for science, technology, computing and mathematics teachers funded by Wipro Ltd. New teachers were matched with an experienced teacher mentor from another school, who we supported through PD sessions of their own. The early career teachers told us it improved their experience, and the mentors also took learning from the scheme back into their own schools to improve their leadership of PD for their colleagues.

In Ghana, working with ITEC Global, we supported science teachers across the country to become PD leaders in their schools. We worked with all 180 senior high schools in the country, with 1,500 teachers benefiting from enhanced professional development.

The future of teacher development

As the first researchers to raise the profile of PD leaders across the English school system, we’ve helped ensure that thousands of teachers have access to better professional development.

We’ve shown the importance of PD. And we’ve helped train the trainers who carry it out. Now we’re going further.

We want to change the wider culture of professional development by looking at the whole system, from national policy to individual schools and teachers.

For example, we know how important effective PD leaders are. But are they being supported by their schools to deliver that PD? They might be brilliant at their job, but are their working conditions allowing them to dedicate enough time to it?

Over the coming months we’ll be building on our previous research to look at issues like these, and determine what we need to do on a national and international level — to ensure that teachers receive the professional development they deserve.

Staff

Mark Boylan 123368

Professor Mark Boylan

Professor in Education

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Emily Perry 206737

Professor Emily Perry

Professor of Education

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Mike Coldwell 29093

Professor Mike Coldwell

Associate Director, Research and Innovation

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Sam Twiselton

Samantha Twiselton

Director of Sheffield Institute of Education

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Bronwen Maxwell 121106

Dr Bronwen Maxwell

Head of Commissioned Research

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REF 2021 Research Excellence Framework logo

About this project

Explore the people and organisations behind this research, and find related publications by the research team.

Related courses

Our teaching is informed by research. Browse undergraduate and postgraduate courses with links to this research project, topic or team.

Get in touch

Find key contacts for enquiries about funding, partnerships, collaborations and doctoral degrees.

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