What makes a really good CPD programme for teachers?

  in  Schools & Academies

How do you design a programme of top quality CPD courses for teachers? We looked at two recent evidence based studies of teacher CPD to find some top level principles and ideas that you can implement when designing your own teacher CPD programmes and courses.

First, we looked at a 2015 study by the Teacher Development Trust. That study reviewed international research into what makes effective CPD for teachers. The main findings included:

  1. A programme of CPD that lasts at least 2 terms or even longer is much more effective than a series of independent one off events.

  2. A good CPD programme creates a rhythm of activities and events. A sequence of follow-up, consolidation and support activities reinforces what is learned.

  3. Effective CPD creates buy-in because it is relevant to the needs of the teachers. The implication is that schools should support teachers when trying to identify and understand needs.

  4. CPD programmes should include a variety of activities. That means creating a sequence of different activities that work together to deliver the overall objectives of the programme or course.

  5. Subject specific pedagogy matters. This is an important finding. It’s not enough to create a generic CPD programme. For example, subjects like Maths require very specific pedagogical skills that are not the same as the skills required in other subjects.

  6. External providers of CPD are important because they have outside expertise, different perspectives and insight into what works in other schools.

The second place we went to look for ideas for effective teacher CPD was the US based Learning Policy Institute (LPI). The LPI conducts research to improve education policy and practice and their May 2017 paper Effective Teacher Professional Development reviewed 35 studies and tells us that effective CPD needs to be:

  1. Content Focused - teachers need subject specific CPD content. Effective CPD for Science teachers happens when the training content and activities take into account the needs and classroom content of science teachers.

  2. Collaborative - the LPI paper makes the point that collaboration might be just two teachers working together, a small group in the school, a wider school collaboration or a CPD project that includes professionals from outside the school.

  3. Informed by models and modelling - professional development is more effective when teachers are introduced to new or alternative models of best practice. That might include subject specific teaching frameworks.

  4. Delivered/designed with support from experts - just like the Teacher Development Trust study, the LPI paper identified the importance of bringing in experts who have new ideas, wider experience and insight from other schools and CPD programmes.

  5. Feedback and Reflection - teachers need time set aside to collect and reflect on what works (and doesn’t work).

  6. Sustained Duration - again, the LPI study also finds that longer CPD programmes - as long as two years - are more effective. Longer programmes can include more opportunities for support from experts, collaboration, different CPD activities, feedback and ongoing evaluation.

The two reports share some common ground. Both highlight the importance of subject specific CPD, an extended programme or course of activities and the support you can get from external experts.

A checklist for designing teacher CPD programmes

Now that we know what the evidence tells us we can build a simple CPD development checklist - the important things to think about when you are designing your CPD programme or course.

We’re also going to add measuring impact to our checklist because it’s important to think about evaluation when you start to design the programme, right at the beginning. Measuring impact doesn’t need to be difficult and a framework like Kirkpatrick's evaluation model is a useful tool because it breaks down the evaluation process into a series of very simple steps that you can adapt to fit your circumstances.

Here’s our checklist of things to consider when you start to design your in-house teacher CPD:

  1. Work with your teachers to identify the things they need help with.

  2. Where you can - make the course subject specific. That has implications in secondary schools because it means department level courses. Or at least some different activities for different subject teachers within the same programme.

  3. Design a CPD programme or course that lasts at least two terms.

  4. Find some good, external CPD providers to deliver some part of the course.

  5. Think about how to measure impact - and start that thinking when you begin to design the programme.

Creating an effective CPD programme for your teachers might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. The things that make a good teacher CPD course are straightforward and well understood. Talk to your colleagues about what matters to them, follow the checklist and build an in-house CPD programme that will make a measurable difference to both your colleagues and their students.


  1. Teacher Development Trust - Developing Great Teaching

  2. Learning Policy Institute - Effective Teacher Professional Development

Related Posts

How to measure the impact of your teacher CPD courses

5 ways an online course booking system could benefit your organisation

5 ways you can promote your training courses online

How to use simple analytics to increase course bookings

Why not try Coursedate?

Get started today with our 30 day free trial. No credit card required.