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The impact of collaborative continuing professional development (CPD) on classroom teaching and learning - Review: How do collaborative and sustained CPD and sustained but not collaborative CPD affect teaching and learning? Press release

Teachers should learn with and from each other to improve teaching

Teachers who work on their professional development with colleagues may be more likely to improve their teaching than those who take courses on their own, a new study funded by Government, the General Teaching Council for England and the National Union of Teachers suggests.

A review of research since 1991, led by a team from the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE), also found that collaborative professional development led to better results in the classroom and usually better pupil behaviour too. It also made teachers more enthusiastic about their continuing development.

On the other hand, very few studies investigated individually oriented professional development and those that did showed little evidence that it had much impact on either the teachers' practice or on the behaviour and attitude of their pupils.

The review, chaired by Philippa Cordingley of CUREE, says that sustained collaborative continual professional development can be effective when it combines input from outside experts with peer support, involves both experimentation and collaboration between teachers, and is connected directly to the teachers' own classroom.

Where teachers are taking courses on their own, it suggests they make the most of what they have learned by developing partnerships with colleagues and sharing experiences with them, or acting as coaches for other teachers.

For this second review in their study of continuing professional development (the first looked only at collaborative CPD), the researchers sifted through 5,500 titles and abstracts of studies published in English. From these they found 17 suitable for in-depth review. Just three involved individually oriented development. The overwhelming majority were conducted in the USA; only one in the UK.

Of the three individual studies, two found some evidence of changes in teachers' practice and beliefs and of a modest improvement in pupils' behaviour and attitudes. One found minimal impact on teachers' belief in their ability to make a difference and none on pupils.

The collaborative studies showed far more positive links with learning. Ten out of the 11 studies offering medium or high weight of evidence identified improvements in pupils' results, accompanied in seven cases by improvements in their behaviour or attitudes or both. All found links between the training and changes in teachers' practice, attitudes or beliefs. Six found that these changes were accompanied by a more positive attitude to their professional development.

Evidence from this review has led the team to some propositions that will be further tested in a third review. These are:

  • Collaboration may be an effective way of securing teachers' commitment to training, even where they have not themselves chosen its focus.
  • Within a school, classroom-based CPD may be more effective than off-site training, even if the latter involves teachers working together.
  • Collaboration between teachers focused on active experimentation may be more effective in changing practice than reflection and discussion about practice.
  • Working in pairs or small groups may produce better results than working in larger groups.

Anne Jasman, Policy Adviser at the GTC stated

The GTC believes that high quality sustained continuing professional development (CPD) is crucial for high quality teaching and learning. Much of the GTC's work on CPD has been focused on collaborative learning between professionals - for example the GTC's Teacher Learning Academy stresses the benefits of working together and sharing the outcomes of professional development activities. This research further emphasises the need to provide structured, purposeful and focused opportunities for teachers to work together in developing their professional practice as an effective means to enhance pupils' learning, motivation and behaviour.

For more information about the content of this review please contact:

Philippa Cordingley
CUREE and the PACCTS Consultancy Ltd
4 Copthall House
Station Square
Coventry CV1 2FL

Tel: +44 (0)24 7652 4036

For more information about the EPPI Centre's systematic review programmes please contact:

David Gough
Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI Centre)
Social Science Research Unit (SSRU)
Institute of Education
University of London
18 Woburn Square
London WC1H 0NR

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7612 6812
E- Mail

Notes to editors

The EPPI Centre is part of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, University of London. Professor Ann Oakley is the Founding Director of the Centre and Dr. David Gough the Director. Since its inception in 1993, it has been at the forefront in developing systematic reviews of social science and public policy research. These reviews have wide-reaching consequences in encouraging professionals, policymakers and others to take advantage of the best available evidence on particular topics.

Education and health promotion & public health are the two main streams of the Centres work. Reviews are undertaken in-house or by groups which the Centre supports. Another important activity of the Centre is providing training in how to carry out systematic reviews.

About the General Teaching Council for England

  • The GTC is the independent professional body for teaching established by the 1998 Teaching and Higher Education Act. It has three key functions: maintaining a register of qualified teachers, advising the Secretary of State and others on education matters and regulating the teaching profession England.
  • The GTC's principal aims are to contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning and to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers.
  • The GTC has a statutory duty to provide advice on key educational issues, including teacher training and development, the role of the teaching profession and recruitment. Its advice draws on the expertise of teachers, the views of those with an interest in effective teaching, and the best available evidence and research.
  • The law requires all qualified teachers currently teaching in maintained schools or non-maintained special schools to be registered with the GTC. Over 520,000 teachers are registered with the GTC.
  • The Council has 64 Members of whom 44 are currently practising teachers. Other interest groups - including parents, teacher educators, employers and the Commissions for Racial Equality, Disability Rights and Equal Opportunities - are also represented.
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