PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesCollaborative Continuing Professional Development
Continuing professional development
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by review groups linked to the EPPI Centre

Collaborative CPD
Specialist input
Teaching assistants (opens new page)
Teacher education (opens new page)

Collaborative Continuing Professional Development

Impacts on teachers
Impacts on students
CPD processes


 'Collaborative CPD' refers to programmes where there were specific plans to encourage and enable shared learning and support between at least two teacher colleagues on a sustained basis. 'Sustained CPD' refers to programmes that were designed to continue for at least twelve weeks or one term.[2] In 14 of the 15 studies synthesised by one review, collaborative CPD was linked with improvements in both teaching and learning; many of these improvements were substantial.[1]

Impacts on teachers

  • They showed greater confidence and had enhanced beliefs in their power to make a difference to their pupils' learning (self efficacy).[1],[3]
  • They developed enthusiasm for collaborative working, notwithstanding initial anxieties about being observed and receiving feedback.[1]
  • Collaborative CPD was embedded in many cases in the development of collaborative practice such as joint planning and team teaching.[1]
  • Teachers showed a greater commitment to changing practice and willingness to try new things.For example, they made use of specific tools or interventions which introduced greater collaboration relating both to generic learning processes, such as activities to generate more effective and targeted dialogue between students, and to specific teacher activities, including, for example:
    • a conscious effort by teachers to use computers more for both instruction and collaborative planning; or
    • a conscious effort to increase the range of teaching and learning strategies targeted at specific student needs.[1]
  • Positive outcomes of the impact of collaborative CPD sometimes emerged only after periods of relative discomfort in trying out new approaches; things often got worse before they got better. Collaboration was important in sustaining change.[1]
  • Time for discussion, planning and feedback, and access to suitable resources, were a common concern in many of the studies reviewed.[1]
  • In comparison, in studies of individually-oriented sustained CPD, two found some impact on teachers' practice and beliefs respectively, and one found a minimal effect on teachers' efficacy.The evidence was considered to be weak because not enough studies were found.[2]

Impacts on students

  • They showed enhanced motivation and confidence, increased participation, and increased satisfaction with their work.[1],[2]
  • They showed more positive responses to specific subjects.[1]
  • They showed improvements in learning,[2] and in performance, such as improved test results, greater ability in decoding and enhanced reading fluency.[1]
  • They demonstrated better organisation of their work.[1]
  • They showed increased sophistication in response to questions.[1]
  • They experienced a wider range of learning activities and strategies.[1]
  • There was some evidence of positive effects on students' behaviour.[2]
  • There was some evidence that collaboration among teachers acted as a model for collaboration among students.[1]
  • In comparison, studies of individually-oriented sustained CPD showed modest impacts focused on behaviours and attitudes rather than learning outcomes, which were not measured.[2]

CPD processes

Core features of CPD processes which were linked, in combination, to positive outcomes include:

  • The use of external expertise linked to school-based activity.[1],[2],[3]
  • observation.[1],[2],[3]
  • Feedback (usually based on observation).[1]
  • Being based in the learning teacher's classroom.[2],[3]
  • Involving the teachers in applying and refining new knowledge and skills and experimenting with ways of integrating them in their day-to-day practice.[3]
  • An emphasis on peer support rather than leadership by supervisors.[1],[2],[3]
  • Scope for teacher participants to identify their own CPD focus,[1],[3] starting points and pace.[3]
  • Processes to encourage, extend and structure professional dialogue[1] as well as ongoing collaborative working.[3]
  • Processes for sustaining the CPD over time to enable teachers to embed the practices in their own classroom settings.[1] However, there was no clear link between impact and length of time beyond 12 weeks.[2]
  • Working in pairs or small groups, which may be more effective than larger discussion groups.[2],[3]

Specialist input 

Positive impacts found in specialist-provided CPD were:

  • Specialists built the CPD processes on what teachers knew and could do already, with an emphasis on individual learning.[4]
  •  In most cases, the CPD lasted longer than two terms, and the specialist contact with teachers (both scheduled and ‘on call’ sessions) took place over 10 days or more.[4]
  •  Specialists encouraged and guided the teachers in supporting each other.[4]
  •  Specialists introduced the theoretical and practical knowledge base.[4]
  •  Ongoing specialist support included modelling, workshops, observation and feedback, coaching, and planned and informal meetings for discussion.[4]

However, most studies were designed and conducted by the specialists themselves, using research approaches with limited capacity to control for the potential biases arising from such a situation.  

Teaching assistants

For research on the professional development of teaching assistants, click here.

Teacher education

For research on initial teacher education and professional development in low-and middle-income countries, click here.


1. How does collaborative Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers of the 5-16 age range affect teaching and learning?  (2003)

2. 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?  (2005)

3. The impact of collaborative continuing professional development (CPD) on classroom teaching and learning - Review: What do teacher impact data tell us about collaborative CPD?  (2005)

4. What do specialists do in CPD programmes for which there is evidence of positive outcomes for pupils and teachers? (2007)

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