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How can collaboration support teacher development? – My Thoughts from the Global Teacher Development

On Monday I attended the Global Teacher Development Forum, a gathering of educators who are passionate about effectively developing teachers, headteachers and system leaders.

With a lot of education news at the moment drawing attention to the challenges schools are facing, it was heartening to be surrounded by a real optimism for the future of teaching.

IIt’s evident that a lot of teacher training is not a valuable use of time; many of us will have sat through INSET days and CPD courses feeling that our time would be better spent elsewhere. And we are not alone in this; Matthew Hood estimated that of the £1 billion spent each year on teacher development, only 1% to 10% is effective.


Why is great teacher development important?

"Teacher development is everybody's business. Getting this right is one of the most fundamental questions for our sector." – James Toop

We were an easy crowd to convince on this one! Great

teaching is critical in enabling us to close the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. But more than this, fulfilled teachers who feel like their personal development needs are being met, are more likely to stay and thrive in their careers.

Teacher development is a key part of the solution to so many of the challenges currently faced by the education sector.

What does great teacher development look like?

I don’t think any of us left the day with a concrete answer to this question (we were warned that we might come away with more questions than answers!). But what struck me as a key theme throughout the day, was collaboration.

“Collaboration is the oxygen of school improvement.” – David Carter

There is evidence which shows that focused collaboration between teachers really does improve teacher effectiveness.

Lucy Crehan shared her experiences from some of the highest performing education systems around the world. In Japan, Singapore, Shanghai and Finland, teachers meet weekly to plan lessons collaboratively. Not only does this help to reduce workload, it also enables teachers to share experiences and allows more experienced teachers to model lesson planning for less experienced teachers.

In New York, they’ve introduced ‘model teachers’ who open their classroom for other teachers to observe their teaching methods. This is done in a non-judgemental way, an opportunity to try out new and innovative teaching methods and learn from each other, rather than make a judgement on the quality of teaching.

How can we create more time for collaboration?

A lack of time and a heavy workload are concerns for all of us. But professional development shouldn’t be another pressure on your time, it should be part of teaching practise and an opportunity for you to share ideas and solve problems in the classroom.

This said, there were some ‘quick wins’ for creating more time for collaboration that came out of yesterday’s discussions:

  • Reduce data inputting – according to statistician Sam Sims, half termly pupil data drops are a waste of time!

  • Reduce paperwork and admin – there is no evidence that lots of paperwork leads to improved outcomes for students

  • Reduce INSET CPD and allow teachers to drive the agenda for this time – find out what would be most beneficial for them.

  • Shift the focus from measuring past performance to improving future performance – David Carter suggested that we spend too much time trying to prove we’re getting better when we’re not.

  • MAT’s have a critical role to play in making CPD sign up straightforward, quality controlling CPD courses and facilitating collaborative conversations between schools.

Change doesn’t happen immediately, but we have a shared responsibility for improving teacher development. We can all take small steps to work more collaboratively, share learning and experience and take responsibility for our own personal development.

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