Quality assurance of teachers’ CPD: could it work?

With the Chartered College of Teaching publishing a report into the quality assurance of teachers’ CPD, Katy Chedzey –  Head of Teaching, Learning & Assessment – reflects on the findings.

We know that teacher quality really matters. If we want to improve outcomes for pupils in our schools, we need to ensure they receive high-quality teaching… and this means teachers need access to high-quality CPD.

But do we even have an agreement on what high-quality CPD looks like? And what might we be able to do to ensure teachers and school leaders are able to access CPD that will really have an impact?

These are the questions that have been on our minds for the last year as we sought to design and pilot a system for quality assuring teachers’ CPD. The idea being that an effective quality assurance system would set a standard for quality which teachers and schools could use to inform their decision making around teacher CPD.

How might we define and measure ‘quality’?

To understand what high-quality CPD looks like, we drew upon the evidence-base around effective CPD and used this to develop a set of robust quality assurance criteria. Following consultation with the sector, we tested these criteria and continued to refine them throughout the CPD QA pilot. Our definition of ‘quality’ sits within the criteria themselves, and CPD providers who took part in the pilot were asked to demonstrate that they met each of the nine criteria, which were grouped in three themes:

1. Intent: the criteria in this theme focus on the aims and intended impact of the CPD, ensuring that CPD providers are clear about the aims for teachers undertaking the CPD as well as the long-term intended impact on pupils.

2. Design: the criteria here ask CPD providers to show how their CPD is designed to meet its aims; providers are expected to draw upon evidence and expert input, and must demonstrate that they have designed the CPD to bring about sustained changes to practice.

3. Delivery: within this final theme, the criteria look at how providers ensure their CPD is delivered to a high standard; they are expected to show how they engage in effective monitoring, evaluation and ongoing improvement and to demonstrate the steps they have taken to facilitate positive learning experiences for teachers who undertake the CPD they offer.

Evaluation from the CPD QA pilot suggests that the criteria we developed set a high bar for quality and enable valid judgements to be made about the quality of CPD. This indicates that there is potential for a CPD quality assurance system to be introduced which might be able to make a difference to how teachers experience CPD in the long term.

That is not to say that there wouldn’t be challenges: the CPD marketplace in England is diverse and the CPD quality assurance criteria need to be broad enough to cover every type of CPD provider, including schools who are now delivering an increasing amount of CPD in-house; work also needs to be done to establish a shared understanding of the criteria and how these can be used by schools to inform their decision-making. As part of this pilot, we wanted to understand how the outcomes of the quality assurance process might be utilised by schools and spoke to a number of school leaders to explore this further. We have used this feedback to develop a commissioning template which contains a number of prompts schools might use when thinking about commissioning CPD. These prompts encourage schools to ask questions about the intent and design of the CPD they are commissioning to ensure it will sufficiently meet the school’s – and individual teachers’ – needs.

You can find the prompts and learn more about the findings of the pilot in the full report which can be found here.