Teachers can usually find out about approaches that may be working well for their colleagues, but finding out about the wider evidence is challenging. The problem is that knowing something works isn’t enough – teachers need to be able understand the rationale underpinning a strategy through continuous professional development and learning (CPDL), and use that understanding to refine their teaching and support implementation. In this way, teachers will develop a practical theory for their teaching and learning activities that helps them to contextualise new approaches for their own learners, subjects and contexts.
By developing this understanding of knowledge and practice, teachers will be able to use a range of approaches in their practice and connect them with different areas of their subject. Teachers should make use of both internal and external specialists to develop their knowledge and understanding, including the theory behind the practice.
Pedagogy and subject knowledge are equally important in this. CPDL that just focuses on generic pedagogic strategies is not enough – practical, subject-based evidence theory is needed too. This needs to be linked to understanding about how students learn in general, as well as in specific subject areas.
Specialists are particularly well placed to help teachers understand the theory and evidence about pedagogy, as well as ways to extend subject knowledge. Teachers also need the knowledge and skills to translate CPDL into the classrooms – in fact, effective CPDL will help teachers make the link between their professional learning and pupil learning. To do this, teachers need to do two things: