The Lost Promise of Teacher Professional Development in England

Feb. 15, 2011

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 1, February 2011, 3–24.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines three possible influences on the impact of teacher professional development as a mechanism for improving teaching and learning. These influences are those from the individual teacher, those from the school and those from the activities in which teachers participate.
The authors explore these influences by considering them in the context of school-level achievement. That is, if these influence teacher learning and teacher learning then influences student learning, then these should manifest in the academic success of the school.

Data for the analyses to explore the relationships between teacher learning and school achievement were collected from a national sample of primary and secondary teachers in England.
This article analyzed responses from 1126 teachers in these schools.


The analysis implies that while the professional development of teachers in England is generally lacks school level systems and supports, the professional development and supports for professional learning by teachers in high performing schools display many of the characteristics associated with positive changes in teaching and learning (Day and Leith 2007; Desimone et al. 2002; Harris et al. 2006).

The results reveal that teachers in high performing schools participate in professional development activities that are longer in duration, more active and more collaborative in implementation.

In contrast, teachers in the lowest performing schools report high levels of performance management conditions and participate in activities that are short in duration. The high levels of performance management suggests a lack of positive alignment. Further, it suggests the possibility that performance management and professional learning may be aligned in negative and punitive ways for these teachers.

The article concludes that only the most highly achieving schools have the capacity to support teacher professional learning.
The authors argue that schools require help and guidance to develop these necessary capacities to support teaching and learning.

Day, C., and R. Leith. 2007. The continuing professional development of teachers: Issues of coherence, cohesion and effectiveness. In International handbook of school effectiveness and improvement, ed. T. Townsend, 468–83. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Desimone, L., A. Porter, M. Garet, K. Yoon, and B. Birman. 2002. Effects of professional development on teachers’ instruction: Results from a three-year longitudinal study. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 24, no. 2: 81–112.

Harris, A., C. Day, J. Goodall, G. Lindsay, and D. Muijs. 2006. What difference does it make? Evaluating the impact of continuing professional development in schools. Scottish Educational Review 37, Spring: 90–8.

Updated: Dec. 07, 2011