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19 October 2023

Bringing research closer to the classroom

The National Institute of Teaching unveils findings from school consultation on professional development priorities

What burning questions about professional development do teachers and leaders want answered? Today, the National Institute of Teaching (NIoT) is sharing the results of our first major school consultation aimed at addressing this question.

The NIoT is dedicated to bridging the gap between research and practice in education, connecting those who conduct research with those who use it to enhance teacher and school leader training and support. We want to act like plumbers, getting ‘under the sink’ to investigate the problems that teachers and leaders face, so that we can offer practical solutions. Our aim is to build on the excellent work that’s come before, for the benefit of teachers and leaders everywhere – and, most importantly, through them to the ultimate benefit of their pupils.

We asked the sector to help us by articulating the questions that it would be most useful to know the answers to. To be inclusive, we took this consultation on the road and spoke to schools up and down the country; we conducted surveys, and interviews, and ran facilitated events designed to spark thought and conversation. The volume and diversity of responses highlight the complexity of the challenge that teachers and leaders face when planning professional development in their schools.

We had over 2,000 responses, with 91% of those coming from current teachers and school leaders. The questions received during the consultation were analysed and grouped thematically into four broad categories:

  • Supporting people
  • Quality and impact of professional development
  • Leadership of professional development
  • Practical realities

By ‘professional development’ we mean all the training a teacher and/or leader might experience in their career, including initial teacher training.

Questions included: “How can we effectively develop our staff without placing lots of extra demands on their time?” which came from a middle leader of a secondary school in the South East. We also heard questions about quality facilitation, including, “How do we ensure we have experts with credibility delivering training?” from an executive leader of a group of primary schools in the West Midlands.

The insights gathered from this consultation will guide our school-led research agenda for the next three years. We recognise that cross-cutting themes, such as special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and economic disadvantage, are essential considerations and will be integrated into all our research projects.

We believe these insights will also be useful for other organisations who support professional development, helping bring research priorities a step closer to the classroom.

Dr Calum Davey, Executive Director of Research at the National Institute of Teaching, said: “We designed our process to be inclusive of teachers, school leaders, researchers, policy makers, and teacher trainers.

“We want this to be the start of a conversation. We hope we have started to draw together the full range of views found across the school system and are sharing this now so it can be refined further.

“We want to know if you think these categories are helpful, correct, or if we have missed something important.”

Andy Samways, a member of the National Institute of Teaching’s Research Advisory Group and Director of Unity Research School, said: “The National Institute of Teaching is determined to enable teachers and leaders across the country to be active in adding to the evidence base. They are committed, as an organisation, for their work to get as close to the classroom as possible, and for it to make a tangible, sustainable difference to how teachers teach and how leaders lead.

“To do this, the National Institute of Teaching is putting the voices of teachers and leaders at the heart of their work. This report has come about through engaging with, and listening to, teachers and leaders working in schools across England, to get a sense of what they are curious about when it comes to professional development.”

Read the full report - Closer to the Classroom: Teachers' Professional Development Priorities

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