When it comes to the old adage that “education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame”, it seems teachers are broadly people for whom the flame burns brightly. Recent Teacher Tapp research confirms that many, and particularly those new to the profession, show a consistent and strong desire to continually develop their craft. And for most, that fire never goes out.
This is good news, not only because of the positive impact that quality continued professional development (CPD) can have on students, but also because of the introduction of the early-career framework (ECF) this year. From September 2021, the ECF will provide additional training in the first two years for early-career teachers to develop their practice and knowledge, including access to mentors and resources.
In order to build a picture of teachers’ attitudes towards CPD, we asked over 6,000 of them a series of questions on the topic. These questions ranged from how much they believed CPD would help them, to how useful such sessions have been in the past.
Overall, we found that nearly 75 per cent of teachers responded by saying that CPD sessions have had at least a moderate influence on their teaching. Furthermore, 93 per cent of teachers believe that CPD would make them a better teacher. Teachers are uniformly positive about the importance of such sessions and the impact they can have on their teaching.
Of all teachers, less experienced teachers seemed the most positive about the effect that CPD could have on their careers. Ninety-four per cent of teachers with less than five years’ experience agreed with the statement “I believe professional development sessions will help develop my career”. Eighty-five per cent of those with more than 20 years’ experience said the same, too!
What’s more, 78 per cent of teachers with less than five years’ experience said that CPD sessions have already had at least a moderate influence on their practice. And when we asked the same question to teachers with more than 20 years’ experience, this value was still high, at 69 per cent.
This pattern is consistent across many of the development questions asked through Teacher Tapp. Combining the results of all questions asked, we find that less experienced teachers are significantly more likely to rate CPD more highly and respond more positively about the impact it had on their teaching.
This may seem obvious, but we are thorough researchers! We wanted to check and to find out what factors might be responsible for this. Why do early-career teachers consistently rate CPD more highly?
One theory is that later-career teachers don’t find CPD useful, but this was simply not evidenced in subsequent responses. When we asked how useful their last CPD session was, 52 per cent of teachers with more than 20 years’ experience said it was “somewhat” or “very useful”, compared to 42 per cent of teachers with less than five years’ experience.
Another theory is that teachers later in their careers are already experts in their field. Back in 2020, we asked whether teachers believed they had sufficient background knowledge to deliver their timetabled lessons. Seventy-one per cent of experienced teachers strongly agreed with this statement, compared with just 36 per cent of less experienced teachers.
Encouragingly, the research also shows that this knowledge gap is not daunting to early-career teachers – they embrace the challenge it brings.
To these two facts (the enthusiasm of new teachers and experienced teachers’ sense of expertise of) add a dash of the law of diminishing returns and you may have your explanation.
Less experienced teachers are more positive about CPD because, having comparatively more to learn, they make greater strides with each session.
All of which can only be a good omen for the early-career framework. If this research is anything to go by, new teachers will respond enthusiastically to its introduction and it will be an effective addition to the toolkit for training new teachers.