Professional Development in 'Healthy' vs. 'Unhealthy' Districts: Top 10 characteristics based on research

Professional Development in 'Healthy' vs. 'Unhealthy' Districts: Top 10 characteristics based on research,10.1080/1363243022000007719,School Leadershi

Professional Development in 'Healthy' vs. 'Unhealthy' Districts: Top 10 characteristics based on research   (Citations: 11)
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Professional development is a requirement of every reform effort. Most states in the USA mandate a certain number of days in the school calendar to be allocated for professional development. Other nations often fund professional development for teachers to accompany an initiative to improve student performance. Although assumptions about why and how pro- fessional development should be conducted are shared, empirical evidence is relatively slim. Recent research generally focuses on the role of professional development in school reform. This study investigates the characteristics of involvement in professional development at the level of the district-the umbrella organisation for a geographic collection of schools. As part of a larger study, this research examines the professional development activities in school districts in relationship to overall district health. How do healthy and unhealthy districts differ in their approaches to professional development? What is the relationship between district health and student achievement? While coné rming some of the assumptions about what makes effective professional development, this study provides research-based evidence for what districts can do to ensure district-wide impact and to bring about and sustain change. Furthermore, it illustrates the close association of district health and student achievement.
Journal: School Leadership & Management , vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 113-141, 2002
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    • ...Thus, it would seem that some forms of teacher professional development, within both primary and secondary school sectors, fall short of demonstrating characteristics associated with effective CPD (National Foundation for Education Research [NFER] 2001; National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching [NPEAT] 1998; Ofsted 2002b; Pritchard and Marshall 2002); these being:

      @@@@the content is challenging, up-to-date and relevant to classroom practice;


    Jo Harriset al. The predicament of primary physical education: a consequence of ‘insuf...

    • ...Effective professional development is regarded as the cornerstone of successful school improvement because it builds the capacity of teachers to address a wide range of issues and problems (Pritchard and Marshall 2002)...

    Toni Striekeret al. Effects of job‐embedded professional development on inclusion of stude...

    • ...Thus, it would seem that some forms of teacher professional development, within both primary and secondary school sectors, fall short of demonstrating characteristics associated with effective CPD (National Foundation for Education Research [NFER] 2001; National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching [NPEAT] 1998; Ofsted 2002b; Pritchard and Marshall 2002); these being:

      @@@@the content is challenging, up-to-date and relevant to classroom practice;


    Jo Harriset al. The predicament of primary physical education: a consequence of ‘insuf...

    • ...The district budget, for example, has a line item designated “professional development” (Pritchard & Marshall, 2002)...

    Kenneth Leithwood. Characteristics of School Districts that Are Exceptionally Effective i...

    • ...(Teacher, infant/primary/junior/middle)3

      @@@@Teachers, line managers and SRE Leads talked of the importance of financial resources to attract school staff, and maintain their involvement. Resources were used to pay for supply teacher cover, for written SRE and PSHE materials, for attendance at CPD events, and for travel to national meetings in London.

      @@@@But even with adequate funding, some respondents reported difficulties in using the monies available to gain release from usual school duties. In some instances, responsibilities associated with a teacher's seniority prevented attendance at external meetings. On others, supply cover was not available when needed.

      @@@@For those working in special schools, there were unique challenges in bringing in supply teachers who were unfamiliar to pupils. It was suggested by one respondent that the latter problem might be resolved by knowing in advance exactly when cover would be needed. This would require teachers to carefully plan their participation in the scheme.

      @@@@The money would have been fantastic, but it's been very difficult to get [the teachers] out of schools. First because of their [senior] roles and second because it's very difficult to find supply cover. (SRE Lead)

      What is accredited and how is it done? PSHE, PDRs and the recognition of work

      @@@@Interestingly, almost every respondent indicated they would welcome the focus of the accreditation scheme to be on PSHE rather than on SRE alone. Reasons for accrediting PSHE rather than SRE were fourfold. First, some respondents stated that the skills and values associated with PSHE were the same as those needed to teach SRE (even if there was specific knowledge and understanding needed for the latter). Second, for some teachers, especially those in primary and special schools, SRE was seen as an integral part of PSHE, with key themes (such as building self‐esteem and an understanding of relationships) being common to both. Third, given that discrete sessions on SRE might be taught for a few sessions only, PSHE would provide more opportunities for teachers to identify evidence of their practice. Fourth, with Citizenship education being a statutory requirement, a PSHE accreditation scheme might be a step towards providing this subject area with similar status in schools:

      @@@@We should have gone with PSHE earlier. It was apparent early on that special and primary school teachers respond better to PSHE rather than SRE. It is more related to what they do and addresses the importance of relationships and self esteem. (National officer)

      @@@@It will be PSHE rather than PSHE and Citizenship. The latter is statutory, and this might be a stepping‐stone to make PSHE statutory. (National officer)

      @@@@In reviewing and developing SRE, teachers were expected to produce a PDR. PDRs were reviewed in two rounds by external assessors, who first provided interim feedback to teachers and the local SRE lead, and then made a more formal final assessment.

      @@@@In providing interim feedback, assessors indicated that PDRs generally consisted of too great a quantity of un‐cross‐referenced photocopied materials that lacked sufficient evidence from pupils, or did not detail teachers' specific contribution to SRE. A frequent omission was a commentary on how, for example, school policies or lesson plans had informed a teacher's practice, and/or how a teacher's practice informed the development of policy or written programmes of work.

      @@@@Nevertheless, assessors reported being able to identify some very good examples of evidence such as photographs, witness statements and critical descriptions of practice.

      @@@@Some teachers were enthusiastic about the feedback they had received from assessors:

      @@@@Ours was really positive feedback and it outlined two points that we hadn't completed but weren't big deals, but I was very pleased with the feedback because it was very very positive. We have worked hard on trying to make sure it was right. (Teacher, secondary school)

      @@@@Others, however, were less positive, stating that, on occasions, feedback was overly critical, inconsistent and/or lacking in detail:

      @@@@We weren't very happy about the feedback. All the assessors did was look at the lesson plans—they didn't take into account how the teachers had taken a whole school approach to putting together their evidence. (SRE Lead)

      @@@@Assessors stated that their earlier participation in the development of the pilot scheme could have helped clarify the sorts of evidence that might best be required. This would not only have assisted teachers, but would also have enabled assessors to have developed a shared understanding of the criteria for assessment and how best to feed back to promote learning, features of assessors' practice that were built as the pilot scheme progressed:

      @@@@There was too little time to standardise our thoughts. As assessors we had different backgrounds, and we have to make sure that we understand the pressures on teachers. PSHE is only one tiny part of teachers' work, and SRE even less so. (Assessor)

      @@@@Assessors commented that, in general, PDRs submitted in the final round were of better quality than earlier drafts and so were easier to assess. They knew there to be ‘stunning’ SRE and PSHE teachers, and were concerned that any future system of accreditation should enable good and best practice to be identified and written up.

      @@@@Findings from the first round of interviews revealed contrasting perceptions as to whether schools or individuals should be accredited. Towards the end of the pilot scheme, such differences in opinion were still apparent. Some teachers, for example, felt strongly that the individual who chiefly undertook the work should be accredited. After all, it was argued, outcomes came about because of their individual efforts. Others were firm in their belief that the whole school should gain accreditation. After all, without the support of the school, the teacher would have been unable to take part in the scheme at all. The following respondent summed up some of the key issues:

      @@@@I think the balance should be between accrediting the school and the teacher, as ideally a holistic ‘whole school’ approach is preferable as this encourages more staff to take responsibility for SRE and to take on board the ideas being communicated via a specific teacher. A problem is that the onus can fall on one individual … (Teacher, infant/primary/junior/middle)

      @@@@Teachers' views about what form the accreditation should take were mixed and left somewhat open to question. Extra salary increments could be an incentive, as could credits towards a qualification, the latter useful to the careers of some but not necessarily of all:

      @@@@If you're going to value the accreditation, the best way is by the pocket really … if people are pre‐threshold, it should automatically take them through the threshold. (Teacher, special)

      @@@@A credit to an MA is good if a teacher knows the direction they are moving in, but the incentive must be matched by the amount of responsibility it carries. (Teacher, infant/primary/junior/middle)

      @@@@Credits towards a qualification, if you're going to link it to a university, is rubbish—they've been doing that for years. I've probably got points in every university in the country and I'm never going to use them. (Teacher, special)

      Infrastructure: SRE leads, assessors and national officers

      @@@@As noted earlier, teachers were generally positive about the ways in which SRE leads had supported their involvement in the scheme. However, a few teachers commented on the health service background of many SRE Leads, questioning whether a background in health really enabled SRE Leads to be familiar with the ‘nitty gritty’ of work in schools. Others indicated that, with a background in health, an SRE Lead could provide them with useful sexual health‐related information and contacts. One SRE Lead summed up some of these tensions:

      @@@@From a local perspective, I can see the advantage with the link being in health. I'm not saying health should lead, but I do feel strongly that there's got to be a health and education partnership. But even this can cause something of a battle. [One colleague in education] is feeling threatened because they see health as having a role in things health doesn't really understand! (SRE Lead)

      @@@@All SRE Leads highlighted the responsive and reassuring individual support provided by the national coordinator to the pilot. However, a few indicated they would have appreciated further opportunities to share practice and, for those with a background in health, to find out more about different approaches to teaching and learning. It was recognised that SRE Leads themselves also had a need for preparatory training:

      @@@@It would have been better with more training for the leads upfront actually. Really, we went into the pilot in the dark. Also, knowing exactly for myself what the expected standard was, it was difficult to decide whether what I was doing was high enough quality. I would really have appreciated more training about how to lead in the pilot […] a blueprint for offering support. (SRE Lead)

      @@@@Assessors were also aware that their understanding of their role had developed as the pilot scheme progressed. Both early involvement in the scheme, and ongoing review of their role, would have assisted assessors in developing a shared understanding of assessment criteria, feedback and moderation:

      @@@@I would have liked to have been involved more in the formative development of the scheme. I feel I came in on something that had already started. In terms of feeling ownership, it would have been useful to have been involved at an earlier stage. (Assessor)

      @@@@For assessors, time for reflection and evaluating our role is very important. It is good to have a meeting after marking the folders. More time for moderation would have been good, perhaps to feedback to SRE leads. We could also meet with teachers, but I would not want to put SRE leads out of their role. (Assessor)

      @@@@There was general agreement among national officers that key players at national level had both committed themselves to the aim of the pilot scheme and worked hard to ensure its success. Even though stakeholders had come to the scheme with different priorities, and even with staff changes (which, it was said, tended to make progression of a programme more difficult), the good will and determination of key players highlighted their commitment to this area of work:

      @@@@There was determination among key players for this to work as they felt it was such an important area. There were changes to personnel during the life of the programme, and that makes things more difficult. (National officer)

      @@@@There was a degree of disappointment, however, that the national Steering Group had not worked as best it might. There were some suggestions that the expertise of the people on the Steering Group had been under‐used, with members being informed of progress of the scheme, rather than acting as decision‐makers about its future aims and objectives.

      @@@@There was some discussion about where a future national accreditation scheme might best be located organisationally. One national officer felt it important that the scheme was part of the NHSS but went on to suggest that the NHSS itself might best have close ties to government departments working to promote social inclusion. Another felt strongly that the scheme should not be tied to the NHSS. This respondent, along with one other, stated that the scheme should instead be tied in some way to the emerging CPD framework. Yet another national officer questioned the degree to which the scheme ought to be linked to CPD, as this might be less likely to involve teachers who are chiefly motivated by a desire to improve pupils' learning rather than have their work formally recognised:

      @@@@There should be a shift of the scheme from the sex and relationship education policy and into teachers' CPD. (National officer)

      @@@@If it is only linked to CPD, how do you bring in teachers who are less interested in qualifications? (National officer)


      @@@@The primary goal of this evaluation was to identify strengths and areas of development within the pilot SRE accreditation scheme in preparation for a national roll‐out of a revised scheme in 2002–2003. Findings from the evaluation generally complemented actions being taken by the national coordinator in response to what had been learned through involvement in the pilot (such as allowing teachers more time to prepare for their participation in the scheme and more fully involving assessors). Although this was a study of one CPD initiative, a series of more general conclusions may be reached beyond the individual findings highlighted earlier.

      @@@@While this study did not seek to link positive (or negative) pupil outcomes with the development of the pilot scheme, assessors did report positively on teachers' portfolios, indicating there to be evidence of good professional practice (although not all of which would necessarily have an immediate and direct impact on pupils' learning). Nonetheless, the pilot scheme exemplified some of the characteristics that contribute to good CPD for teachers (Pritchard & Marshall, 2002; EPPI‐Centre, 2003)...

    Ian Warwicket al. Accrediting success: evaluation of a pilot professional development sc...

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