The Three T’s of Continuous Professional Development

All the evidence indicates that teachers develop intensively in their first couple of years of teaching and that they then plateau in their development, regardless of the intricate plans for continuous professional development (CPD) that schools construct.

This was my personal experience. You conquer the struggles of simply managing your class and then you simply get on. You have subject content to learn; exams to grapple with; students to chase up, reports to write, plans to hastily cobble together and much more. There are so many pressures, and so little time, that genuine self-improvement is a struggle. In these conditions CPD can’t hope to make much difference.

With the Sword of Damocles that is OFSTED always looming, and changing diktats being recycled from Whitehall just have you have understood the last one, you may be slumping with pessimism for the future of our great profession. Gladly, I do think there is cause for optimism and you can sense it when people come together to discuss CPD and shares their successes and seek out improvements.

I think there is a simple formula for CPD that can help us hope to make a small, but significant difference. It is the three Ts: Trust, Time and finding the right Tools:


You need to create the conditions to grow and develop teachers. You need to fend off the unreliable nonsense of OFSTED lesson gradings; Mocksteds; submitting lesson plans; arbitrary attempts to alongside some of the crazy practices that now attend performance related pay.

To create trust, you need to allow teachers to take risks. You need to openly reject an imposed teaching formula or some external notion of ‘outstandingness’. You need to help them to work together in the comfort of their subject teams. Collaboration breeds confidence.


At Huntington we have fortnightly CPD training. You need to change your school structure if you are to put the ‘continuous’ into CPD. If we know that teacher quality is the chief factor that drives school improvement, then we need to divert as much of our energies (and our finances) as possible into improving teacher quality. The government could help a great deal, but we need to ensure we help ourselves.

Our CPD training is predominantly given over to department time. Subject leaders are trusted and supported to lead their teams with the essentials of developing subject specific pedagogy. We do have some whole school sessions too, to share best practice across our staff, led by our excellent teacher coaches, that focus on key tenets of pedagogy, like memory for learning. Crucially, teachers are free to select which session best attends their professional needs. Flexibility and the autonomy of choice should be watch words for the time we give over to teachers for CPD.


The best ‘tool’ for school improvement is busy teaching in the classrooms all across our school. Finding systems to open the door on our craft knowledge and expertise is crucial. Whether it is teacher coaches supporting colleagues, finding time for enquiry and lesson study for interested colleagues, or simply giving a day for subject leaders to get themselves back above water, so that they can plan great CPD sessions, time and expertise become the tools to leverage better CPD.

At Huntington, we have our Huntington Learning Hub, our collaborative website, to share our best resources, ideas and CPD sessions. We also use IRIS Connect video technology. By having these flexible technological tools, we can better create the means to see inside our classrooms. We can unveil the nuances of our craft that would otherwise be missed in the mire of the busy working week.

Is there much to do and learn? Yes, of course. Is there a CPD silver bullet? Sadly, no – I’ve checked. There is the chance, by relentlessly keep the main thing of teaching and continuous professional development the main thing, that we can help teachers break through their professional plateaus and improve their craft.

It will take trust, time and the right tools to do it better.


This blog is my attempt to cohere my ideas for giving a short talk at the IRIS Connect #ShapingCPD event.

5 thoughts on “The Three T’s of Continuous Professional Development”

  1. jillberry102

    Enjoyed this, Alex, and as I’m involved in a fair amount of CPD with individuals and groups in schools I find this particularly helpful.

    Just one question – what word did you miss out in this clause?
    “arbitrary attempts to alongside some of the crazy practices that now attend performance related pay”



  2. I like your ideas about the importance of trust and the impact it has for building confidence and affecting change. However, I’m curious about the statement “Crucially, teachers are free to select which session best attends their professional needs.” My experience tells me that people will select training sessions that appeal more to the strengths they already possess. This means that reading teachers gravitate toward sessions dealing with literacy. Math teachers attend sessions about creating real world math situations and technologically-minded teachers want to know about the last and greatest apps, which creates a “preaching to the choir” environment. What this does is it strengthens teachers in one area while continually depriving the other areas. How do you suggest avoiding this situation?

  3. Frederick Sandall

    I like the three T’s approach to this crucial subject. It has to all be about learning. Teachers should be keen learners and many are. In my long career, along with most of the colleagues with whom I worked, we had an approach to teaching which garnered experiences to use in our classrooms from a variety of sources. As we said, you never stop seeing possibilities. Even now, though retired and many years out of the classroom, I still see books, film clips, conversations, music etc.etc. which could be used as stimulus for encouraging learning in others. So maybe the best CPD is sharing conversations with others. Learning is and always has been best done socially. So trust, time and tools are the right words with which to build a system which prioritises learning for ALL in any school or college!
    Thank you!

  4. Deb Hepplestone

    Agree with much of this Alex, but not sure about the plateau. Don’t we just refine and refocus as we move through our teaching career? I see it more as a journey through the peaks and troughs of the funfair bumpy slide. Sometimes we move rapidly, other times we are stuck on a squeaking hump trying to lurch forward but needing a push.

  5. Pingback: The Three T’s of Continuous Professional Development – HuntingEnglish | The Echo Chamber

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