As Christiano Ronaldo stares lovingly at his reflection in the European Football Championship trophy, we may do well to reflect on the most interesting story of the tournament. Of course, it was little ol’ Iceland, outperforming all reasonable expectations given a population roughly the size of the city of Coventry.
So why were they a success and why does it matter?
Here are some interesting facts about Iceland and their football system. The population is 330,000. The number of expert UEFA qualified coaches is 778. This amounts to 1 coach per 424 people (compare this to England, who have 5000 UEFA B qualified coaches, which amounts to 1 coach per 11,000 people). Iceland, a country beset by difficult weather, also invested massively in more than 100 outdoor artificial-turf mini-pitches, as well as 22 full-size undersoil-heated artificial pitches.
It doesn’t take a leap to recognise why this tiny country may have performed with great success. A focus on high quality youth development with lots and lots of expert, highly trained coaches. Couple that with sustained investment in resources and a year round continuous rhythm to high quality training and development.
As teachers, we may be without a crowd – perhaps save a lively sports day scene – but we can learn a great deal from Icelandic football and their model for improvement. Schools need to similarly invest in continuous professional development, providing the time and tools for success. Happily, the DfE has today released the new Teachers’ CPD Standard to help shape the path.
It gives some very useful guidance for schools, school leaders and teachers:
“Effective professional development for teachers is a core part of securing effective teaching, and effective schools. It cannot exist in isolation, rather it requires a pervasive culture of scholarship with a shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop so that pupils benefit from the highest quality teaching. The thousands of professional decisions that must be made every day need to be informed by the best evidence, knowledge and professional wisdom.”
The standards are concise and clear:
|1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.|
|2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.|
|3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.|
|4. Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.|
And all this is underpinned by, and requires that:
- Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.
Supporting the Standard
Now, a Standard alone won’t change practice unless we understand the essential support factors for effective CPD. Crucially, we need to give teachers time to reflect upon their practice and support to evaluate their impact. A consistent ‘rhythm’ of training is required. In Iceland, the top notch facilities allow for a year long rhythm of football training. At Huntington School, that rhythm is facilitated by fortnightly CPD, supplementing typical INSET days, with a subject emphasis alongside some whole school sessions. This regular time, sustained over at least two terms, is an important prerequisite for effective CPD.
Teachers also need tools. Senior leaders seeking out experts and calling upon sound evidence (try Professor Rob Coe’s useful reading list for ‘teachers interested in research‘ HERE). By rooting CPD in sound evidence we help give teachers the best shot at impacting on student outcomes.
There needs to be a shift in thinking about effective CPD models. The Standard recognises that the good old ‘one off’ training day is unlikely to meaningfully impact upon teachers’ work in the classroom:
“Evidence suggests, for example, that a one-day course as a standalone activity without a specific focus is unlikely to have a lasting impact on pupil outcomes. That same course, however, could be used to much greater effect as part of a sustained, coherent programme which includes structured, collaborative in-school activities for teachers to refine ideas and embed approaches.”
We need to better scrutinize what we do. Many training days end with the obligatory ‘happy sheets‘, but the reality (as shown in research by Sitzmann et al. 2008) is that liking does not equate with learning. We can boost our ‘happy sheet‘ scores by adding in some social interact, effectively gaming our training, but it will prove weak evaluation.
There are some clear principles that underpin the CPD Standards. Number 1. The use of evidence:
“Professional development is most effective when informed by robust evidence, which can be from a range of sources. In particular, effective professional development:
- develops practice and theory together;
- links pedagogical knowledge with subject/specialist knowledge;
- draws on the evidence base, including high-quality academic research, and robustly evaluated approaches and teaching resources;
- is supported by those with expertise and knowledge to help participants improve their understanding of evidence; and
- draws out and challenges teachers’ beliefs and expectations about teaching and how children learn.”
The three Ts matter for successful CPD – Time, trust and tools. Schools leaders play a crucial role in making good decisions for their teachers. They are effectively akin to the Icelandic army of highly trained UEFA coaches! Their task is clear:
“Professional development is most effective when it is led well as part of a wider culture of evidence-informed reflection and discussion of teaching practice. In particular, effective leadership of professional development:
- is clear about how it improves pupil outcomes;
- complements a clear, ambitious curriculum and vision for pupil success;
- involves leaders modelling & championing effective professional development as an expectation for all staff members;
- ensures that sufficient time and resource is available;
- balances school, subject and individual teachers’ priorities; and
- develops genuine professional trust.”
We have work to do, but the CPD Standard is a great start. Give it a full read and in the coming year join the discussion and help shape tools and supports to bolster the CPD Standard.