The effects of high-quality CPD on teachers and pupils

A report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) reviews the evidence on the impact of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers, and finds that high-quality CPD can play a role in improving teaching quality.

Commissioned by Wellcome, the rapid review and meta-analysis examined 52 randomised controlled trials evaluating CPD programmes for teachers in order to establish their impact on pupil and teacher outcomes. These were trials of interventions that went beyond current practice in school, and might include training courses, mentoring, seminars and peer review.

The findings of the report suggest that high-quality CPD has a positive effect on pupils’ learning outcomes with an effect size of +0.09. The review also suggests that the availability of high-quality CPD may have a positive impact on teacher retention, particularly for early-career teachers.

Source: the effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students: A rapid review and meta-analysis (February 2020), The Education Policy Institute

The impact of testing on teacher retention

Reducing the number of high-stakes tests may contribute to the retention of new teachers, but not necessarily those who have been teaching longer, according to a working paper from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER).

Dillon Fuchsman and colleagues used changes in testing practices in the US state of Georgia to consider what effect removing high-stakes testing for certain grades (year groups) had on teacher retention. Over the last four decades, Georgia has employed four different testing models which have included dropping all statewide achievement tests in some grades, excluding some subject areas from testing, and reducing the number of grades in which some subjects were tested. They looked specifically at teachers in grades 1 to 8 (Years 2 to 9).

Results showed that, overall, removing testing did not have an impact on how likely teachers were to leave the profession or change schools.

Source: Testing teacher turnover and the distribution of teachers across grades and schools (February 2020), National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, CALDER Working Paper No. 229-0220

The impact of increasing education spending: a study in seven US states

A recent study published in the Journal of Economics examined the effects of increasing education spending on pupil achievement in more than 3,000 diverse school districts in seven US states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Money for the increased spending was obtained via increases in property tax, sales tax and income tax – issues that had been placed on ballots and voted into effect.

Data for the study encompassed the years 2000–2015. Results showed that five to seven years after education spending increased by $1,000 per pupil, pupils in districts who had formerly been below the average in spending per pupil had gained +0.15 on standardised testing and showed a 9% increase in graduation rates. No statistically significant differences were found for pupils at or above the average spending per pupil prior to the tax increases.

Source: School district operational spending and student outcomes: Evidence from tax elections in seven states (March 2020), Journal of Economics, Volume 183

Does quality of teaching improve outcomes in early childhood education?

The Education Endowment Foundation has published an evaluation of a programme that trains early years teachers to improve children’s language outcomes. The Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (URLEY) intervention is an evidence-based professional development programme for early years teachers. It is designed to improve teacher’s knowledge of how children learn and develop oral language skills, and how to support that learning through evidence-based practice.

Teachers take part in five day-long professional development workshops in which they are introduced to evidence-based learning principles and research tools to evaluate and refine pedagogy and practice. In particular, teachers are taught to use Environment Rating Scales (ERS) – research-validated observational rating scales known to predict aspects of children’s development, with higher scores linked to improved maths and English achievement. Teachers watched videos of effective practice and were supported to use the language principles and ERS to “tune in” to language-supporting practice.

Nearly 2,000 children from 120 schools from the West Midlands, Liverpool and Manchester participated in the study from October 2016 to July 2018. The programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial, testing the impact of the URLEY programme on children’s language development over two years, compared to business as usual in control schools.

The results of the trial found that children in schools receiving URLEY did not make additional progress in language development compared to children in control schools, as measured by a composite language score (effect size = -0.08). However, the programme did show a positive impact on the quality of teaching (as measured by ERS), with effect sizes in the range of +0.5 to +0.7.

Source: URLEY: evaluation report (February 2020), Education Endowment Foundation

Randomised controlled trial of a whole-school reading programme

A study published in The Curriculum Journal presents the findings of a randomised controlled trial that evaluated the efficacy of the Bug Club programme on the reading, spelling and vocabulary skills of pupils in the first two years of primary school compared to pupils in a control group.

Bug Club is a whole-school reading programme based on the principles of guided reading and synthetic phonics. It is offered as part of, rather than in addition to, standard literacy lessons. This study analysed data from 1,273 pupils in Years 1 and 2 from 30 schools in the UK (15 intervention, 15 control). Pupils were tested at baseline and again at 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months, using the InCAS reading assessment for 5- to 11-year-olds.

At the 6- and 12-month tests, pupils in the Bug Club schools showed more progress on the standardised reading measure than pupils in control schools (effect size = +0.18 and +0.16). For disadvantaged pupils, the picture was mixed. After six months, there was a greater impact on reading gains in schools with high levels of pupils eligible for free school meals than those in control schools. After twelve months, this effect had disappeared, but pupils eligible for pupil premium were found to have improved more on reading gains than those in control schools.

Source: Evaluation of Bug Club: a randomised control trial of a whole school primary aged reading programme (February 2020), The Curriculum Journal. DOI: 10.1002/curj.29

Review of professional learning and development in early childhood education

Approaches to professional development that combine coaching or mentoring with new knowledge and opportunities for reflection on practice may be the most effective in improving outcomes in early childhood settings, according to a study published in Review of Education.

Sue Rogers and colleagues conducted the systematic review, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, in order to examine the impact of professional learning and development. The studies included in the review identify approaches to professional learning that demonstrate impact on early childhood education on one or more outcomes across three main areas: literacy knowledge and skills, maths and science knowledge, and social-emotional and behavioural development. 

The findings from the review suggest that coaching models, and approaches that help develop pedagogical knowledge, may be the most effective in improving outcomes in early childhood settings. The evidence on duration, frequency and intensity of the professional learning, although likely to be important factors, was inconclusive.

Source: A systematic review of the evidence base for professional learning in early years education (The PLEYE Review) (February 2020), Review of Education, Vol 8, No 1