20 JANUARY 2016

What are the Key Challenges in Teacher Education and What are the Lessons for Policy Makers?

What are the Key Challenges in Teacher Education and What are the Lessons for Policy Makers?

There are common issues in every country: 

1.  Policy context can be a huge barrier. Policy makers want a “quick win”. They want to have an impact and so decide for example to implement a National Literacy Strategy, concentrating on the curriculum content rather than looking at the professional learning process.  

2. Generic CPD does not work - lack of individualization can mean that training is less relevant to the teachers participating in it. There needs to be clear focus on the actual challenges faced by the individual teacher.

3. Structural challenges such as the timetable making it very difficult for teachers to undertake Joint planning, teaching & reflection. 

4. The accountability climate can make risk taking less likely. In order to learn, you have to experiment, risk, be creative. Innovation only comes if you feel safe and not going to be judged.

High performing education systems give teachers time for continuing professional development. They recognize that external support is necessary and therefore provide opportunities for powerful collaborations between schools and universities – schools know about classrooms and universities know about research. For policy to be successful it has to give away some control and give schools autonomy.

New Zealand is a good example of where there is a close connection between evidence and practice. The New Zealand Government commissioned Helen Timperley to undertake an international, qualitative and quantitative Best Evidence Synthesis of the evidence about CPD, published in 2007. 

In the UK, the very successful London Challenge programme came from a group of academics working with policy makers. The lessons from research were used to set up structures such as:

- Collaboration between schools
- Problem Solving
- Schools setting their own agendas depending on the particular problems they face

This has established a new model of teacher learning that works from the inside of schools out rather than a centralised activity. And this resulted in the fastest improvement ever seen in England.


Making a Difference, Turning teacher learning inside-out provides a very current, condensed update on the research on what works in teacher learning and the development of practice as a result of teacher learning. It sets out with two different aims both to influence policy and to showcase the evidence on teacher development and learning. Its writers have worked in the field for a very long time and have extensive experience of practice, policy making and research.