Coaching CPD Delivers a Learning Culture

by | May 25, 2023 | Coaching, Leadership

Why coaching CPD is such a powerful way to plan and implement the school vision

Coaching is a mechanism for change that is cost-effective, sustainable and that cascades learning widely through professional learning communities within a learning organisation. The teaching profession is full of experts in pedagogy and teaching and learning. It is tapping this potential to use their knowledge, confidence and expertise that can deliver coaching CPD that ripples across the whole school through the development of a coaching culture.

New research into the current provision and impact of CPD in schools

Coaching CPD is now even more important following the review that OFSTED have published into teachers professional development in schools. The message throughout the publication is clear, CPD should have an impact on pupil achievement, support high quality teacher development and be sustained over time. The need for collaborative and active engagement by those who undertake CPD is also a feature of the review. It cites the work of the Education Endowment Foundation who undertook their own study back in 2021 entitled, What are the characteristics of effective professional development?  The four categories that should be a focus of planning CPD according the EEF and replicated in the OFSTED review are loosely retold here.

  1. Instil insight – what is the learning, the outcome and the impact that the professional development will provide
  2. Motivate through goal setting – agreeing goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time related
  3. Explicitly teach and facilitate learning – through instruction, collaboration, modelling, rehearsal and feedback
  4. Embed practice – creating opportunities for incisive questioning, prompting action planning, encouraging monitoring and prompting recall and reflection

The shape of any learning endeavour whether it be the teacher in the classroom planning and delivering their subject or a CPD trainer facilitating an INSET or focused training session would inevitably be looking for a balanced and clearly defined set of parameters that include the above. Knowing why you are there, having clearly defined goals for what it is you want to achieve, learning techniques, facts or developing skills and then having the time to embed practice, recall the learning and reflect on your growing understanding or competence are all critical elements that lead to deep learning.

The issues raised in this report are far reaching for the profession. Essentially the four categories suggest how CPD should be shaped. However, there is much in this report that suggests that it is more about schools being unable to access CPD due to constraints such as workload, staff turnover and therefore a lack of available cover and cost which has become much more of a problem since the cost of living and energy crisis and the fact that teachers pay awards will come from existing school budgets.

Do teachers have an entitlement to CPD?


In 2016 the Department of Education (DfE) published their Standards for Teachers’ Professional Development. In it they say that effective teacher professional development should be a partnership between headteachers and other members of the leadership team; teachers; and providers of professional development expertise, training or consultancy.



They then go on to outline their five criteria essential for successful collaborative partnership working to be implemented,

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:

5. Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership

This document suggests that the DfE want there to be an entitlement to CPD for all school staff. However, unlike other professions there is only a discretionary obligation by schools and their leadership and governance to provide it. The advice is that teachers receive 35 hours of CPD and this is endorsed by the main unions and other influential commentators. It is clear from OFSTED’s review that the current approach to ensuring all teachers receive this level of CPD is not happening and where it is it is not necessarily creating the impact on learning that it should.

Nearly all other professions must have a similar level of CPD as a statutory obligation to retain their professional status. Teachers educate every other profession so it is essential that they have the relevant continuing professional learning and development in order that they can be part of the learning culture that delivers excellence.

Why coaching CPD can build the capacity, realise the potential and create a sustainable learning culture?

Coaching CPD is without doubt the most effective framework within which a school or college defines their strategy for whole school improvement. Coaching provides the platform for ensuring all staff can hear, interpret and deliver the vision, the rationale and ambition and be a part of realising the goals or intent. Positive change really does happen and all staff are motivated to want to be a part of that success.

It is clear from our own discussions with school leaders and their teams that the pressures endured in schools at present is immense. This is due to the reasons clearly documented in the OFSTED review of CPD and are preventing many from realising their ambition to provide staff with the professional development they need to achieve their potential as teachers, as subject or middle leaders and as senior staff in the school.

Unless this is addressed there will be more teachers who decide to leave the profession, more teachers who cannot progress well as professionals and more leaders and subject experts who are not sufficiently well-informed as to the implications of curriculum change, behaviour management or their leadership potential to enhance how well their teams perform.

Coaching is a mechanism for change that is cost-effective, sustainable and that cascades learning widely through professional learning communities within a learning organisation. The teaching profession is full of experts in pedagogy and teaching and learning. It is tapping this potential to use their knowledge, confidence and expertise that can deliver coaching CPD that ripples across the whole school through the development of a coaching culture.

Where leadership teams learn the power of coaching they empower others to find their own solutions, create conversations that lead to positive outcomes and build teams that will deliver the vision and the curriculum intent. Where subject leaders can work with their teams using their coaching skills they can influence change, define curriculum excellence and ensure pedagogy delivers depth and breadth as well as curriculum creativity and innovation. Coaching is a pedagogy in itself and where teachers learn to use coaching skills such as deep and rich questioning techniques, active listening skills and positive approaches to assessment they create harmony in the classroom and build a culture of learning that embraces all pupils whatever their starting point.

Learning Cultures and a planned coaching strategy will deliver powerful CPD that is by teachers for teachers 

The coaching training that we offer here at Learning Cultures is built on the research originally undertaken by two educational professors Beverley Joyce and Bruce Showers who looked in detail at the impact of CPD on classroom practice following on from the training experience the teachers undertook. Their findings suggested that CPD has hardly any effect if it is not shared and cascaded to others. Where it is cascaded in a positive way to colleagues or teams then there is a measurable impact that is sustained over time.

It is to this model that we return in our own conviction that this is the way to see the profession have the CPD they need in order to deliver the most outstanding curriculum, be amazing in their pedagogical approaches and inspire pupils across all their learning. We have developed a suite of coaching courses that are designed to provide those individuals who attend with the resources, materials and activities so that they can take back their learning and cascade it to others. The powerful potential of this approach is further enhanced when schools create time for professional learning communities to emerge that can continue to enhance and evaluate the training and its impact on learning,

We are using and enhancing the expertise and professional skills that already exists within schools. The powerful programmes that we have developed are a starting point that provide the framework for a wealth of CPD opportunities that can span a term or longer and will provide the facilitator who has attended our training with the skills, research and tools to cascade their learning to their teams. We encourage professional conversations that enrich the learning and create opportunities for a dialogue that is profound evidence of collaboration and cohesion within subjects and across the whole school.

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