Everybody’s Reading – what works in professional development?

Welcome to the What Matters Reading Group! We have a simple approach – we work together to read, think, discuss – and then we let change and action look after itself . . .

We are currently discussing ‘What works in professional development?‘ by Tom Guskey and Kwang Yuk Soon. Click on the link to download the article.

How you can get involved:

  1. Read the article and leave your thoughts and comments using the ‘Comments’ facility on this blog post. We hope others will respond, and the conversation will develop.
  2. Join our twitter virtual meeting.  We will be discussing this article on twitter – on 22nd November, 2016 – 7pm-8pm UK time. Our twitter handle is @whatmattersUoN and we will use the hashtag #wmedchat. Please use the hashtag or we wont see your tweets! (We will ‘storify’ the chat if you can’t make it, or time zones make it impossible to participate).
  3. Why not organise your own reading group to discuss the article?  You can arrange this when you want, where you want, with whom you want! From two of you over coffee to a whole staff meeting or with colleagues from other schools.  Whatever works for you. All that matters is that you read, think, discuss. If you do this, why not write a short summary of your discussion and post it on the ‘Comments’ section here?

5 thoughts on “Everybody’s Reading – what works in professional development?

  1. The ‘What works in professional development?’ paper is an interesting article. It highlights some of the main issues around what effective practice might look like, but in my opinion trips over its own feet in terms of selection of papers. Having highlighted ‘the complex relationship between professional development and improvements in student learning.’ It then goes on to only accept (quasi) experimental evidence. How can a workshop experiment be expected to show any direct relationship to student outcomes – the confounding variables would be huge.

    Nonetheless there are some interesting ideas, particularly the need for more time – if utilised correctly. This is well recognised, but the need for consideration of how extra resource might be well used is important to keep in mind.

    Two thoughts as I finished the paper:

    1) can the complexities of PD and it’s relationship to learning be reduced to such a basic narrative in any meaningful way?

    2) introducing the PD is only the first step to impacting on learning – as important and perhaps more difficult is how any new practice is normalised into the organisation to create sustainable change. As a consequence would see this as ’emergent practice’ rather than ‘best practice’


  2. The article handed out on Tuesday is interesting, however, for teachers to more easily work with academic research it would vastly help if articles were written in ‘everyday’ language rather than academic language. We are not used to reading academic language anymore and it can take twice as long to process the article because it is not put in a straight forward way. This therefore puts teachers off reading them and the benefits of the articles could be lost! Just a thought to help….


    • I read this recently – http://heymisssmith.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/the-unlearning-zone.html
      Jane Manzone (HeyMissSmith) is a great blogger. I don’t agree with quite a lot of what she writes here (and will reply to her in due course) and I have no idea about ‘unlearning’ (shan’t bother looking at that), but the points she makes about the relationship between theory and what she calls the ‘real world’ raise important issues. Just remember that there is nothing more complicated than the real world (and trying to understand what teachers do in their classrooms, and why they do it) – sometimes theories are complicated and difficult, because the world they are trying to explain (simplify!) is complicated and difficult. I fully accept that there can be plenty of academic work that is bad because it tries to make the simple look complicated (it is usually exposed through critique and doesn’t get very far), but there is lots of great stuff that helps simplify (explain, understand) the extraordinarily complicated ‘real world’. However, there will always be material that is complex and complicated, because, well, it needs to be. It can be tempting to write it off as not being about the real world. Actually we should spend longer, and work harder, at trying to understand it. Teachers’ working conditions and contracts don’t really make that a practical possibility for many, which reminds that if we want a research engaged profession, teachers need contracts that recognise that.


    • I know I have already communicated with you via Twitter on the language issue but maybe this is also where the collaborative process of professional learning can begin….

      A fellow PhD student and I would regularly attend critical theory lectures at the University of Nottingham. Kant, Freud, Nietzsche…we found much of what was discussed to be completely out of the realm of our understanding and experience. However, we would follow the lecture with a quick trip to a campus bar and discuss, albeit superficially, what we had heard and how that might apply (or, more usually, not apply) to our own research topics.

      Now, I am not suggesting that you need to crack open a bottle of wine every time you are presented with an academic article, but I definitely think that talking through what you personally get out of it with a colleague can absolutely move forward your comprehension and appreciation of both theoretical and empirical work. Even if you end up dismissing the article as completely irrelevant to your daily practice and future professional development goals, you will gain something in terms of where you position yourself as a teacher in wider educational research debates. And as you read more, you will become more discerning and question more. You will gain confidence in your own appraisal of academic work.

      Your critical conversation could take place in a journal club, it could be via the #whatmatters online webchat, or it could occur as something more ad-hoc and low key between liked-minded colleagues.

      I do appreciate that time will forever be the issue though…


  3. I first really engaged with this work when I had a doctoral student explore questions of PD ‘impact’ in her thesis. I’m not suggesting everyone reads this, but Fiona’s thesis is open source and presents her contribution to the development of a framework for evaluating PD. The work started from Fiona’s interest in an aspect of her own work as the leader of a PD project with teachers – her interest was whether, and under what circumstances, teachers sustained the changes they had made to their practice. At our launch we talked about ‘the interesting questions’ that we can share and try to work through. I certainly think Fiona’s work ticks the ‘interesting question’ box.
    Fiona’s thesis is here – http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/6805/1/Thesis_-_Dr__Fiona_King_2012.pdf You may not want to read all of it (!). but if PD is your interest, there is an excellent literature review.
    Fiona also published the article in Professional Development in Education – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19415257.2013.823099?src=recsys This was open access, but alas is now back behind a paywall.It is one of the journal’s most downloaded articles. If you contact Fiona directly, she may have printer’s proofs she can share. Fiona works in Dublin – her email is fiona.king@spd.dcu.ie


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