Invest in teachers to improve student outcomes, says IOP

The Institute of Physics published a set of recommendations in the Subjects Matter report published in December 2020. It details a systematic and joined-up approach to subject-specific CPD (continuing professional development).

The report was developed in coalition with teachers, subject organisations and CPD providers from the UK and Ireland across all subjects.

A common feature of the world’s best education systems is substantial investment in teachers’ CPD, but levels of investment and participation in CPD are relatively low in the UK.

The report makes the case that a system of subject-specific CPD will:

  • improve teachers’ ownership of their professional learning
  • help them to identify the right CPD at the right time
  • give them assurance that the provision is high quality

Beneficial at every stage of career

High quality subject-specific CPD is particularly important in a teachers’ early career or for a teacher teaching physics as an out-of-field subject.

However, it is also important for developing new ideas and new approaches for more experienced, in-field teachers.

As well as high quality professional learning being interesting, satisfying and motivating (everyone likes to learn new things and get better), Dylan William’s tenet applies: “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”

Our recommendation

We recommend a structured and systematic approach to reduce the somewhat haphazard, piecemeal and lucky-dip approach to subject-specific CPD that currently exists. This approach will increase CPD:

  • funding
  • choice
  • access
  • quality assurance

We argue that students’ learning and outcomes will benefit from:

  • improved participation in subject-specific CPD
  • increased quality of teaching

We are also hopeful that an increased participation in CPD events will help to build and strengthen local and regional communities of physics teaching - all of which can improve teachers’ wellbeing and job satisfaction.

In addition, by increasing individuals’ control over CPD, teachers will be more likely to invest their time in professional learning and have a greater sense of agency over their own teaching and their career, again features that have been linked with improved job satisfaction.

Strong body of evidence

Emily Perry, Professor of Education at Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University welcomed the publication of the Subjects Matter report, saying: “There is a strong body of evidence which shows that many teachers lack access to high quality CPD. Therefore, I welcome this report from the Institute of Physics, which draws together the evidence to propose constructive, achievable ways in which the UK governments can improve the quality and provision of teacher CPD.

“It’s very helpful to see how teachers can be better supported to engage in subject-specific CPD, through changes in the culture, provision and its quality. The IOP has provided recommendations that will result in all teachers gaining access to high quality support to improve their subject and pedagogical expertise, thereby increasing their retention in the profession and improving the educational outcomes of children and young people.”



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