Cliff Jones looks at the principles involved.


The last few years have seen a growing interest in the use of portfolio evidence produced by teachers and offered as evidence for a variety of purposes, including for masters degrees. Interest developed further when the DfES produced guidance for teachers on the compilation of portfolios (or records as the DfES called them). This guidance (available on Teachernet) was designed to support teachers as they threaded their way through threshold, performance management and all other government sponsored initiatives that relate to National Standards.

The further development of initiatives such as Best Practice Research Scholarships, Sabbaticals and Networked Learning Communities added to the need to articulate professional learning in a variety of professional contexts and by means of a variety of methods, not only essays. And the announcement of the government’s CPD Strategy in 2001 was recognition that teachers need support in order to navigate their way through a sometimes confusing set of professional initiatives.

Meanwhile, higher education institutions offering accredited CPD have been actively engaged in blending the imperatives of the professional lives of teachers with the knowledge and perspectives to be gained by embarking upon masters level programmes. The key difference when accreditation is involved is that unmediated portfolio evidence is insufficient: the content of a portfolio must be commented upon or interrogated in order to establish its significance. That is why so many references have been made in previous issues of CPD Update to Critical Journals of Professional Development, accompanied by Portfolios of Evidence for Impact.

Do it yourself

The principles set out below were designed to meet the needs of different stakeholders. But specifically they address the problem of how to reconcile the immediate professional demands experienced by teachers with the requirements of higher education for critical reflection, the use of literature-based insights and a sound approach to evidence. Combining the demands of one group with the requirements of the other benefits both and has the power to enhance professional life. The principles are targeted at masters level (including postgraduate certificates and diplomas) because that is the minimum level set by government for the funding of accredited CPD for teachers. They will also, I believe, work at other levels and in other professional contexts with the minimum of alteration.

The principles are not intended to impose a uniform, sterile, target driven and safe approach to CPD. They are designed to allow for a variety of different approaches, values and traditions; and they encourage a more professionally confident and wide-ranging perception of the concepts of need and impact. They also provide a template or filter for the transfer of credit obtained from programmes provided by the National College for School Leadership, the National Strategies and the evidence required for graded membership of the Teacher Learning Academy (TLA) of the General Teaching Council for England into masters level programmes provided by HE. So, if, as the leader and/or coordinator of CPD in your school, you wish to devise your own Critical Journal of Professional Develop-ment and Portfolio of Evidence for Impact it will help if you can incorporate the principles outlined below.

During the second half of last year CPDUpdate set out a Framework for the Evaluation of the Impact of CPD based upon these principles and in later issues we shall be looking more closely at how the principles work in relation to National Professional Qualification for Headship, L, Leadership Programme for Serving Heads, Leading from the Middle, the Primary and Secondary Strategies and the TLA.

Research behind the principles

The principles emerged from many years’ experience plus specifically funded research involving colleagues throughout the UK and teachers working outside the UK and have been adopted by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers. They are now usually known as UCET principles. Among the points made by people taking part in the research were the following.

  • Better professional reflection means that it is important to allow and even encourage professionals in education to look at things from more than one perspective: to refrain from automatically assuming that what is orthodox and official has to be right: that the job of teachers is not simply to find better ways of doing what they are told but to be thinking professionals.We need to allow teachers compiling (and critically commenting upon) evidence for their professional development to both teach in a reflective way and to reflect upon teaching. In other words, teaching need not always be a job done according to a plan or blueprint that is afterwards examined for its effectiveness, but can also be something that incorporates reflection into its processes.
  • Professional curiosity and interest are to be encouraged.
  • Theoretical perspectives are not confined to the academic world. They operate also in the practical and professional world.
  • Stakeholders (anyone with an interest in CPD) can be individuals and groups can coalesce around different initiatives and change shape so that the concept of stakeholders is not as straightforward as it might seem.
  • Reviewing evidence for impact implies measurement of what is easy to measure. We must remember that the concept of Impact has more to it than it might seem and certainly more than this.

A number of HEIs are working at providing guidance for teachers and related professionals compiling records and portfolios and they play an important part in Initial Teacher Training. The Training and Development Agency for schools (formerly the TTA) is presently thinking about how to improve the transition between ITT and CPD. This involves the Career Entry and Development Profile and will involve what we know about mentoring and coaching. CPD that can be accredited provides high quality support, recognition and acknowledgement for teachers throughout their professional lives and as they progress through the Standards Framework. Knowing how to make good quality, useful portfolio evidence part of this progress is another way of emphasising the importance for everyone of school-based action research.

The research upon which these principles are based was called ‘The Use of a Professional Development Portfolio within a Masters Framework’. Its main findings were that:

  • satisfying and reconciling both academic and professional demands is possible and benefits teachers and teaching
  • criticality operates in both academic and professional fields, although establishing a shared understanding of the concept and its application may not be easy
  • awareness and understanding of context helps to support reflection
  • planning professional development may be good but should be tentative because the conditions of professional life are not always stable and development often changes understanding
  • listening to other voices is an aid to reflection
  • continuing professional development involves opportunity cost and takes place within what are often conflicting value frameworks, not all of which leave much room for an individual agenda
  • the handling of evidence is crucial: it is important to recognise and acknowledge the value of the unexpected and to avoid simply looking for predetermined evidence that targets have been met
  • interrogating and reflecting upon personal professional development are skills that may have to be taught
  • engagement with literature is better than learning and describing it
  • at some point professionals have to take ownership of the process of making sense of their professional lives
  • the professional development loop should not ever quite close: there should always be an element of ‘what next?’ and, perhaps, ‘next time I will do it differently’.

Stakeholders who can benefit from agreed principles underpinning professional development portfolio evidence presented at masters level.

  1. The individual educational professional who may be subject to, among other things, performance management, threshold and targets in general.
  2. Schools and clusters of schools working to development plans, action plans, self-assessment, etc.
  3. Local education authorities (and the variety of clusters of schools) devising Education Development Plans and responding to government initiatives such as Excellent Teacher status and Self Assessment prior to inspection.
  4. Government in conjunction with the Training and Development Agency for schools attempting to make operational sense of the Five Year Strategy.
  5. The General Teaching Council’s encouraging teachers to engage in CPD (eg Milestones in Wales and the Teacher Learning Academy in England).
  6. The National College for School Leadership encouraging Networked learning Communities and concerned to establish a bridge between its programmes and awards and those of higher education.
  7. Ofsted looking for a language in which to relate CPD to impact.
  8. Higher education increasing the amount of accreditation for CPD that involves school-based work and collaboration.
  9. Pupils in schools who will be taught by more confident teachers secure enough in their professionalism to reflect critically upon what they do and what they are part of.

Three perspectives to be used in the interrogation of professional development portfolio evidence at masters level.

  1. The academic/theoretical perspective which has the capacity to enlighten, challenge and make sense of professional practice and policy in unexpected ways.
  2. The regulatory/official/inspection perspective which not only embodies public priorities but also enforces a rigorous approach to the assurance of quality.
  3. The practical/professional perspective which starts with the personal position of the teacher, working in context, engaging with and making sense of the demands and opportunities of professional life. A confident use of this perspective can also form the basis for a professional challenge to or questioning of theory.

Note: these perspectives also represent a blend of the kind of literature with which professionals might engage.

The principles

Professional development portfolio evidence presented at masters level should be based upon the following.

  • Now you are equipped with a set of principles.
  • All you have to do now is design a Critical Journal of Professional Development of your own that works in conjunction with a Portfolio of Evidence for Impact that will enable you to maximise the professional learning of the professionals in your school and face up to inspection with confidence; and if you talk to your local HEI there might be some credit in it for colleagues.

The background paper (‘The Use of a Professional Development Portfolio within a Masters Framework’) from which the principles were generated is available from

Looking forward:

  • analysis of needs relating to personal professional baselines and context
  • an outline of intended professional outcomes arising from the analysis
  • preliminary action planning making clear the links or otherwise with institutional planning, arrangements for sharing plans, resource implications and an indication of how engagement with CPD from the three perspectives will take place
  • description of expected evidence or initial ideas about potential impact, including an appreciation that some evidence may be intangible and some may be under the control of or largely generated by others.


  • collection of evidence without disregarding or discarding unexpected items of evidence before they are examined for value and significance.


  • reviewing of evidence for impact following a procedure which allows full consideration of unexpected evidence for unintended professional outcomes, takes note of intangible evidence relating to, for example, self-esteem, confidence and motivation, and ensures that each perspective is employed
  • outcome claiming making clear the nature and strength of evidence
  • follow on action planning arising out of the process just completed.