Evaluating the impact of professional learning is a significant dimension to CPD coordination, yet it is often overlooked. This week we offer some practical strategies for attempting impact evaluation to help you focus your resources more effectively.pdf-7410214

CPD Week Info Sheet – Evaluating CPD.pdf

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
CS Lewis

Impact evaluation – starting points

Great CPD is an all-important element of a successful career in education, but access to learning opportunities shouldn’t be left to chance. With effective impact evaluation of CPD, you can help to encourage more of what is shown to work so that time and energy isn’t wasted on trivial pursuits.

Here are some questions to consider as you evaluate the impact of professional learning in your school.

  • What are you evaluating? CPD can, if we’re open to it, just happen, but it’s risky to rely on this approach. Certainly when it comes to evaluating CPD, the first step is to work out what you will be evaluating. This means working on some basic definitions of professional learning and including what is both implicit and explicit.
  • Why evaluate professional learning? What we want to achieve in schools is improved outcomes for children and this could also become your reason for stepping up your impact evaluation of professional learning. This also helps to ensure that professional learning has planned target outcomes so that it is clear how things stand before the CPD and how things could conceivably be as a result of the CPD, and that staff are alert to identifying any observable changes that may happen in the classroom following on from the learning; an approach which encourages reflective and reflexive learning.
  • What has changed? It’s safe to assume that if professional learning has an impact there will be a discernable change either in attitudes or outcomes.
  • Is CPD integrated with performance review? How does the evaluation of professional learning fit into your school’s performance review processes? It is crucial to ensure that the two are integrated to maximise evaluation of impact.
  • Impact on pupils is one thing, but what about the impact on staff? There are many ways of thinking about this. The TDA suggests that this might manifest in changes in subject or process knowledge, in confidence or self-esteem, in classroom practice, in habits of reflection, in the ability to lead change initiatives linked to pedagogy, among others.

One thing that impact evaluation cannot be about is the extent to which someone undertaking professional learning enjoyed it; evaluation has to be far deeper than that. Much like suffering sunburn, we never know the extent to which we are impacted until some time after the event! Likewise, evaluations of professional learning shouldn’t be concerned with the extent to which a participant agreed with the learning. When hearts and minds are being stretched we might expect some discomfort, especially if long-held habits or opinions are being challenged. It makes most sense to focus on the positive change that emerges as a result of the learning.

Find out more

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2010

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.