10 simple steps to a positive professional learning culture

Posted by Christophe Mullings on June 3, 2019

Refining teachers skills and practice through continuing professional development (CPD) is a key factor in any school’s success. So, cultivating a positive culture around professional development is essential, but it can be complex.

Here are 10 easy ways to help your school develop a culture where improvements in teaching and learning can thrive.  These tips also support the implementation of the Department for Education’s Standard for teachers’ professional development.

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1. Think about classroom culture

As a school, take some time to consider the culture that you want to see in classrooms and how your CPD culture can reflect this. For example, if schools want to nurture a culture based on Growth Mindset then arguably teachers need to embrace this concept too.


2. Create a common, learner-focused, vision

Think carefully about the way in which your students needs are identified and consider involving all teachers in gathering this information. Referring to data and using tools, such as video can help with this. Whatever your approach, clear communication about the process and vision is key.


3. Build, gain and sustain momentum through a systematic approach

Work back from your desired goals and plan accordingly. If developing Growth Mindset is your aim for example, then ask: What do we need to know? How will teaching have to change? Which professional development activities will support this? How will we know if our changes are effective? How can we refine our work?


4. Create small, collaborative learning project groups

Schools tend to be hierarchical, but for project teams to be most effective, established hierarchies might need to be left at the door. The most suitable project lead is not necessarily the most senior. Whoever leads, they need to be empowered with the full support of your leadership team and have time to get things done.


5. Establish norms for positive professional dialogue

Build trust, openness, and tolerance. Embrace differences of opinion; focus on the teaching not the teacher, the learning rather than the learners. Video can be a great way of initiating teacher-led professional dialogue and collective analysis of teaching and learning underpinned by respect for all involved.


6. Focus on real practice rather than best

A culture focused on the dissemination of ‘best practice’ can lead to a directed, top down approach where teachers are told what good practice is. For a truly collaborative, professional learning culture, everyone needs to feel they have something to learn and something to contribute. Teachers should be actively involved in interpreting and constructing knowledge rather than being expected to accept and enact ideas dictated to them by others.


7. Reduce risk and anxiety

It’s important to understand people’s concerns and meet them where they are. Video is a powerful tool for becoming more reflective about teaching and learning. Creating a video club for a small group of teachers using existing classroom footage for collective reflection can encourage reflective practice in a non-threatening, non-judgemental environment.


8. Underpin CPD and dialogue with evidence and expertise

To be relevant and effective, dialogue must be driven by evidence from the classroom and academic research. Expert input can be important for gaining critical perspective, imagining alternative possibilities and becoming acquainted with others’ practices.


9. Practice what you preach

Your school’s professional development culture should be driven by the culture you want to see in your classrooms and vice versa. Take collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. If you want your learners to embrace these skills then you need to model this in our own professional development.


10. Share challenges and celebrate success

Remember to schedule regular check-ins and updates. Consider ways of involving the wider community too by sharing developments and achievements with those outside of school - parents, governors and other schools. Video can be a powerful collaborative tool and an excellent way of capturing evidence. Utilising social media can also help you to reach a wider audience.  


For more advice and tips on how to create a positive culture for school improvement, download this free Practical Guide to Change Management >


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