Education Endowment Foundation:Effective Professional Development

Effective Professional Development

Three recommendations for designing and selecting effective professional development.

Supporting high quality teaching is pivotal in improving children’s outcomes. Indeed, research tells us that high quality teaching can narrow the disadvantage gap. It is therefore hugely encouraging to see a host of new initiatives and reforms that recognise the importance of teacher quality such as the Early Career Framework and the new National Professional Qualifications. These exemplify a growing consensus that promoting effective professional development (PD) plays a crucial role in improving classroom practice and pupil outcomes, and this guidance further reflects this, offering recommendations on how to improve professional development and design and select more impactful PD.

PD has great potential; but it also comes with costs. We know that teachers engage in professional development activities whilst balancing multiple and, at times, competing commitments and time pressures. The need is clear, therefore, for PD to be well‑designed, selected, and implemented so that the investment is justified.

This guidance will support schools in selecting external PD and designing and delivering their own PD. It will also support external providers in designing, delivering, and explaining their offering to schools.

To develop the report’s three recommendations, we reviewed the best available international research as well as current practice, and consulted with school leaders and academics. As with all EEF guidance reports, its publication is just the start of how we aim to support schools in implementing these recommendations. We will be working with the sector, including through our colleagues in the Research Schools Network, to build on them with further training, resources and tools.

Guidance Report

First Edition


Evidence Review

Characteristics of Effective Teacher Professional Development


School Phase


When designing and selecting professional development, focus on the mechanisms.

High quality teaching improves pupil outcomes, and effective professional development offers a crucial tool to develop teaching quality and enhance children’s outcomes in the classroom.

To improve pupil outcomes, careful attention should be paid to how PD is designed. In particular, those who design and select PD should focus on mechanisms.

Mechanisms are the core building blocks of professional development. They are observable, can be replicated, and could not be removed without making PD less effective. Crucially, they are supported by evidence from research on human behaviour — they have been found, in contexts beyond teaching, to change practice.

Examples of mechanisms include revisiting prior learning, goal setting, providing feedback, and action planning.

Those who select PD should look for mechanisms in prospective programmes; those who design PD should include mechanisms in their design.

Careful consideration is also required to ensure that PD is evidence-based, and that content is drawn from trusted sources.


Ensure that professional development effectively builds knowledge, motivates staff, develops teaching techniques, and embeds practice.

The mechanisms that make up effective PD can be split into 4 groups, each of which fulfils a different role.

PD may aspire to include a mechanism from each of these groups: 

A. Build knowledge

  • Managing cognitive load
  • Revisiting prior learning

B. Motivate staff

  • Setting and agreeing on goals
  • Presenting information from a credible source
  • Providing affirmation and reinforcement after progress

C. Develop teaching techniques

  • Instruction
  • Social support
  • Modelling
  • Monitoring and feedback
  • Rehearsal

D. Embed practice

  • Providing prompts and cues
  • Prompting action planning
  • Encouraging monitoring
  • Prompting context specific repetition

Implement professional development programmes with care, taking into consideration the context and needs of the school.

Provide guidance on how participants can adapt professional development. Programme developers should signal to those selecting and delivering PD programmes where adaptations can be made, ensuring that the mechanisms are protected and prioritised.

Ensure that professional development aligns with the needs of the school and is supported by school leadership. Gaining ongoing leadership buy-in can facilitate successful implementation.

Recognise the time constraints faced by teachers and adapt professional development accordingly. Those designing and selecting PD should critically assess how a PD programme will fit in with the school routine.

Characteristics of Effective Teacher Professional Development

Review identifying the characteristics of more effective professional development