Planning for your professional learning

Early Career Area
Author: Katy Chedzey, Head of Teaching, Learning and Assessment

There are a huge range of resources available to support teachers’ professional learning. As a new teacher, this can sometimes be a little overwhelming… there’s simply not enough time to do it all, so where do you start?

As tempting as it can be to jump straight in, it’s helpful to take some time to reflect on your individual professional development needs and then plan your professional learning accordingly.

Ultimately, you will want to ensure that any professional learning you invest your time in, has an impact – on your thinking; your practice; and ultimately, your pupils.

The Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development (DfE, 2016) draws upon a range of evidence to identify five standards which characterise effective professional development, as follows:

1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.

2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.

3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.

4. Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.

And all this is underpinned by, and requires that:

5. Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership

DfE (2016, p1)

These standards can help to guide your thinking when making decisions about your professional learning.

Creating a professional learning plan

It can also be helpful to take a systematic approach to deciding which professional learning activities might be most appropriate for you to undertake. The GROW model is a coaching model which can aid your self-reflection in this area.

There are four stages to developing a plan using the GROW model:

  1. Goal: choose a broad area of focus for your professional learning
  2. Reality: reflect on your experience so far
  3. Options: explore and evaluate the options that are available to you
  4. Will: decide what professional learning you will undertake

1. Choosing an area of focus

You may have already identified an area for development, or perhaps an area that you are interested in exploring further. If you haven’t, then it could be worth considering: which are the areas that might make the greatest impact?

Rob Coe and colleagues (Coe et al., 2018) undertook a review of evidence on teaching and used this to identify six components of ‘great teaching’:

Pedagogical content knowledge
A deep knowledge of the subject or domain and how children learn within this.

Quality of instruction
The quality of input, explanations, modelling etc. (importantly this includes key areas such as formative assessment and questioning).

Classroom climate
How teachers create an environment in which children feel safe, valued and develop positive attitudes to learning.

Classroom management
This includes behaviour management, general classroom organisation, routines etc.

Teacher beliefs
The values and beliefs teachers hold, which can be highly influential on pupil outcomes.

Professional behaviours
Relationships with colleagues, parents and also the ability to reflect on practice.

Selecting a focus from one of these six areas could be a worthwhile way of ensuring your professional learning is focused on an aspect of teaching that might make a positive difference.

2. Refining your goal

  • To help you refine your goal, take some time to reflect on your broad area of focus:
  • What has been your experience so far?
  • What knowledge do you have?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses in terms of classroom practice?
  • Have you received any feedback in this area, perhaps from a mentor or colleague?

This process of reflection should help you to pinpoint specifically any gaps or areas for development, then refine your goal accordingly.

3. Consider your options

Now you have a clear focus for your professional learning, it is time to explore the options available to you. At this point, keep in mind the Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development:

  • Where can you go to explore the evidence in this area?
  • Who has expertise in this area that you could learn from?
  • Is there an opportunity to discuss or work with colleagues who might challenge your thinking further?
  • What steps can you take to ensure that you build your knowledge and understanding over time?

Whilst it’s worth speaking to school leaders, colleagues or a mentor about the professional development opportunities available to you in school, there are numerous opportunities to engage in self-directed learning, with many resources freely available and easily accessible.

Watch our webinar with Professor Sam Twiselton where we provide advice and guidance on:

  • Recognise the value of professional learning as they begin their career as a teacher
  • Identify opportunities for professional learning in preparation for their first teaching roles
  • Understand how to plan for effective professional learning and development
  • To share potential sources for professional learning (e.g. books, websites, Chartered College resources)
  • For teachers to share their own thoughts and professional learning priorities with one another

You can also download the slides from the session below.

Download slides from the webinar

4. Decide on a plan of action

Once you have considered all of the options, you can make an informed decision about which professional learning activities would be most beneficial for developing your practice.

It’s useful here to plan some specific action steps to ensure you achieve your goal.


  • Identify clear actions and timeframes
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve within the time frame and with the resources available to you
  • Keep the teachers’ standard for professional development in mind

A final piece of advice…

Whichever professional learning activities you choose to engage with, keep in mind that putting theory into practice is not always easy or straightforward. Take the time to reflect upon your learning – perhaps discuss your ideas with a colleague or mentor – ask questions; probe deeper; and clarify your thinking. It’s also useful to identify some specific action steps which will help you to apply your learning in the classroom. Thinking about – and planning – how you will do this is vital, as any professional learning you undertake will only impact on your pupils if you allow yourself time to apply, develop and improve your practice as a result.