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Developing a strong professional culture in school: Selected reading

Written By: Cat Scutt
10 min read
A collection of articles, blogs, tools and resources to help you build a strong professional culture


A strong professional culture in school influences both teacher development and teacher retention, so is a key priority for school leaders. This collection of links includes a wide range of useful articles, blogs, research reports and resources from different sources (all freely available online, with some requiring free logins, or available through Chartered College membership) that explore ideas relating to how schools can build a strong professional culture.

These resources may be a potential starting point to help you reflect on this area, assess what you are already doing well and what you could consider doing differently. There are also many other excellent resources available that are not included here.

Critically, the resources collated here will not provide a ‘recipe’ to what is a complex challenge. Some of the articles will also present opposing viewpoints, and ones which may contradict your own viewpoint or experience. The views within do not necessarily represent that of the Chartered College.

Evidence-informed practice requires teachers and school leaders to make expert decisions based on their local context, professional experience and available research evidence, and the resources here are provided to provoke thought, debate and discussion. You need to select suitable approaches for your own setting, pupils and context, and it’s important to remember the role that implementation plays, too; the Education Endowment Foundation’s implementation guidance is a useful starting point for this.

Understanding the importance of strong professional culture

The resources listed in this section explore the importance of having a strong professional culture, the impact it can have, and the features of strong professional cultures in schools. These features form the basis for the other sections within this resource list.

An Impact article by from David Weston summarising the key ideas from Kraft and Papay’s research into school culture (2014) and their implications for school practice

A Guardian Teacher Network article from Cat Scutt on the importance of school culture, drawing on Kraft and Papay (2014) and Sims (2017)

A Tes article from LKMCo staff looking at the value of positive school culture in pupil attainment, based on research they carried out for DfE, comparing London and non-London schools

The seminal piece of research by Matthew Kraft and John Papay exploring the impact of school professional environment on teacher development

An analysis of Talis data by Sam Sims that highlights the elements of school culture that influence teacher job satisfaction

A piece of research by Susan Moore Johnson and colleagues looking at the influence of school working environment on teacher job satisfaction and pupil achievement

A Schools Week article from Cat Scutt explaining why school culture matters for retaining early career teachers and how this links to the Early Career Framework

A blog from John Tomsett that discusses the challenge of measuring school culture and also includes some practical resources for doing so

An Impact article from Frances Ashton outlining the approach taken in one school to develop a strong professional culture, including their approach to evaluation, reducing workload and building professional learning communities.

A research report from NFER looking at teacher autonomy and its relationship to teacher job satisfaction and retention, with an accompanying guide to teacher autonomy around CPD goal setting from Teacher Development Trust.

Features of a strong professional culture

The resources listed in this section are themed around some of the features identified as important in the research above, including CPD, progression opportunities, trust and autonomy, behaviour policies, workload and more. Each of these could easily justify a full curated reading list in their own right, but these should provide a helpful starting point.

Opportunities for professional development and progression

This Tes article from David Weston and Bridget Clay looks at five psychological reasons that CPD can struggle to change practice

An Impact article from Mark Enser looking at why disciplinary knowledge is important for teachers and some approaches to keeping subject knowledge up to date

A piece of research by Becky Allen and Sam Sims looking at the impact of subject-specific professional development on teacher retention

A 2013 blog from Neil Brown summarising Sadler et al’s 2013 study on the impact of science teachers’ subject knowledge on student learning

A My College article from Costa Constantinou arguing that CPD is the key to teacher retention and outlining some practical ways to help your teachers

A Tes article from Lucy Starbuck Braidley looking at the importance of flexible working and highlighting the importance of ensuring part-time staff have CPD and career progression opportunities

Sam Sims and Harry Fletcher-Wood’s journal article critiquing the evidence base for the consensus view on the features of effective professional development (not freely available, but the abstract can be viewed)

EPI’s cost benefit analysis of teacher CPD (Van Den Brande et al, 2021)  provides a useful and up-to-date review of research on the potential impact of teacher CPD

The EEF’s recent guidance report on teacher CPD considers what we know about effective teacher CPD

The importance of collaboration

Matthew Ronfeldt and colleagues’ research into the relationship between quality of teacher collaboration and pupil attainment

Vangrieken and colleagues’ systematic review of research around teacher collaboration

A piece of research by James Spillane and colleagues that found that more effective teachers tended to also be those asked others for advice more

A working paper from C Kirabo Jackson and Elias Bruegmann that highlights the impact on a teacher’s development of working alongside highly effective colleagues

A Tes article by Grainne Hallahan arguing for the importance of resource sharing in departments and providing practical suggestions for how to create this culture in school

An Education Week article about research into about the role of classroom proximity in promoting collaboration

Rachel Jean Eells’ dissertation, which consisted of a meta-analysis of research on collective teacher efficacy

Julio Gregorio Mora-Ruano and colleagues’ analysis of PISA data for Germany to explore the relationship between teacher collaboration and pupil attainment

A collection of (practice and opinion-based, rather than research-based) links about how to make time for teacher collaboration, from EdTech Lens

Roger Goddard and colleagues’ research looking at the importance of instructional leadership in promoting collaboration (available to view with free JStor account)

Effective leadership and a culture of trust and development

Rob Coe and colleagues’ review of the research on school culture and leadership (2022) provides an excellent starting point for considering what we do and don’t know about effective school leadership

An Impact article from Rob Webster looking at the role of leadership in implementing evidence-based practices

This (long) paper from Mike Helal and Michael Coelli examines the impact of school principals on pupil outcomes in Victoria, Australia

A blog from Stephen Tierney arguing that we need to move away from a high cost, low trust surveillance culture

Paul Browning’s free ebook (also available as an interactive iBook) based on his research into how to develop a culture of trust in schools. The Sutton Trust’s 2015 ‘Developing teachers’ includes some of Browning’s work as a case study, as well as including his practical rubric for assessing trust and transformational leadership in schools.

A Tes article from Helen Woodley exploring the role school leaders play in preventing (or enabling) toxic school cultures

A blog from Tom Sherrington outlining some things that ‘controlling’ schools often do that have little or no basis in evidence

This two-part blog from David Didau is about building strong culture for students, rather than staff, but offers useful reflection on how schools can build strong culture generally

A blog by Andrew Old on the question of teacher autonomy and why it is such a difficult issue.

Developmental approaches to teacher evaluation and feedback

A CEM blog from Rob Coe explaining why observing lessons is hard and why judgments made based on lesson observations are likely to be inaccurate

A blog from Jonathan Mountstevens explaining how and why his secondary school stopped using pupil attainment data as part of teacher appraisal

A blog from John Tomsett on how appraisal can be used to improve the quality of teaching

A blog from Chris Moyse explaining how he developed a new model of teacher performance management, focused on professional growth, for the trust where he works

An Impact article from Elizabeth Hidson looking at how video-enhanced observation can be used to support effective observation feedback and reflection

A practical tool from Adam Boxer to support formative lesson observation around Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction

A research brief based on the Measures of Effective Teaching project, outlining key findings about measuring teacher effectiveness and their implications for teacher evaluation. More resources from this extensive project can be found in the funders’ resource centre, including a (long) free ebook looking at how to develop effective teacher evaluation systems.

A report from the Grattan Institute in Australia, exploring approaches to teacher appraisal and feedback

Sutton Trust’s What Makes Great Teaching? report, including a section looking at how (and whether) we can identify great teaching through observation, pupil attainment and other measures.

Consistent behaviour policies

The Education Endowment Foundation’s guidance report on improving behaviour in schools, including research evidence in this area

A review by Tom Bennett for the DfE looking at how school leaders can create a strong culture around behaviour in their school. Tom Bennett also produced this practical guide for Unison.

A summary poster based on the Education Endowment Foundation’s guidance report

An Impact article from Cat Scutt reflecting on the debate around mobile phone bans

Terry Haydn’s Ten Point Scale may be a useful practical tool for reflecting on the working atmosphere in a classroom; Nick Rose has also created a six-point scale and ‘log’ based on this for use by teachers

An Impact article from Sue Cowley explores some of the challenges with behaviourist approaches to behaviour management and proposes some alternatives

A Tes article from Nick Rose looking at the importance of establishing positive social norms (he has also published a three-part blog looking at the psychology of behaviour-management)

A practical blog from Adam Boxer outlining how his department set up a centralised detention system

An older blog from Joe Kirby looking at the impact of poor behaviour on learning and arguing for the importance of consistency.

Managing workload

A blog from John Tomsett outlining some of the things he does in his school to reduce teacher workload

A transcript of a Becky Allen lecture outlining her views on why teacher workload has increased so much and how we might be able to stop it

A 2017 blog from Ofsted’s Sean Harford explaining initial thoughts on how and why they will be asking about workload during inspections

A blog from Debra Kidd outlining some of the practical steps that senior leaders can take to reduce teacher workload

This free ebook from Edval (requires entering email address) lists a number of ways in which thoughtful timetabling can potentially reduce teacher workload. It’s worth noting that this is published by a timetabling software company, so has commercial interests, but many of the suggestions are worth being aware of!

A Schools Week article from Cat Scutt looking at how to set a positive work culture

A short article from The Profession 18/19 (a publication for early career teachers) highlighting some common myths around workload and Ofsted inspections and introducing the DfE’s workload toolkit.

Department for Education workload reduction work:

A DfE poster and pamphlet summarising recommendations from the DfE’s Workload Review

A blog from Nick Rose summarising the recommendations from the three DfE workload groups as part of the Workload Challenge

A DfE Marking Policy Review Group report on reducing unnecessary workload around marking

A DfE Planning and Resources Review Group report on reducing unnecessary workload around planning

A DfE Data Management Review Group report on reducing unnecessary workload around managing data

The DfE’s Workload Reduction Toolkit, a collection of resources to support schools in reducing workload

A report from the DfE’s Teacher Workload Advisory Group exploring how schools can use and manage data well and avoid unnecessary workload.

Approaches to marking and feedback:

An Education Endowment Foundation report reviewing the evidence on marking

A My College case study by Andrew Jones and Martyn Essery explaining how their school reduced marking workload through whole-class feedback

An Impact article from Clare Sealy showing how focusing on effective formative assessment can reduce teacher marking workload

A research report from a UCL project around the use of verbal feedback

An Impact article from Abdul Chohan looking at how introducing digital approaches to feedback reduced teacher workload in his school

A blog from Carl Hendrick in which he introduces Dylan Wiliam’s notion of ‘four quarters marking’ as a possible way to reduce teacher workload

A video interview with Ofsted’s Sean Harford in which he explores a range of topics, including marking workload.

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