Subject Specific Professional Development – the future of learning

Subject Specific Professional Development – the future of learning?

Curriculum quality at the heart of a successful school

Subject specific professional development must be high on the agenda as we start an uncertain but optimistic new year. Reading through a plethora of OFSTED reports from last year suggests that there is a way to go for many of us in developing within our schools the expertise that focuses on the explicit meaning of ‘the quality of education’. The criticism is mainly aimed at teaching in key stages, 1, 2 and 3. The sub-section in the OFSTED Handbook for Schools within the section named ‘The Quality of Education‘ entitled ‘Curriculum narrowing‘ highlights the issues that are a concern. Some ‘deep dive’ questions linked to the findings here could include,

Asking the right questions that focus on subject specific professional development for subject leaders and their teams

In primary schools

Asking the right questions and sharing ideas leads to high quality subject specific professional development

In secondary schools

Creating a CPD Strategy that Builds and Enhances Subject Specific Professional Development

Subject expertise, a blending of understanding of knowledge, concepts and skills.

There is a wealth of research evidence to suggest that teachers, specifically those teaching in the primary phase do not have the relevant expertise or training to reasonably say they are experts in some of the subjects they are teaching. This can also apply to teachers in key stage 3 who are teaching subjects that are not their specialism. Whether your school follows the National Curriculum or chooses a different curriculum model the issues in terms of levels of expertise remain the same. In order to plan and teach well, subject leaders and their teams of teachers and support staff must:-

  • Consider the most important knowledge or concepts pupils need to know within and across the subject spectrum
  • Check pupils’ understanding and identify and correct misunderstandings and gaps in learning
  • Ensure that pupils embed key concepts and transfer key knowledge into their long-term memory and apply them fluently in a range of contexts
  • Plan to build sequential knowledge to ensure that new knowledge and skills build on what has been taught before
  • Create medium and long-term subject plans so that pupils can work towards clearly defined end points
  • Use assessment to check pupils’ understanding and prioritise feedback, retrieval practice and reflection to deepen learning

Assessing staff expertise and their CPD needs

Putting together the curriculum pieces: concepts, knowledge and skills to create outstanding curriculum quality

Assessing staff expertise and their CPD needs is essential as one delves more deeply into what the statements above are asking for. Below are some of the obvious questions subject leaders need to ponder as part of their own subject specific professional development.

  • What is the important knowledge pupils need to know in each year and across key stages?
  • What is a key concept and how do we teach conceptual understanding in each subject and in more cross-curricular contexts?
  • What pedagogical strategies create the right conditions for pupils to embed learning in their long-term memories?
  • What is the sequence of learning in each specific subject?
  • How can teachers work together to develop long and medium-term curriculum plans?
  • How consistent is the assessment of learning across all subjects?

A Solutions Focused Strategy for Subject Specific Professional Development

CPD must be enlightening, illuminating and create opportunities where learning is cascaded widely.

The most important strategic decision to make is to maintain a plan for ensuring your staff have access to excellent professional development opportunities. All staff need to know that they are valued and that their status is not undermined by a lack of opportunity to continue to learn for themselves and to learn with their peers and others who are specialists in in-service training. The curriculum still lies at the forefront of a definition for what constitutes a high-quality education in a school or college; so in making plans for future CPD opportunities it is to the curriculum and how it is designed, delivered and valued for its impact and effectiveness that the priorities for CPD and in subject specific professional development particularly that are most likely to reap rewards for the individual, the team and for middle and senior leaders.The next strategic decision to make is how to put subject specific CPD into practice so that subject staff, senior and middle leaders and teachers all feel that they are developing professionally, are challenged to think deeply and grow in their role and take away learning that they can use and cascade to others. CPD must also be accessible, enjoyable and based on deep research and considerable expertise. We have a range of online and face to face CPD opportunities to ensure that your staff remain ready for the professional challenges of 2022. We are the leading experts in curriculum CPD, plan your strategy and be ready to showcase the high quality education your school provides.

Happy New Year from Glynis and the team at Learning Cultures  01746 765076 / 07974 754241

Does lesson observation support professional development?

Does lesson observation support professional development?

Lesson observation is an essential tool in the pursuit of high-quality education outcomes.  For many schools, in the classroom observation has not been possible during the pandemic. The return to full time schooling has been fraught with extra pressures and calls on the time of everyone which may mean observation of learning has taken a bit of a back seat. So, now is the time to look again at the purpose of lesson observation.

Is it

  • part of the performance management process
  • a formalised approach to assessing the quality of teaching and learning
  • linked to pay and promotion within the school system

or is it

  • a shared opportunity to support individual teachers to continuously improve
  • a part of the CPD strategy that allows teachers to observe each other and reflect on their practice
  • an integral element in creating cohesion within subjects and across the wider curriculum

Creating a culture where lesson observation is for teachers to learn from each other, reflect on their own practice and that of others, deeply commit to setting their own goals for incremental change and improvement and welcome the feedback from colleagues or line managers who genuinely have more or different experiences to share is powerful.

Lesson observation and answering ‘deep dive’ questions about the curriculum

Be visible and consistent in how to share curriculum and pedagogical excellence

‘Deep dive’ scrutiny’ is high on the agenda for all those senior leaders who may be due an OFSTED visit in the not- to- distant future. For many who have already been inspected they will know the importance of having the right answers about the curriculum across a range of subjects and within a whole school context. There is an imperative to ensure that all subject and middle leaders have created profound opportunities for their teams to be able to articulate how well pupils are retaining and deepening knowledge over time. Teachers must have the evidence that they are building on pupil’s prior learning and have grasped basic concepts before moving onto more complex ideas. There must also be evidence that lessons are differentiated so that opportunities to access and retain knowledge can be the privilege of all learners whatever their starting point.

What comes through from much of the feedback from OFSTED reports, speeches and briefings is that they are seeing a cumulative lack of continuity across different subjects. Where there is an intense look across the curriculum, subject leaders and teachers are not consistent in their understanding of how curriculum intent is translated into implementation. There is a significant emphasis by OFSTED on how well the curriculum is planned to ensure that pupils remember and retain important knowledge that can be accessed across a range of contexts.

Developing a strategy where lesson observation is part of a process of ongoing learning for all those with a pupil facing role will create the culture where conversations explicitly define how pupils are learning and the depth of knowledge they are accessing. Professional learning conversations that flow from lesson observation will also support a collaborative review of how learning is assessed to ensure that knowledge is retained as a springboard for deeper understanding. Positive change emanates from giving teachers a collective opportunity to share and disseminate good and outstanding practice.

Lesson observations shine a collective light on the quality of education

Putting the spotlight on knowledge and learning

Before we can begin to use lesson observation as a vehicle for continuing professional development and provide an opportunity for the pursuit of challenging reflection and feedback all those involved need to have a profound understanding of the indicators that define high quality education. They are set out in the OFSTED Handbook for Schools, so that is one place to begin to define high quality. However, there are other indicators that provide a broader definition and build in many other factors linked to learning. Have a look at UNESCO’s paper, Defining Quality Education. Read around the research from the Education Endowment Foundation. Join us for a live webinar where we look at the seven principles of quality assurance that influence positive change and ensure all staff play their part in the delivery of high quality outcomes across the whole school or college. Quality Assurance Strategies for Outstanding Curriculum Implementation and Impact. This course provides all the materials, research and resources to develop a quality assurance strategy across your school or college. Book here now.

The curriculum is the focus within the OFSTED handbook  and creating conversations linked to observing learning in the classroom will build consensus and create the evidence that all staff are working together to understand what high quality education outcomes look like to an external observer as well as an internal observer. Learning in this way provides individual teachers with the opportunity to observe pedagogy, focus on cognitive science, build a collective view of how well the curriculum is sequenced, understand where there are connections across the curriculum and share how literacy, numeracy and metacognition are essential to the learning process everywhere.

Defining quality as a process through lesson observation

Pedagogy and pupil outcomes – putting the pieces together.

OFSTED have devised for their own process of quality assurance a list of 18 indicators of what they want to see from observing lessons. We have used these to focus on the outcomes we are looking for from pupils as a result of observing learning through the lens of these particular indicators.  They provide a framework for building consensus on what is working well in the classroom and how that manifests itself in relation to the outcomes that pupils produce, and the deep knowledge they possess as well as how competent they are at using a range of core and wider skills. It is the learning and the depth of knowledge and understanding pupils have that create the evidence and the measures of the quality of education in a school or college. Have a  look at the 18 indicators and what we have added alongside each one and that focuses more on what an observer should be looking for in terms of impact. Explore some of the online box sets and live webinars to enrich CPD for your staff.



Curriculum Cohesion and the Role of the Middle and Subject Leader

Curriculum Cohesion and the Role of the Middle and Subject Leader

OFSTED are receiving funding to increase the number of visits to schools and colleges from September 2022 to ensure that all schools can be inspected by the end of 2024. Therefore, there is an imperative to focus on the latest Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and look in detail at what is required in terms of curriculum cohesion within subjects and across the curriculum. It is the pivotal role of middle and subject leaders to shape the strategies that will ensure all staff plan and deliver a  curriculum offer that meets the needs of all pupils.

Middle and subject leaders have to work closely with their senior leaders to shape, share and translate the curriculum intent. They must create the inspiration to influence members of their teams to implement well planned and highly innovative knowledge rich and skills focused content that delivers breadth, depth and sequential progression over time.

Emphasising the Importance of Dialogue

A focus on dialogue cannot be underestimated. Professional conversations are an integral part of how middle and subject leaders create the right culture of cohesion in their own subject areas. This must then translate into time to share where cross-curricular concepts, skills and knowledge connect across different areas of learning.  Amanda Spielman in her recent speech to the  Schools and Academies Show emphasises exactly the points made above.

“……… in its fundamentals, the EIF is still the same. Our focus is still squarely on substance and integrity. Bringing the inspection conversation back to the curriculum – what’s taught and how, not just about exam results. Treating you as experts in your field, not data managers…And our emphasis in the EIF is on dialogue. I know you appreciate these professional conversations…”

AmandaSpielman speech to the Schools and Academies Show last week (18/11/2021).

Recent OFSTED reports from across the education spectrum re-enforce this absolute need for a consistent approach to planning, to quality assurance, to pedagogy and learning, to equality, diversity and inclusion and to assessment.

Lesson Observation and the Power of Learning Conversations

A triangulation – delivering quality through the curriculum

OFSTED’s research from 2019  looks in some detail at a series of criteria for what inspectors are looking for when they observe teaching and learning in the classroom. Lesson observation is a key factor in determining the quality of pedagogy and how well the curriculum intent is being interpreted and translated into high quality implementation that fosters depth, breadth and parity in all subjects.

These indicators are a useful barometer for senior and subject leaders to use as part of their strategy for ensuring lesson observation provides an opportunity for the sharing of good practice, a focus on consistency and interpretation of the curriculum intent and a dialogue about continuous improvement.

However, a top-down approach to lesson observation that is led by the senior team is unlikely to have the desired results. It is the quality of self-evaluation and positive feedback from lesson observation that should be related to clearly defined criteria consistently linked to the Teachers Standards, a deep understanding of what constitutes quality and highly motivated teachers that ignite their pupils passion for learning. The dialogue of challenge, positivity, reflection and self-reliance build trust and a willingness to innovate and set the highest standards.

Continuity in the assessment of pupil outcomes

Assessing pupil outcomes provides all those involved with curriculum implementation with an opportunity to determine how their planning and teaching have impacted on their pupils’ ability to develop competence in skills for learning, deepen their knowledge over time and apply a range of curriculum concepts within subjects and across the curriculum.

Creating the evidence of learning from what pupils achieve in all aspects of learning across the curriculum.

Below is a list included as part of OFSTED’s research into what is an essential part of assessing how what pupils produce provides profound evidence linked to the quality of education judgement in the EIF.

  • Building on prior learning
  • Depth and breadth of coverage
  • Pupils’ progress
  • Opportunities to re-enforce learning through practice
  • Acknowledging the skills that support knowledge acquisition
  • Linking skills and concepts across other curriculum areas

Once again it is the dialogue that will create the opportunity to share a deep understanding of how well the curriculum is being implemented through the assessment process. It must transcend all subjects both core and foundation and build a deeply held conviction that there is a collective vision that translates into evidence that all learners achieve their full potential whatever their starting point.

Creating a Culture of Positivity and a Shared Vision

Quality Assurance principles set the scene of positive and shared dialogue.

Creating a consistent whole school approach to designing and maintaining high quality assurance systems requires middle leadership to play a pivotal role. The secret is in the power of challenge through the ability to ask incisive and probing questions that lead to individuals taking responsibility for achieving the best possible outcomes for all, both staff and pupils. The three statements below are taken from the Quality of Education judgement in Section 2 of the EIF and relate directly to evidence of positive implementation. Current OFSTED reports show just how important these discussions are to the inspection process and inconsistency in the way different subject leaders, specialists and teachers answer the related questions collectively bears weight on the final judgement.

  • discussions with curriculum and subject leaders and teachers about the programme of study that classes are following for particular subjects or topics, the intended end points towards which those pupils are working, and their view of how those pupils are progressing through the curriculum
  • discussions with subject specialists and leaders about the content and pedagogical content knowledge of teachers and what is done to support teachers, including with remote teaching
  • discussions with classroom teachers about how often they are expected to record, upload and review data

Quality of Education OFSTED Education Inspection Framework

It is essential that there is a sharp focus on how to create the right culture where professional conversations lead to the sharing of good and outstanding practice, a consistent message as to how pupils are progressing and a profound understanding of how pupils learn and retain knowledge over time. This won’t happen without a clear strategy that creates opportunities for teams to talk to each other, time for cross-curricular discussion and the use of lesson observation and the assessment of pupils’ work as an essential part of professional development.

Fostering Challenging Dialogue Through Coaching

Achieving a consistent whole school approach to quality assurance in every subject and facet of school life is made far less daunting if there is a constructive and well-defined strategy that embraces every professional across the school. Creating an opportunity for senior, middle and subject leaders to learn how to coach will provide the models and the tools that shape a solutions focused future. The outcome will focus on the positive, create the mechanisms to share good and outstanding practice and build teams that know how they can work together to achieve the vision and realise the ambition they have for all their pupils and their colleagues.

Coaching creates a culture of self-belief, trust and a shared dialogue that leads to excellence and improvement.

Coaching is a powerful approach to CPD that will define consistency, self-belief, trust and a commitment to excellence and high-quality outcomes. The opportunity to learn how to listen, how to ask probing, challenging and incisive questions, how to influence others to solve their own problems, be innovative in their practice and steadfast when things go wrong.

Here at Learning Cultures, we have a suite of coaching courses and programmes that will build a coaching culture. Where coaching is at the heart of a vision of excellence and improvement it creates outstanding futures for all. Have a look at our highly praised coaching courses or join our Certification Programme.

Essential Professional Development for Teaching and Learning

Essential Professional Development for Teaching and Learning

Deepening learning, reinforcing pedagogy and building expertise

Research tells us that high quality teaching has a significant impact on ensuring all pupils have the same opportunities whatever their background and starting point. Promoting effective professional development for all staff in schools and colleges plays a vital role in improving education quality. The Learning Cultures research and curriculum teams weave the findings of reaseach across all of the CPD we offer to schools and colleges

There has never been a more critical time to ensure that there are planned opportunities for senior leaders, subject and middle leaders, teachers and Teaching Assistants to know that they are valued and invested in.  There is an imperative to provide positive learning experiences that will help all staff to make the right decisions and develop effective strategies to build strong futures for their learners and their organisation.

Here at Learning Cultures we have the expertise, the experience and the reputation to build the CPD solutions that will make a difference to the success of your organisation, your leaders, your teachers and all those who have a support role to know the part they play in achieving the best possible outcomes for learning.

CPD solutions for high quality education systems

Creating the right CPD solutions and answering deeply challenging questions?

The Education Endowment Foundation has just published a review of professional development in education which is a follow up to a guidance report publisned in 2019.  Guidance Report: Effective Professional Development (2019).  This echoes what I have said above and highlights the real need to find strategies for ensuring professional development is an essential part of planning the school vision and ambition for high quality curriculum impact and positive approaches to managing the professional development needs of staff.

Senior leaders in education need to approach the planning of CPD in the same way as they plan for high-quality education outcomes linked to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Continuing learning for adults is defined by similar principles to those we expect to see in the design and implementation of a well-structured curriculum. The strategy has to ensure that what is planned in terms of the curriculum will be delivered with great skill, outstanding professionalism and deep subject expertise.  Constructing systems that ensure that the curriculum builds on prior learning, allows for the sequencing of knowledge and is planned towards clearly defined outcomes will not happen unless there is careful consideration given to the skills and expertise of those who will shape the detail.

Designing a balanced CPD Programme

Where CPD is an integral part of the school or college development plan positive change takes place. Taking time to consider the training needs of all those who will be responsible for translating the curriculum intent into curriculum implementation has a powerful impact on what ultimately defines success for the school, the senior and middle leaders, their teams and teachers and their support staff.

Creating a balance that leads to sequential learning for all.

There needs to be a balance that requires a systematic review of the processes that will deliver sustained excellence and create the evidence that outcomes are of a high-quality and are clearly defined in terms of the impact the curriculum has had on all those it touches including pupils, teachers and those who lead.

For those with a strategic leadership role this should include:-

  • Having the generic knowledge to build strong teams of subject expertise
  • Building the right strategies for change, challenge and curriculum innovation
  • Creating the tools and techniques that will deliver high quality outcomes
  • Embedding a culture that celebrates ongoing professional learning
  • Defining the vision for continuing professional learning for all staff

Without the above, defining the curriculum intent or the wider school or college vision is unlikely to deliver what it set out to achieve. It is the expertise of staff, the motivation of learners both adults and pupils, the identification of gaps in skills, knowledge and understanding and opportunities to build on prior learning, develop new techniques, reflect on positive change and continue to practice and grow as professionals that are the absolute keys to success.

How do you create a learning culture?

Below are some of the guiding principles that underpin the philosophy that defines the Learning Cultures approach to training for all those in education.  They should also be in the forefront of the minds of those who lead when planning for change, defining their vision or creating a strategy for implementation.

  • CPD is not an add on, it should be an integral part of the process of planning
  • Leaders must have the generic expertise to guide all those who deliver subject specific or skills focused learning
  • Planned CPD should align with clearly identified needs linked to positive appraisal and the identification of expertise across the curriculum
  • Participants must be able to set their own learning goals and have the time to reflect on how their learning improves their role and that of members of their sphere of influence
  • Existing mechanisms such as meetings, INSET, networks and lesson observation all provide profound opportunities for informal or formal CPD
  • Use the expertise within the school or college setting to create opportunities for learning within cross-curricular and inter-departmental sessions.
Powerful coaching questions create the challenge that leads to profound learning.

At the heart of all of the above is the principle of coaching. Creating opportunities for individuals to learn from each other, engage in professional learning conversations and build confidence in their own ability to experiment, take risks and find their own solutions provides the evidence that there is a symbiosis that will deliver the highest quality outcomes for all who educate.


Visit Learning Cultures’ website and and start your journey towards a CPD strategy that will improve performance, motivate staff and that will create a culture of professional learning and the sharing and good and outstanding practice. Call us on 01746 765076 or Glynis’s mobile 07974 754241. Email us at