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Well-led Professional Learning is...

Rooted in professional enhancement and school improvement

Professional enhancement is a priority for school leaders themselves. They make transparent their own continuing engagement with professional learning to show that it is the norm, not a series of one-off experiences. They aim to create a culture in which staff see themselves as learners and evaluators of the ways in which they support pupil learning (Daly, 2020; Morris et al, 2020;). The professional learning culture they establish in the school is enabling, interactive, collaborative and professionally critical (Estyn, 2017; Woods and Roberts, 2018). The key principles and expectations of professional learning are understood and consistently applied. The process aims to be sustainable and manageable within available resource provision and designated ‘professional learning facilitators’ (Perry and Booth, 2021; Le Fevre et al, 2015) may be assigned responsibility for this.

Leaders appreciate that improvement is not doing the same better. Appropriate goals are set with continuing review of pedagogy and leadership as the focus, but leaders recognise that professional learning is rarely a linear process and that, with the exception of specific training, learning may have many outcomes (Boylan et al, 2018).  Colleagues regularly discuss, review and evaluate their teaching and leadership. They engage in critical professional enquiry, focusing on what is important to them as professionals as well as what is listed as school or government priorities (Lambirth et al, 2021; Welsh Government, 2019). Professionals seek viewpoints from different sources (leaders, colleagues, pupils) to provide perspectives on their work and are prepared to change course if necessary (Harris, Jones and Crick, 2020). Perspectives generated through professional learning may challenge the status quo and leaders engage openly with transformative approaches to practice.

Given current curriculum reforms in Wales, the importance of professional learning in supporting curriculum development and implementation is of national as well as local significance. School leaders in Wales have a particular challenge in balancing individual and school priorities within changing national imperatives (Welsh Government, 2017; Cordingley et al. 2020).

Jones, K. (2022)

Insight Series: Leading Professional Learning (2022)

Cordingley, P. et al (2020)

Developing great leadership of CPDL

Harris, A. et al (2020)

“Curriculum leadership: a critical contributor to school and system improvement.” School Leadership & Management 40:1-4

Lambirth, A. et al (2021)

Teacher-led professional development through a model of action research, collaboration and facilitation, Professional Development in Education, 47:5, 815-833,

Boylan, M. et al (2018)

Rethinking models of professional learning as tools: a conceptual analysis to inform research and practice, Professional Development in Education, 44:1, 120-139

Daly, C. et al (2020)

How do ecological perspectives help understand schools as sites for teacher learning?, Professional Development in Education, 46:4, 652-663

Morris J.E. et al (2020)

The role of leadership in establishing a positive staff culture in a secondary school. Educational Management Administration & Leadership. 48(5):802-820

Perry, E. and Booth, J. (2021)

The practices of professional development facilitators, Professional Development in Education

Estyn (2017)

School-to-school support and collaboration – a summary and discussion paper Cardiff: Estyn
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Le Fevre, D. et al (2015)

Developing adaptive expertise: The practice of effective facilitators, University of Auckland

Welsh Government (2019)

National Professional Enquiry Project Hwb
Collaborative School Leadership. A critical guide

Woods, P. and Roberts, A. (2018)

Collaborative School Leadership. A critical guide. London: Sage

Make the Connection

Schools as Learning Organisations

Developing and supporting continuous learning opportunities for all staff

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership

Professional Learning (formal leadership roles)

Professional Learning Journey

Modelling learning leadership

Professional Learning Journey

Staff professional learning

Be Inspired

We asked leaders from schools across Wales to tell us how they are Leading Professional Learning, using each of the eight hallmarks of well-led professional learning as a reference point. The resulting Case Studies offer an insight into a diverse range of effective approaches to Leading Professional Learning that we hope will bring the hallmarks to life and inspire fresh, strategic thinking for other leaders in Wales. We want you to Be Inspired.

Read the case studies


Join In

If your school or cluster has an example of practice that could be included in the Leading Professional Learning resource – under one (or more) of the eight ‘hallmarks’ of well-led professional learning, we want to hear from you.

Contact us