Some time ago I was shocked to discover (from a survey of colleagues) that they did not feel that the money I was spending on their Continuing Professional Development was money well spent. There I was, reporting proudly to Governors that CPD in my school was providing value for money, and me colleagues were telling me different.

My MA in Education reading took me to Thomas Guskey. Whereas the influences of Maslow and Kirkpatrick are plain to see, Guskey’s research applied much better to school settings. His ‘Five Levels of Professional Development Evaluation’ are:
    1. Participants’ Reactions. Did they like it? Was the food good? This information is easy to gather, and we should as “you deal with some basic human needs and those need to be addressed.” 
    2. Participants’ Learning. What do they know now that they did not know before, or can they do things now that they could not before?
    3. Organisation Support and Change. Guskey finds that, “often we do everything right from a professional development or training perspective but then send people back into organisations that are not set up to support them to do the things we have asked them to do.” He argues that these support structures have “critical influence on the implementation of new policies and practices.”
    4. Participants’ use of New Knowledge and Skills. 
    5. Student Learning Outcomes. As a result of the professional development, is there evidence that more students are accomplishing more of the things that they are meant to accomplish?



Guskey acknowledges that evaluation of levels three to five are problematic as “getting information at those levels must be delayed”. The delay is to allow for the desired development to take place. The need therefore arises to insert milestones, so evaluation can occur at specified intervals.

Karen Spence and Carol Taylor at the IOE’s London Centre for Leadership in Learning took Guskey a stage further. They were interested in how to apply his evaluative model at the level of the individual teacher, or the individual CPD event. They noticed that, when planning CPD, it was useful to invert Guskey’s 5-point pyramid. In short, they posed three questions: Where are you now? What is your impact picture of where you would like to be? Therefore, what CPD input do you need? In their model, the CPD must be devised only after deep questioning of a participant’s starting- and desired end-points had taken place.

With this in mind, I devised these questions for anyone in my school considering CPD for themselves or those they line manage. (The levels are Guskey’s)

Questions to ask when planning professional development

Start with Level 5. Start with the end in mind.


  • Baseline: What are your students saying/doing/feeling now? (All of them?)
  • Expected impact: What will your students be saying /doing/feeling? (All of them?) What evidence will there be of any change?
  • Timeline: By when should the expected outcomes be measurable?


Levels 4 to 1.  Questions that can be used with the participant to help plan their professional learning.


  • When will you expect to be using your new learning?
  • With which students?
  • With which members of staff will you be sharing your new learning?
  • What will you be doing better then that you are not doing now?


  • Which other members of staff will you need to work with?
  • How will you make any time/resources available to implement change?
  • Is the planned learning consistent with the development needs of the school or your area?
  • What further support will you need?


  • Is the planned learning consistent with your own professional development needs?
  • What is the level of your knowledge/skill now?
  • What will you do now, to get the most out of the opportunity?
  • What do you expect to learn? What should you be able to do better?


  • Where is the training taking place? How will you get there?
  • Is it all day? What refreshments will there be?
  • What is its structure? Are there options?
  • Will the delivery methods suit your preferred learning styles? Can you plan for this?

Questions to ask when evaluating professional development

Start with Level 1. The participant’s reactions to their training (positive or negative) can determine the extent to which any professional learning or development takes place. The line manager, during the evaluation discussion, may help the participant to think more positively about their training, and therefore help the professional learning and development to take place.

  • Was the event well organised?
  • Was it well delivered?
  • Was it worth while?
  • Would you recommend it to others?


Levels 2 to 5. These questions can be useful immediately after the training, or should be revisited at intervals and towards the end of the expected timeline. The line manager will guide the participant, but the individual will also take personal responsibility for assuring, and self-evaluating the impact of, their professional development.


  • Was the training consistent with your professional development needs?
  • Did you learn what you expected to? What is the level of your knowledge now?
  • What are your main professional learning points?


  • What needs to happen now, to make sure you can apply your new learning?
  • Can you use the time/resources you planned to ensure you develop your learning?
  • How, when and with whom will you share your new learning? How will you assure this has impact?
  • What further support do you need?


  • How are you developing your learning?
  • How are you helping your colleagues develop their learning?
  • What are you doing better now that you were not before?


  • What evidence do you have of impact on student outcomes?
  • What are your students now saying/doing/feeling?
  • What unexpected outcomes have there been?
  • Can impact on student outcomes be measured now, or will more time need to elapse? (When?)

My hope was that these questions would enrich the professional dialogue between colleagues. In reality, teachers in my school have rarely found the time to engage at this level. The main exception has been within the framework of performance management. It has long been accepted in my school that PM was largely about CPD. Even before it became my responsibility, performance management was taken seriously by most. But I saw an opportunity to influence the conversations taking place by adapting the formal documentation that supported it. I insisted that every colleague (including support staff) completed a preparation form before their PM meeting, in which they reviewed the impact of their own CPD that year; mapped out how they saw their career developing; and made suggestions about how to improve the school and how the school could support them in their own progression. In the PM meeting itself, when setting objectives for the year ahead, everyone is first asked to detail their ‘baselines’; then the ‘expected outcomes’; and only then do they describe the ‘professional learning’ they intend to undergo. 

Staff at first struggled with the newness of the language. Expunged were references to ‘targets’ and ‘training’. Instead I found a way of smuggling in Guskey/LCLL. Now, when we review PM, colleagues can comment on how far they achieved their ‘expected impact’. This, I hope, is a much more meaningful evaluation of CPD.

Sadly, our Performance Management practices are coming under threat. Already we have had to tighten procedures to satisfy Ofsted’s 2012 framework; now we learn that PM must be directly linked to pay progression. Other professions struggle with our reluctance to tie performance to pay, because other professionals are encouraged to see themselves as individual achievers. Teachers, who know a thing or two about motivation and progress in learning, realise that they come about best through group effort. If you are paying me for my performance, you will find it distributed across all the teams I work in. That will require a different rubrik to measure it than the one I have detailed above.


  1. Pingback: Putting Together Professional Portfolios | The Childcare Manager & Educator

    • Thanks for the inclusion on your site. I must check out the book, Putting Together Professional Portfolios. We might need to refresh the system we use in my school.

  2. Pingback: THE HOLY GRAIL: EVALUATING CPD IN SCHOOLS | markquinn1968

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