Think back to a time in your profession when you attended a large group training, passively listening to generic content delivered by a trainer, with few or no opportunities to actively participate in the session. Following the training, minimal follow-up and support to apply the lessons to your day-to-day job was offered, which can be especially frustrating since the training content was far removed from your actual working environment. Did you walk away from the training with new knowledge and skills that would sustain over the long-term? Chances are, you did not.
Unfortunately, that is the reality of many group training programs for teachers. In some education systems, group training programs are short, overly theoretical, and lectured-based, making them ineffective at changing on-the-job skills and behaviors. Large group trainings, especially those delivered centrally, also struggle with tailoring content to local teachers' needs, and do not provide teachers with opportunities to reflect, receive feedback, and practice new skills.
Evidence suggests that well-designed group trainings can be effective and an operationally practical method for delivering teacher professional development (TPD), especially in resource-constrained contexts. However, to be effective, education authorities need to adopt practices that enhance group training to make it a more meaningful learning experience. Ideally, education systems will also integrate group training with other TPD approaches, such as one-to-one support and school- and cluster-based approaches, to improve program effectiveness.
The Structuring Effective Group Training Technical Guidance Note provides evidence-based guidance on how to structure group training, particularly in low-capacity country contexts, to make it a more effective approach to supporting teacher professional development. Based on a review of 20 effective group training programs and TPD case studies that led to improvement in teaching practices, we identify five key questions to be considered when structuring group training:
- What should the training focus on?
Training focus may vary (could be on pedagogy, subject content knowledge or new technology), but programs should clearly identify and communicate the knowledge and practices that teachers are expected to master and apply in the classroom after the training. Moreover, content should be tailored to teacher needs and contexts. Diagnostic tools to diagnose existing teachers’ skills and behaviors can provide valuable information on teachers’ needs and help determine training content. In situations where capacity in the Ministries of Education is limited, a short-term solution could be to contract the assessment of teachers’ existing skills to a third party or utilize instruments like the Education Policy Dashboard to get a sense of the overall gaps in teachers’ pedagogical skills and content knowledge.
- How long and frequent should the training be?
The duration and frequency of trainings depend on the program focus and goals. Frequent trainings tend to provide more opportunities to adequately cover the content and enhance the learning experience. The group training programs we reviewed engaged teachers from a range of 16 to 160 hours of learning, averaging 65 hours, over a period from two days to 13 months. Most programs distribute total training time in separate sessions throughout the year: a longer initial session (of approximately 50 percent of the total time) and shorter follow-up sessions (one to 13 sessions). Depending on resources and teachers’ schedules, blended or virtual learning approaches can be adopted, typically for follow-up sessions.
- Who leads/facilitates the trainings?
Group training programs are typically delivered by education experts and/or trained teachers with in-depth knowledge of the content and the pedagogy in which they support teachers. Education experts can include staff of private education companies, non-profit education organizations, or university faculty. In programs where individual training sessions are led by different facilitators (e.g., a session on subject content is led by university faculty, while a session more focused on pedagogy is led by a trained teacher), it’s crucial to ensure that the learning experience is coherent and aligned with the overall training goals. As programs scale up, identifying and developing high-quality leaders or facilitators can be a challenge. Programs should include ways to train and support facilitators, such as parallel systems for group collaboration, or virtual support.
- What is the group training size?
While there is no strict rule on group size, learning in smaller groups (of about 16 or fewer teachers) can deepen teachers’ learning by including more opportunities for teachers to practice, reflect, and collaborate with peers. The review of effective programs identified that group size ranged from five to 70 teachers, with an average of 24 teachers. In resource-constraints contexts, in which setting up many small group trainings could represent a greater investment and logistical challenge, consider keeping a larger group size, but include more opportunities for small group activities, with teacher-facilitator ratios ranging from 5:1 to 12:1.
- What materials should be provided?
Effective group training typically includes resources to promote teacher learning (for example, videos of best practices) and resources to help teachers apply the newly acquired practices (such as lesson plans and teacher guides). In low-capacity country contexts, lesson plans and teacher guides can be particularly useful, and during training sessions, teachers can learn how to use these materials and adapt them to the local context. All the resources provided through group trainings should be paired with structured group reflection and/or collaborative discussion that help teachers learn the new practices, challenge their beliefs, and make adaptations based on their students’ needs.
To learn more about these practices, their contextual considerations and examples from low- and middle- income countries, review the Structuring Effective Group Training Technical Guidance Note.
This guidance note is part of a package of tools for countries and stakeholders to support teacher professional development. Please visit this link to learn more about Coach, the World Bank’s flagship initiative on teacher in-service professional development.
- For more on the Coach program, “What can education systems learn from football?” and browse the Coach website.
- For more on how to motivate changes in teacher practices, “Designing TPD programs to overcome motivational barriers: 10 strategies.”
- For more on how to use Teachers’ Guides to facilitate high-quality instruction, “Raising the foundation without lowering the ceiling.”
- For more on how to change teaching practice when change is hard, “Breaking old habits and adopting new ones.”
- For more on how to structure the delivery of ongoing one-to-one support, “8 Tips to Structure Effective One-to-One Support Systems for Teachers.”