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EPs and INSETs: a reflection on practice for in-service teacher training.

Throughout my training I have had placements across three Educational Psychology Services (EPS’) and recently I’ve been thinking about the way we deliver INSET training to teachers and the evidence base for the area.

This post has developed from discussions with my placement supervisors and is intended to summarise some of those thoughts and observations, to stimulate discussion in the EP community. To do so, I’ll cover four things:

  1. The changing landscape and impact of ‘traded work’ on offering training for teachers
  2. My own observations of EP practise for delivering training
  3. The evidence-base for effective training/CPD for teachers
  4. Personal on how I could adapt my own practice for delivering INSETs.

Trading training for teachers

As more educational psychology services move to a traded model, training for teachers may represent an area of growth and become a larger part of the job. All organisations have areas which they can improve, be it systemic or individual, and schools are no different. EP services are strategically well placed to help with schools training needs. EPs have broad psychological expertise which can be used to help support schools (Valett, 1963) in many forms: organisational psychology supporting school systems, social and psychodynamic psychology facilitating team work or cognitive psychology to improving learning.

As well as being familiar with a range of perspectives that can support schools to help children learn, EPs have access to knowledge about interventions which can be useful for supporting education e.g. Precision Teaching, Social Stories Training and Circle of Friends (Frederickson & Turner, 2003; Grey, 2000; Merbitz, Vieitez, Merbitz, Pennypacker, 2004). EPs might be uniquely positioned to deliver training for teachers because or their knowledge about interventions, psychologically informed perspectives and work under the principles of evidence-based practice (O’Hare, 2016).

In terms of making training for teachers effective, EPs can do a lot to ensure that sessions are filled with evidence based techniques for educating adults. One would hope that EPs embody all 4 of Wlodowski’s (2008) characteristics and skills of ‘motivating instructor’ – expertise, empathy, enthusiasm & clarity. EPs may also draw on Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning cycle where sessions are planned to refer to a teacher’s concrete experience and questions are used to facilitate reflection, firm up conclusions and provide the foundations for testing in relevant contexts.

My observations of EPs delivering training for teachers

Over the last three years, across 3 EP services, I have been able to observe a number of different training sessions, with teachers. Now, a quick Google showed that there are 152 local authorities in England, so, I am not claiming that my observations are definitive, but I do hope that I can facilitate some discussion or debate with some thoughts from my experience so far.

I have observed some broad themes across INSET delivery:

  • Single sessions (excluding: staff drop in consultations and precision teaching problem solving sessions)
  • Training sessions delivered after school
  • Didactic talks in front of powerpoints (often with some group tasks)
  • General suggestions to relate materials back to the school context
  • Large groups (15+)
  • Mixed staff in the same session (teachers & support staff)

These themes were collected from shadowing and supporting EPs across my placement services and mirrored my own practice pretty closely. So, next I thought it was important to explore the research evidence base for teacher development.

What makes for effective professional development?

Cordingly et al (2015) carried out a review of meta analyses focussing on best practice for teacher training. They suggested several ‘themes’:


Training delivered over two terms was most impactful (p12)


Frequent meaningful engagement from participants including: follow up, consolidation and support (p13)

Designing for participants’ needs:

Ensure overt relevance of content. Develop teacher’s capacity to reflect on their classrooms and include subject specific content (p15/20)

Shared Purpose

Build a shared sense of purpose. Facilitate systems for peer support, using evidence when experimenting with new systems and focussing on why things work (p16)

These ideas were taken on by the DfE to describe some expected standards for teacher’s professional development (DfE, 2016). I considered the suggestions made by the DfE and compared them to my own practice. In doing so, I developed the following list of things I could try to bring in to my practice:

  • Split training across multiple sessions, which may span long terms.
  • Support teacher reflection and experimentation between sessions
  • Ensure some content relates to specific staff contexts (e.g LSA vs SENCO vs English teacher vs Pastoral Lead).
  • Develop teacher’s peer support networks

I am curious to know if other EPs are trying any of these approaches? I also wonder if EPs with more experience might have any criticisms of the list or advice for moving forward.

Reflections and next steps

Across all of my training placements over the last three years, consultation has been a cornerstone of EP practice. The introduction of the consultation process to schools over the last few decades (Wagner, 1995) seems to have come about from EPs reflecting on their practice and thinking about how they would like to work. So, considering my observations of INSETs and reflections on my own practice, some changes I want to make next term are:

  • Further discussion with my colleagues to try to define what best practice looks like for INSETs
  • Considering which elements of INSET practice can be applied across settings and discussing this learning with our EP community
  • Negotiating some multi session INSETs and exploring the impact using questionnaires and TME scales.

I am looking forward to seeing how my practice and opinions change over the next year and I would love to hear the thoughts and experiences of other EPs about how they deliver INSETs and teacher training.


Cordingley, P., Higgins, S., Greany, T., Buckler, N., Coles-Jordan, D., Crisp, B., Saunders, L., Coe, R. (2015) Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. Teacher Development Trust.

DfE. (2016). Standard for teachers ’ professional development. Department for Education.

Frederickson, N., Turner, J, J. (2003). Utilizing the classroom peer group to address children’s social needs: An evaluation of the circle of friends intervention approach. The Journal of Special Education, 36, 234–245.

Grey, C. (2000). Writing Social Stories With Carol Grey. Future Horizons.

Kolb, D, A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of Learning. Englewood Cliffs. NJ: Prentice Hall.

Merbitz, C., Vieitez, D. Merbitz, N, H., Pennypacker, H, S. (2004). Precision Teaching: Foundations and Classroom Applications. In Evidence Based Educational Methods (pp. 47–62). Elsevier Inc.

O’Hare, D. (2016). Labelling difficulties: the curious case of EPs and evidence-based practice. In DECP TEP Conference 2016. Retrieved from

Valett, R. E. (1963). The practice of school psychology: Professional problems. New York: Wiley.

Wagner, P. (1995). School Consultation: a handbook for practising Educational Psychologists. London: Kensington and Chelsea EPCS.

Wlodkowski, R, J. (2008). Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults (3rd ed.). Jossey Bass.

One Comment so far:

  1. Mark Adams says:

    Very clear and helpful points, thank-you. I also like using Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills to think about where the delegates are ‘at’ and where the material needs to be pitched – it can help to develop a real progression in terms of knowledge/understanding/analysis etc.

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