An investigation into the complex process of facilitating effective professional learning: CPD tutors’ practices under the microscope

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Background. Research evidence on what makes CPD effective is accumulating. Yet, fundamental questions about the specific CPD features that lead to programme success remain. Furthermore, very little research investigates the nature and quality of CPD providers’ (tutors) practices. Taking a closer look at the ‘pedagogy of facilitation’ (Poekert, 2011) is therefore an important direction for research in order to offer specific guidance on how to design and deliver future CPD programmes for maximum impact.
Purpose. The present study aimed to advance this line of inquiry by seeking to examine tutors’ perceptions and practices in the context of a short course on Inclusive Physical Education (IPE). Two research questions were addressed: 1) What were the tutors’ perceptions of effective CPD delivery? And 2) How were these interpretations evidenced in practice? The short course, delivered by 40 different tutors across the country, was part of a National CPD programme which reached and educated over 5000 school staff in England. The scale of this Programme offered an ideal setting in which to address the research questions.
Participants and setting. A case study design was adopted where the case was identified at the level of individual courses. A cluster sampling procedure was adopted (one cluster for each of the nine geographical areas in England). Where possible, systematic sampling within the nine clusters was employed (i.e. collect evidence from the first two courses delivered in each cluster each year). A total of 27 courses, delivered by 20 tutors across eight geographical areas in England were selected as cases and all tutors involved in their delivery were invited to participate in the study.
Data collection. To explore tutors’ perceptions of effective CPD delivery (research question 1), qualitative data were collected via an online questionnaire and individual interviews. To examine how these interpretations were evidenced in practice (research question 2), both quantitative and qualitative data were collected via systematic observations and ethnographic field notes.
Data analysis. Qualitative data were analysed using a constructivist approach to grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006). Data from the observations was entered into SPSS version 21 (IBM Statistics) for analysis.
Findings. Findings suggest that tutors’ perceptions and beliefs did not always materialize. Data from the observations suggest variation in the ways tutors structured, supported, and facilitated professional learning. This variation was evident not only in the actual time dedicated to practical vs. theoretical activities and active vs. passive learning opportunities but also in tutors’ ability to facilitate professional learning. This finding suggests that there is a significant set of skills involved in supporting, nurturing, and challenging professional learning in CPD contexts. It is therefore important to consider how tutors can be best supported to develop and implement these skills effectively.
Conclusion. The results consolidate existing understandings about the importance of (inter)active and practical learning opportunities in CPD; but also add nuance and detail on the diverse ways in which tutors engaged participants in the learning process. Findings draw our attention to the important issue of the selection and continuing education of CPD tutors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-266
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number3
Early online date24 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Continuing Professional Development
  • Short Courses
  • Tutors’ practices
  • Systematic observations
  • Effective facilitation / facilitators


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