Improving the system of professional development of teachers and school leaders

Mattias Malk

The Ministry of Education and Research, the European Commission, and the British Council have launched a project to tackle some important challenges of the professional development system. 

Detailed information about the project

How to take into consideration the individual needs of teachers and school leaders? How to support cooperation inside schools in order to improve the implementation of new ideas and practices in everyday work? How to evaluate the effect of training programmes?

The main actions of this program:

  1. We will develop a toolkit, which helps teachers and school leaders to assess their personal needs for professional development and set priorities. 
  2. We will create a toolkit to measure the effect of schooling programmes. We will help teachers and school leaders to analyse whether they have obtained new knowledge and skills and whether they apply them in their everyday work. 
  3. We will inquire what motivates teachers and school leaders to develop themselves professionally in a long term perspective. We will formulate policy recommendations for school owners. 
  4. We will analyse the governance of the professional development system (how decisions are being made on priority topics and funding) and what could be improved.

What kind of professional development training is most useful?

Based on numerous international studies, the Teacher Development Trust in England has formulated what kind of professional development would be most useful for teachers. In other words, what kind of professional development would help to improve the quality of teaching and learning. There are five main conditions:

  1. Teachers engage in long-term programmes lasting 6 months or more
  2. The experience of teachers and their unique needs are considered during the development process; teachers are supported in relating new ideas to their experience
  3. Teachers have opportunities to discuss amongst each other both theory and practice of new ideas; they test practices in classrooms; see practices expertly modelled; receive feedback on their own efforts
  4. Teachers are clear on the intended impact of Continuing Professional Development on their learners; they use formative assessment to check whether new practices are having an impact; they adapt their approaches accordingly
  5. Teachers engage in processes that challenge and deepen their thinking – this requires external support and challenge; they are not just having the same discussions with the same people

Cooperation with pilot schools and school owners

The aim of working with the pilot schools and school boards is to test and further develop the resources that are being created.

A total of 10 schools around Estonia will be taking part in the pilot project:

Ilmatsalu Basic School

Järveküla School

Jüri Gymnasium

Tartu Raatuse School

Rocca al Mare School

Sakala Private School

Tallinn Secondary School of Science

Tallinn Õismäe Russian Lyceum

Tsirguliina School

Võnnu High School

Cooperation with local experts

Together with an international team of experts (Harry Fletcher-Wood, Josh Goodrich, Eva Hartell, Ed Vainker), Estonian education experts also have an important role in creating the toolkit. We expect five master teachers, five experienced school leaders, and five education researchers from universities to join the project team. 


In case of any questions, please contact us.