Summary of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) report on Remote PLD


“School professionals can gain knowledge and skills from remote PD, ultimately leading to gains in pupil outcomes” (EEF, August 2020).

Professional Learning and Development has been an unfortunate casualty of the current crisis. The UK’s Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has made traditional PLD exceptionally difficult to deliver. Alongside Durham University, the EEF undertook a rapid evidence assessment aimed at summarising the efficacy of remote professional development and reviewed evidence into fully remote and blended approaches to PLD. 

For over a decade, IRIS Connect has worked with school leaders in supporting the transition to a remote and in person (blended) model of professional development that aligns with individual priorities and objectives as a school. Effective professional learning and development remains critical to ongoing school performance, outcomes for pupils and staff wellbeing and autonomy. It also has shown to have a significant impact on the recruitment and retention of teachers across the world. 

Below, we summarise the key findings and explore ‘what’ makes remote PLD effective in the long term. 


The Executive Summary lists 5 key findings and implications:

1. Professional development can be supported effectively remotely 

  • School professionals can gain knowledge and skills through remote PLD, ultimately leading to increases in pupil outcomes.
  • There is mixed evidence as to whether remote PLD is more or less effective than traditional PLD, but there is no strong evidence that school-based PLD should be delayed until it can be delivered face-to-face.
  • Blending synchronous and asynchronous delivery and blending face-to-face and remote learning may offer specific benefits by enabling trainees to feel part of a community while retaining travel cost savings, flexibility and social distance during remote and asynchronous elements.


2. Remote coaching, mentoring and expert support can be effective alone or as a part of broader PLD programmes

  • Coaching and mentoring can improve skills and knowledge of professionals when delivered remotely and may reduce feelings of isolation. 
  • Remote or blended coaching, mentoring and expert support can be used to complement broader remote or blended PLD programmes.


3. The use of video can enhance remote PLD

  • The use of video is identified across a number of reviews as a particularly effective element of PLD that enables teaching staff to review their own and reflect on others’ actions in the classroom. The targeted use of videos generally increases the time trainees take to complete PLD but is associated with gains in practitioner knowledge and pupil outcomes, suggesting the additional time might be spent engaging more closely with the content. 
  • Video viewing is unlikely to be impactful in isolation and should instead be paired with other learning resources such as viewing guides or discussion with other professionals. One contradictory finding (though not limited to remote PLD) suggests caution and monitoring is necessary when using video resources to support coaching conversations. 


4. Interactive content and opportunities for collaboration hold promise for remote professional learning and development

  • More interactive content tends to increase the time practitioners take to complete PLD and is associated with better completion rates, knowledge and skill acquisition. Spaced education approaches (such as regular email surveys) could be particularly promising and may offer a low-cost way of enabling ongoing interaction with PLD content. Conversely, barriers such as information being difficult to access can have a detrimental effect on user engagement.
  • Collaboration between colleagues may also improve PLD outcomes through enabling reflective practice and collective problem-solving. For example, PLD providers may include peer small-group discussion sessions following completion of individual tasks. 


5. Remote professional learning and development requires supportive school conditions

  • School leaders have a critical role to play in ensuring enabling conditions are provided for remote PLD to be successful. They can support staff to prioritise their PLD by creating protected time within the working day for staff to engage with PD sessions or materials. 
  • Schools should ensure staff have access to technology required for their PLD and appropriate training in order to access this safely, efficiently and appropriately. PLD outcomes are strengthened where the purpose of the PLD, roles and expectations are clear; this may require coordination from the PLD provider, trainee, and school leadership team.

The key message of the report is that remote professional development is effective. You can read the full report here.


What makes PLD effective in the long term?

Responding to the pandemic has sucked up time, energy and resources. Teachers and schools have reacted, often without due credit, with an amazing level of professionalism. Dealing with these challenges has also given the opportunity to reflect that there can be better, more effective and even costefficient ways of providing professional learning and development to ensure a maximum impact on pupil outcomes. Maybe it is time to pause and reflect that PLD can be revisioned so that it can seamlessly become part of the fabric of school life rather than a series of ‘nice to have’ events. This is a big, but necessary step.

Having been at the forefront of remote PLD for over a decade, working with schools and universities in over 30 countries around the world, we’re proud that our work has once again been validated.

For us, it has never simply been about standalone PLD activities. Born from research, IRIS Connect was developed with a lasting impact in mind: creating a positive culture for continual school improvement.

Rather than using our video-enabled PLD platform as just another tool, IRIS Connect offers a collaborative teacher development space that provides opportunities for effective reflection, sharing resources, coaching and mentoring and access to a wealth of knowledge created for teachers by teachers.

With our newest addition, an integrated live-conferencing solution specifically designed for educational needs (IRIS Connect Rooms) and innovative blended PD courses (Film Club), educators get access to all the activities and tools outlined in the above report.

Effectively support your remote PLD provision. Join over 85,000 teachers worldwide who trust in IRIS Connect for their professional learning and development.


Interested to find out more? Get in touch.

Your Practical Guide to: Quality Assuring PLD aims to help you feel confident when faced with investigating external providers, by helping you to know what effective PLD looks like, how to quality assure the professional development on offer and measure the impact it has on your students, staff and school.

Quality Assuring PLD