arts organisations and teacher professional development


We have now completed our formal research. We have been working on some final data analysis since the launch of the Time to Listen summary report. The final report contains new material on our fourth research question. This was about what arts organisations bring to teacher professional development. Our key findings were these:

Although the RSC and Tate models of CPDL are different, our analysis revealed congruences in key principles and approaches, which we think are key to the success of both. We set out these key principles as:

  1. The experience is immersive. There is time to develop focus and flow, to tackle problems and allow ideas to grow. The experience has both intellectual and embodied, physical and emotional, dimensions.
  • “The training courses at Stratford with the RSC initially were the most inspirational training that I’ve ever experienced because you put yourself in the position of the student so you are fully immersed in the activities but, at the same time, reflecting as a teacher.”
  • “You realise that you have to be inspired yourself to teach anything interesting so I did the summer school, which was really intense, and within an hour there were people crying. I got to meet lots of interesting people and I did some bold things and ended up – we were doing performance pieces and I’m a swimmer and I’d been swimming that morning and we had to take selfies. I can’t remember the artist who was running it but I had my goggles and I had my swim kit with me and I made a video piece where I walked throughout the Tate Modern in my swimming kit for about half an hour, which was actually really liberating. The whole thing was more than I thought it would be.”
  1. Teachers work with highly skilled professionals whose disciplinary norms and identities are different from their own. Teachers engage with the ways theory and practice are combined within the specific discipline. They experience the way practice brings together language, thinking and different artistic perspectives (for example, curatorial, dramaturgical, art historical); they have opportunities to consider how these might be taken into the classroom.
  • “[The RSC team are] very relaxed and it feels like you’re doing things really slowly and then, all of a sudden, they take you to somewhere where you think ‘How did we get here? How did they cover this much material?’ They do it with such ease and it’s unbelievable actually and it’s been really useful for me to bring back and try and copy that practice. It is really impressive stuff but they just make it look easy. Everyone in the room makes so much progress without having a clue about how far you are being pushed. Every time you go down you meet different professionals who work in completely different ways.”
  • “[The TATE staff] have a view of education in a gallery setting that is very special and distinct from other institutions. So that is really interesting because I am not an artist so that is quite a valuable thing for me, because I feel that I am learning the language of art.”
  1. The professionalism of both teachers and artists is recognised and respected. These professional spheres are understood as distinct but complementary. It is assumed that each group has something to learn from the other.
  • “I’m not a drama person but what I really like about the RSC in this school is that you are always asked for your opinion. Even though I am not trained in the dramatic arts I can always make a comment that will be listened to. It was absolutely brilliant.”
  • “The Tate has worked with teachers over many years and they’ve invested a lot in those relationships. They build in unique opportunities for schools to attract them in the first place and it means that it’s easy for us to work with them and they think about schemes of work and how things might fit in with the exams. They have a vision about education and I think that is pretty much unique.”
  1. There is an investment in building sustained relationships. Individual teachers feel they have a personal relationship with the institution. Careful attention is paid to building group dynamics and to establishing the expectation of a continuing relationship.
  • “It’s a highlight of the year because there is a great group of people that do it who we’ve worked with for a long time. It’s really motivating and there is overlap from year to year in terms of what we do but there is always new stuff. And the RSC are amazing hosts who make you feel like a valued professional so that feels like a real treat.”
  • “It’s been a five year journey which started at my last school but has completely changed my whole pedagogy and my whole attitude towards teaching.”

5. The importance of place is recognised. The affordances of the arts buildings and spaces are used: the design, the symbolism and status. The location and the local connections of the schools are also seen as important resources to be drawn upon and celebrated.

  • “That really was something special because you are up there and you are in Shakespeare’s country and seeing the productions and working with experts in their field and talking to other teachers from other schools about how they are working.”
  • “It was just amazing. It was really fun and it was also in the year after I had my kids so I’d spent a year being very enclosed and just doing baby things and then I got to go to London for a week and do art at the Tate, and it was amazing.”

These principles were evident, though differently operationalized, in the CPDL offered by both the RSC and Tate. Both institutions offer initial immersive experiences that give teachers privileged access to prestigious arts venues, highly skilled professionals and top quality resources. The immersive experience involves working together, as a group of teachers and as a cross-professional group of teachers and arts practitioners, to develop understandings about how national resources can be made meaningful to school students through the mediation of the teacher. The immersive nature of the experiences focuses the participants on learning in the present moment, but there is always an implied future for using this learning, back in school with pupils. For many of the teachers, the experience also allows them to re-engage with their own earlier disciplinary identities, as art or drama students; for all of them there are connections to their out of school identities and interests in the arts. Importantly though, the connections here are not just to gaining knowledge about school systems. The CPDL builds specialist disciplinary knowledge about the possibilities of the art form, and the criteria for making judgements and critical distinctions.


Read more in our reports:


Time to Listen Background Report

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