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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Continuing professional development for teachers working in early childhood and school education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.3Continuing professional development for teachers working in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 March 2024

Organisational aspects

Pedagogic staff in early childhood education and care

Pedagogic staff are also offered numerous further and continuing education possibilities to allow them to broaden their vocational competence, respond to new demands in the workplace, upgrade their qualifications and specialise.

The continuing education market for pedagogic staff in early childhood education and care is only legally regulated to a small extent and is therefore characterised by an organisational diversity that is reflected in the structures of the maintaining bodies and types of courses. The providers of continuing education in this sector are mainly charitable free maintaining bodies and commercial providers. Only a small share of the continuing education providers belong to a public maintaining body that operates on a federal and Länder level or on a municipal level. The course formats are heterogeneous: these range from short informative events through to continuing education programmes lasting many years. Apart from individual and team-related continuing education programmes, they cover supervision offers, quality circles or study trips.



In-service training – like initial training – at public schools is the responsibility of the Länder. In each of the Länder the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs is responsible for in-service teacher training because it is the highest school supervisory authority and usually the employer of teachers.

The goals of in-service teacher training have been laid down by most Länder in their laws and regulations for teacher training or school legislation. Other details about organisations which provide in-service teacher training and about applications, admission and release from teaching duties for attendance of courses are regulated by directives. Some Länder have also formulated the fundamental aims and tasks of in-service teacher training in directives or publications and not in legal provisions. The duty of teachers to undergo in-service training is expressly laid down in all Länder by law or ordinance, whilst it is the duty of the employers (usually the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs) to ensure that suitable training programmes are provided.

State in-service and further training of teachers in accordance with education policy guidelines includes in-service qualification measures that serve to maintain, update and further develop existing professional competences in the sense of lifelong learning. If necessary, it differentiates for different target groups and pursues specific goals that are implemented at central, regional (if necessary also transnational) and school-internal level. It should also contribute to initiating, realigning and coordinating development processes in the school so that organisational capacities are strengthened.

In-service training follows on from the first and second phases of teacher education in the sense of coherence in teacher education and combines science-based and practice-oriented training. The third phase of teacher education also includes in-service training. Through this, additional qualifications are acquired – largely through in-service scientific studies, but also through specialist further education courses.

In-service teacher training should not be confused with further training, the aim of which is to enable teachers to teach another subject or to teach in an additional special field. Further training also offers an opportunity to acquire qualifications for another teaching career. Many further training courses also serve to prepare teachers for special responsibilities (for example, work as a counselling teacher).

Further training usually extends over a longer period and includes various courses of several hours per week and, where necessary, additional intensive courses. For the length of the course participants are released from their teaching duties or from several of their weekly teaching commitments provided that the school supervisory authority recognises the need for the further training course concerned.

Courses are conducted by higher education institutions or in-service training institutions. The Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs regulate admission, the number of hours, certificates and final examinations. In the following, only in-service teacher training is discussed.

Types of institutions

In March 2020, the Standing Conference adopted "Ländergemeinsame Eckpunkte zur Fortbildung von Lehrkräften als ein Bestandteil ihrer Professionalisierung in der dritten Phase der Lehrerbildung". The resolution forms the basis for the following description, which relate exclusively to in-service teacher training.

As a rule, state-run in-service teacher training is organised in the Länder at central, regional and local level. In-service training can also take place within schools or in the form of guided private study.

In order to organise in-service teacher training at central locations, all Länder have established state-run in-service training institutes which for the most part are subordinate to the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs as dependent Länder institutions. Central in-service training institutions (a specific Land can have several such institutions) have various names such as state academy (staatliche Akademie) or academic institute for in-service teacher training (wissenschaftliches Institut für Lehrerfortbildung). In some Länder, the organisation of the central upgrade training for teachers is the responsibility of the Land institute for school development, which also goes under a different name depending on the Land.

In-service teacher training at regional level is conducted differently in each Land by the institutes for in-service teacher training and their branches and by middle- and lower-level school supervisory authorities.

The Schulämter (lower-level school supervisory authorities) are usually responsible for the organisation of in-service training at local level.

In-service teacher training within schools is carried out by schools for their own teaching staff or some members of their teaching staff.

In so far as the institutes are responsible for in-service training throughout the Land, there is no need to define areas of responsibility. Otherwise, there is usually coordination between the organisers of central and regional in-service training courses, for example, in the form of regular meetings or conferences. In-service training courses are thus conducted through cooperation between the parties concerned.

In-service training within schools is essentially organised by individual schools, although assistance with its preparation, execution and subsequent evaluation is available in some Länder from in-service training institutions and advisers from school supervisory authorities. In some Länder the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs is informed of the content and dates of courses held within schools and in other Länder in-service training sessions within schools are offered by the central institutes of the Länder in cooperation with the school supervisory authorities.

Training courses are also offered by churches and non-public bodies (e.g. foreign cultural institutions and associations which bring together school and industry). In some Länder these bodies must be recognised by the school supervisory authorities. Universities and higher education institutions of equal status have set up courses of further studies (with a final examination) and supplementary and further training courses for teachers and are increasingly involved in in-service training. The institute directory in the Appendix contains an overview of establishments in the Länder offering in-service teacher training and further training courses.

Admission requirements

The entry criteria for in-service teacher training courses are shown on the relevant course programme which is published regularly by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs concerned, by in-service training institutions or other organisers of in-service teacher training. The courses are usually offered at central, regional or local level for specific target groups (for example, teachers at specific school types or levels, teachers with teaching qualifications in certain subjects or teachers from a specific region).

Every teacher who fulfils the formal admission criteria is entitled to attend the in-service training courses if attendance will be of benefit to him in his teaching duties and if teaching commitments do not prevent him from attending. As a rule, teachers are released from their teaching commitments on full pay in order to attend in-service training courses. The procedures for making an application, being released from teaching duties and receiving permission to attend the course differ from Land to Land. If in-service training sessions are to be held in lesson time an application for release from duties must be made in all Länder. Release from teaching duties is usually granted by the head teacher or the relevant school supervisory authority.

In some cases teachers apply directly to the organiser of in-service training and in other cases applications are made through official channels, i.e. through the head teacher and the school supervisory authority. The procedure for selecting teachers also varies from Land to Land; in some cases the school supervisory authority selects participants (sometimes with the involvement of the staff council). If the school supervisory authority selects candidates itself, they automatically release them from their teaching duties. In some Länder the organiser (for example, the central in-service training institution) may make the selection according to an approved list of criteria.

In view of the development towards working in multi-professional teams, in-service training programmes for teachers are increasingly being opened up to other target groups or corresponding programmes are being specifically developed.

Curriculum, duration of studies, specialisation

In-service training is an essential part of the professional activity of teachers and is anchored in the legal framework. This gives rise to a duty of care on the part of the employer to provide an appropriate range of courses tailored to needs and target groups and to ensure sufficient access. The continuous development of professional competences as well as the reflection of the individual activity are the responsibility of the respective teacher. The main aim of this development is to enable teachers to teach well, to achieve the respective educational goals of their pupils and to design successful school development processes. At the same time, it contributes directly to professional satisfaction and indirectly to the health of teachers. In-service training can thus be seen as a preventive factor for maintaining professional ability and should therefore be taken into account as a fixed component of personnel development at all management levels.

In terms of content, the concepts of state in-service training refer to the requirements in the professional field of teachers. They are based on the “Content requirements for subject-related studies and subject-related didactics in teacher training which apply to all Länder” (‘Ländergemeinsame inhaltliche Anforderungen für die Fachwissenschaften und Fachdidaktiken in der Lehrerbildung’) (resolution of the Standing Conference in the respective valid version) and the “Standards for teacher training: Educational sciences (‘Standards für die Lehrerbildung: Bildungswissenschaften’) (resolution of the Standing Conference in the respective valid version) as well as Land-specific focal points. The competences acquired in the first and second phase of teacher training are expanded and further developed as needed throughout the entire professional biography. The contents are embedded in the respective school and teaching development processes and are oriented towards the concrete school, subject-related and personal needs.

Depending on the context, target group and topic, the content of in-service training takes into account in particular the scientific basis, the fit of format, objective and content, the potential impact of the in-service training on teaching as well as its sustainability.

The topics of in-service training are determined both by the requirements of the employer and by the needs of the schools and the teachers.

The range of subjects covered is extremely broad. Course content can relate to school subjects, types of school or educational and teaching goals. The subject matter includes topics relating to general and school pedagogy, sessions on subject-related didactics and studies, courses dealing with key current issues (e.g. intercultural learning or new technologies) and introductions to new curricula. Many in-service training measures serve to improve the close link between the elementary sector and the Grundschule (primary school) and are aimed at a smooth transition between the educational stages. For teachers at VET schools, there is also a significant need for further training due to the dynamic innovation processes in the vocational world of work and through cooperation with the business community.

In central in-service training in particular, many courses are aimed at head teachers, counselling teachers, heads of department at teacher training institutes and school supervisory officials. In some Länder the main target group of central in-service training are the subject advisers who themselves organise and hold in-service training courses for teaching staff.

Forms of organisation

In-service training events can be conducted in the form of half-day, one-day or multi-day attendance events, as in-service training accompanying school and lesson development processes, as well as cumulative in-service training series within the school, regionally, centrally or transnationally. The in-service training formats are determined by their objectives and content. Depending on the addressees, context and topic, high-quality, evidence-based online formats are increasingly being used in in-service training, as are mixed formats in which classroom and online phases (blended learning formats) alternate.

In-service training within schools usually takes place in the afternoons or evenings. However, full-day courses which last from half a day to several days per school year are also held. Regional courses can be offered as a one-day session or as a series of full-day or afternoon and evening sessions once or several times a week. In-service training courses at central locations usually last two and a half to five days.

In-service training courses are organised by lecturers who, if possible, have special academic and practical school experience as well as expertise in adult education and didactics of in-service training. The quality of the courses is ensured by the qualification of the lecturers as well as by participant-oriented needs analyses and goal-oriented evaluation measures. For the implementation of further training measures, the lecturers must therefore be appropriately qualified in terms of methodology, didactics, content and technology. The scientific basis of further training, but also the qualification of lecturers, can be achieved through cooperation with higher education institutions. The recruitment of lecturers for further training is to be designed as a long-term personnel development measure.

Evaluations, certifications

Teachers attending in-service training courses are not usually appraised. However, certificates which are then placed on personnel files are awarded in some Länder for certain in-service training courses.

Attendance of courses for in-service training for teachers has, as a rule, no impact on the appraisal or pay of teachers. However, it can have an indirect effect in that regular attendance of in-service training courses is viewed positively in applications for senior posts (such as head teacher). In Bayern teachers are obliged to undertake regular personal further training. Compliance with this obligation will be considered a criterion in the regular teacher assessment.

Courses for further teacher training, especially if they have taken the form of higher education, culminate in a supplementary examination (Erweiterungsprüfung) to the Erste Staatsprüfung (First State Examination) which is held by the state examination boards. Below this level there are further training courses which lead to a teaching permit, meaning permission to teach a certain subject or at a certain type of school.

Incentives for Participation in CPD Activities

In-service teacher training – and to an even greater extent further training for teachers – opens up new career prospects in some cases, such as the opportunity of teaching a new subject, a new post and possibly promotion. However, there is no change in the status of the teacher, who is already a member of the teaching profession after all. Applicants for a teaching post are free to improve their chances of employment by studying a further subject at a university.