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The Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (OTLA) programme has at its heart many of the key principles of effective professional learning and development, to ensure:

  • There is an overall focus on improving outcomes for learners
  • There is collaboration within and across providers
  • Activity is research informed and draws on appropriate expertise
  • It takes place over a sustained period of time
  • Activity is evaluated to assess the impact on learners

OTLA draws on the principals of Joint Practice Development, which was defined by Michael Fielding and colleagues[1] as ‘…learning new ways of working through mutual engagement that opens up and shares practices with others’. All OTLA activity is a form of action research, bringing practitioners together to work collaboratively to systematically resolve a problem they have identified, informed by research.

Through OTLA we seek to support practitioners increase their ‘research literacy’. They should emerge from their participation able to engage with and use research to inform the development of their practice, with an understanding that, ‘…everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere, which is why in education, the right question is, “Under what conditions does this work?”’[2]

You can find out more about collaborative action research and Joint Practice Development on the Research exhibition site.

Collaborative projects

Collaborative projects have been undertaken by a wide range of providers of all sizes and types. They came with very different organisational cultures, learner profiles, staff cohorts and  OFSTED profiles. Consequently, themes within the projects have varied greatly, but all have currency and interest for practitioners and leaders alike. The unifying feature has been a  desire to share effective practice across the sector and improve teaching, learning and assessment.


Below are some links to case studies and summaries of many of the OTLA collaborative projects that have taken place since 2015. Resources from many of the projects can be found on this exhibition site.

Professional Exchange

Like collaborative projects, a wide range of practitioners from all types of providers take part in Professional Exchanges across the country. You can find out more and join your local Exchange on the main ETF website 

Independent evaluation

The Foundation commissions independent evaluations of OTLA activity. A report of the collaborative projects supported by emfec, the Association of Colleges and The Learning Consortium can be found here.

[1] Fielding, M, Bragg, S, Craig, J, Cunningham, I, Eraut, M, Gillinson, S, Horne, M, Robinson, C & Thorp, J, (2005), Factors Influencing the Transfer of Good Practice, Nottingham, DFES Publications

[2] Wiliam, D (2014), Presentation at the ResearchED conference, London, September 2014