5 Steps to Effective Professional Development

prof devlo 3_0Over the past 20 years in Salisbury Township School District, I have facilitated hundreds of professional development sessions of all types! (Small group/Large group, Face-to-Face/Online/Blended, Book Studies, Hands-On workshops, etc.) Admittedly, some have been better than others. Some have effected long-term change; others have not.

Step 1 – Determine the Need. Before you a plan professional development, you need to collect data to determine the need and/or interest!  Typically in May, I email all of our faculty and staff a “needs assessment survey”.  Participants indicate topics of interest and/or their willingness to share their expertise. (I also ask them to identify colleagues from whom they would like to learn.) Other data sources include teachers’ observations, principals’ insights, walkthrough data, and anecdotal notes. All of these pieces of data are important when developing a short-term and long-term professional development plan.  Developing this plan is best done with a small group or critical friend – not in isolation.

Step 2 – Create Diverse Opportunities/Provide Choice. My philosophy for professional development is anytime, anywhere learning. In my district, teachers may participate in personalized PD.  Teachers have the option to earn choice hours and “opt out” of professional development days. Teachers may earn hours for creative learning including attending EdCamps, watching and implementing content from webinars, etc.

Basically, if teachers want to learn something, I want to help them figure out the best way to learn it.  That looks different for different learning goals. Sometimes it might mean a pull out day to help teachers redesign a lesson to create an “above the line” SAMR activity. This guided practice leads to increased understanding through practical application. At other times, it means an organized structured cohort approach in which teacher leaders and or technicians provide instruction/support. Read about how I led a cohort model process for TL2014 and 2020.org. We also run a variety of after-school mini-series such as a Secondary Professional Development Series and Instructional Assistant Highly-Qualified Series.  We also use building-led PLCs/PLNs so teachers have on-going teams of teachers to work with in order to meet their goals.

Opportunities and choice are plentiful! Other stakeholders really appreciate the opportunity to learn over the summer.  Over the last several years, I have reinvorgated our Summer Academy. With over 40 sessions, I hope we have something for everyone. It is wonderful to see our administration building filled with adult learners over the summer!

In addition to school sessions, I believe it is important to allow teachers the opportunity to attend state and national conferences. Over the last few years, we have allocated funds for teachers to attend AMLE, PETE&C, and ISTE. I have also been actively involved in the co-planning of the Bucks-Lehigh EduSummit.  I encourage teachers to submit proposals to share their knowledge with others.  At the conclusion of conferences, I ask attendees to reflect on their learning and identify a venue for sharing.  Building this shared leadership is critical to increasing capacity.

Step 3 – Engage Your Adult Learners.  From even before the session to the end of the session, engage your participants as you would engage your students.  Follow LearnForward’s Standards for Professional Learning. Engagement starts before the session starts! Provide study guides when you provide the texts for book study groups. When I am planning a full day workshop, I share an agenda ahead of time and ask teachers to complete a task prior to the session. For example, in a recent K-1 iPad cohort, I asked teachers to add a success they had with their devices to the shared agenda (google doc). When working with an online instructional design cohort, I asked teachers to share an article/resource about “best practice in online instruction.” Then during the session, participants had a chance to review the shared items and discuss them with each other.

During the sessions, I  provide opportunities for the learners to reflect on their instructional practice, knowledge, and skills.  Also, I ensure there is time built-in for small group and large group conversation. We need to dialogue about our work! I allow participants to get up and move around through a value line, four corners, poster carousel, etc.   I always have my chart paper and even individual white boards (depending on the size of the group). Remember, a PD session is a chance to model good instructional practice.

Step 4 – Provide Resources for Sustainability. Many presenters may use a slide deck which can easily be emailed. Sometimes slides are designed to supplement the conversation with the visual appeal in mind.  They may not have enough “content” to be useful for follow up activities. Think about what can be provided to participants so they can reflect on their learning, share their learning, and continue their learning after the session.  Most often, I do this through a shared google doc.  (Think back to the items I asked teachers to add to the google doc prior to the session. All of those resources are now available to everyone after the session.)  Another option is to email notes after the session.

Step 5 – Assess/Evaluate and Reflect. A strong teacher is evaluating a lesson before, during, and after the instruction. In the same fashion, you need to evaluate your PD before, during, and after the instruction.  During the instruction, use strong formative assessment techniques and total participation techniques. After the instruction, use exit tickets or a PD survey to gather data about the session. Talk to your participants about what they learned.  I always liked a symphony share where participants share something learned and a question they still have. Gathering this date will help you determine any misconceptions and drive your future instruction.

What is next? I am attending my first EdCampLdr this week and thinking about how this might be implemented in my district.

SHARE TO LEARN… I am hoping to learn from you! What has worked well for you when you have planned professional development?


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