Archives for category: PD

Educators spend so much time educating, we forget to get educated. Of all the efforts that schools put into increasing student achievement, professional development has one of the best return ratios. The problem that schools have, is that we don’t know how to choose and implement professional development very well. In this post, I examine how professional development impact students achievement, and what can we do to ensure professional development is working for our school.

Good teaching starts with good learning.

In 2007, the American Institute for Research found that teachers receiving at least 49 hours of professional development in a six to twelve month span could expect to increase student achievement by approximately 21 points. This is a staggering figure. There isn’t a school in this country that would not want to increase student achievement by 21 points. So, what is holding us back?

Below are some tips for making professional development work for your school.

1. Make learning part of the school culture. Professional growth should not be an afterthought. It should not be something that is done once a month to meet the district requirements. Every adult should be expected to, and desire to grow for the sake of helping the students. School leaders need to make this part of the vision of the school, it should be central to everything that happens on a daily basis.

2. Make it work for everyone. If we are to shoot for 49 hours, then we need to be proactive in helping teachers find the time. Schools would have to dedicate 1.36 hours per week (in a 36 week school year) to meet the 49 hour goal. One way that our school is creatively meeting the needs of our teachers is by moving our professional communities online. Using Edmodo, we have given our teachers the ability to use any available time to connect with others and grow.

3. Remove the obstacles. The time that teachers have with others is limited, don’t fill that time with mundane details. Use department and staff meetings to learn and grow together. When you have your staff together use the expertise in the room to help everyone grow. If you are standing in front of your staff giving information that could be sent via email, you are wasting a precious commodity, time together.

4. Make it relevant. Ask teachers what they need to become better. Then ask your teachers what training/expertise they can offer to the staff. Encourage teachers to try new things, become experts, then train others. The extra incentive/pressure of teaching others is a great motivator.


I write this post after sitting through three days of professional development.  The county that I work for asked that we send a team, thus we did. Prior to attending, I was looking forward to learning new methods of helping our students learn and grow. Unfortunately, I learned unintentional lessons from those presenting.  Here are a few pointers for myself and other professional development presenters.

1. You don’t need to prove your value, we trust you. You’ve already proven your value, which is why I’m taking time from my school and attending your seminar. You don’t need to give stories of your teaching career and how great you were. I’m attending your workshop, because I believe you can offer me tools, information, or strategies that will help me reach my students more effectively.

2. Use the best resources that you have. There were approximately 75 educators in the room, perfect for networking and sharing ideas.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.   Instructional leaders need to put the materials into the hands of those who will be using it. Then, let the professionals work together to plan implementation. This will give teachers comfort with using the new tools while providing support from the experts.

3. Practice what we preach. We ask our teachers to get away from standing at the board and lecturing. Yet, when we attend PD, that is typically what happens.  How are our teachers supposed to get away from lecturing, if we never expose them to anything else?  Use the format of the training as training itself. We can teach others about any number of topics in a format that will give them exposure to a new way of teaching.

4. Read your audience. It is appalling to look around and see a room full of disconnected, disengaged, distracted audience members.  I’m not disappointed by the audience’s behavior, but rather by the fact that the presenter continues as if everyone were paying attention.  As part of my teacher walk-through observations, I look at what percent of the students are engaged.  If a huge portion of the class is not engaged, I have to ask myself if the teacher is effectively engaging the students.

5. Don’t let them leave empty handed.  How many times have you gone to a workshop, and thought “I can’t wait to try that”?  Weeks and months go by, and you still haven’t put anything you learned into practice. At that point you’ve forgotten what it was that you wanted to try. Give the learners time to create a lesson, or plan a unit that incorporates one thing from your workshop.  Make them use their time to do something productive.  That will increase the odds that it will get used.  If you are really on top of it, you will have the participants record what they plan on using and their contact info.  In a few weeks you can send them an email asking them how it went in their classroom.

6. Respect the clock.  NEVER hold a group late.  If you are not finished, invite those that wish to continue the conversation to stay longer, but never require everyone to stay past a set time.  If anything, reward hard work with an early release.  The people will leave on a positive note, and remember your PD in a much better light.