Key Indicators of Successful Professional Development

As is the case in every profession, teachers are aware that growth is crucial to their careers. They seek professional development that enhances their ability to instruct students, interact with parents, and improve student outcomes.  Investing time and finances without gaining valuable skills, tools, or knowledge benefits neither the teacher nor the students.  

If you, as a teacher or school leader, are trying to evaluate a professional development program, what are the critical indicators that you need to examine?  This blog offers several things to consider and, interestingly, the Stride Professional Development Center meets them all. 

Engaging and Interactive
Great professional development for teachers should be engaging and interactive. For teachers, it should present chances for personal reflection or peer collaboration. Exciting and interactive professional development leverages multiple learning modalities, incorporates various media, and then motivates teachers to apply what they learned in the classroom.  For this reason, the Stride PD Center has chosen a design model that focuses on bite-sized and mobile-friendly content. 

Relevant and Practical
An engaging and interactive session or course that focuses on theory rather than practicality is of little value to teachers.  In a recent Answer Garden survey where we asked teachers to describe, in one word, their experience with professional development, the number 1 response was “theoretical.”  If teachers do not leave the learning session or course with takeaway documents offering practical strategies for the classroom, then it was not a valuable investment of time. 

As an example, look at what one Stride PD Center user said after taking one of our courses: “I enjoyed the takeaway documents and the quick pace.  The tips were concise and to the point.  You didn’t add unnecessary material.”

Research and Experience Informed
Successful professional development for teachers should be rooted in research or experience.  Without this foundation, learning falls into the trap mentioned in the previous section – being theoretical rather than practical.  All learning must be framed in a way so that it is easier for teachers to comprehend and apply it within the classroom. 

Every course in the Stride PD Center library is created by educators by sharing their experiences and best practices.  For instance, our PBL series was written by an expert who made the topic as simple as possible through a rubric.  Our mission is your learning, so we carefully select our instructors to ensure you have the best possible content. 

Individualized and Differentiated
A one-size-fits-all approach for professional development does not work because each teacher has different needs.  If teachers are to provide personalized and individualized instruction for students, then the same learning choice should be offered to them as well.  With this approach, teachers can develop skills and knowledge they need to refine their craft and positively influence students.

Sessions and courses must be customized to each teacher’s needs and differentiated to fit the needs of various learners.  By focusing individually, the teacher can, in turn, apply it directly giving students the best education possible.  If you want to increase the effectiveness of your professional development, then adopting this approach is essential.

We utilize reflection questions in our on-demand courses so that teachers apply their learning directly into their classroom or instructional settings.  A recent user made the following comments about a course on Classroom Culture: “I love all of the opportunities for self-reflection and to reframe the statements/questions into more positive ones that are more likely to get the class moving in the direction you want it to go.  It is easy to see how these ideas will lead to greater productivity in the classroom.”

Measurable and Accountable
Finally, good professional development gives teachers the opportunity to evaluate each session or course by seeking to understand what worked and how it can be improved.  Regular, consistent evaluations are necessary for future improvements.  Teachers must have the opportunity to share their experience so that iterations can be made.  Every course in the Stride PD Center has a rating and opportunity for feedback to be shared.  Each submission is reviewed and cataloged for future iterations of courses maximizing our accountability and improvement.  

In closing, if you want to learn more about our implementation of these key indicators and you are attending the National Charter Schools Conference June 18-21 (#NCSC23), then come talk to us.  You have two ways to do so:  (1) our “Solutions Session” at 130pm on June 19 or (2) at Booth 1548 in the Exhibit Hall.

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