As school leaders set goals for student learning and teacher development for the upcoming school year, you may appreciate a refresher on best practices for professional development. In this article, we’ll highlight the research-proven benefits and key components of a high-quality professional development strategy.
Research About the Benefits of Teacher Professional Development
A high-quality teacher development strategy benefits students, teachers, and stakeholders within our school communities. Educational research suggests that professional development:
- Can improve student achievement by 21%
- Significantly improves teaching quality
- Influences whether teachers decide to remain in the profession
- Can increase teachers’ job satisfaction when mentoring is incorporated into the professional development program
However, not all professional development is able to achieve these results. Let’s explore the components of an evidence-based professional development strategy.
Checklist: What Principals Need to Include in a Professional Development Strategy
When we look at the body of research about effective professional development for teachers, we find several key elements that must be present:
- Teacher Input and Buy-In
Principals should directly involve teachers in the professional development planning process. When administrators finalize a professional development strategy without seeking teacher input, the plan often fails to address challenges that teachers actually face in the classroom. For example, ASCD explains how some school leaders frustrated teachers during the pandemic by implementing new assessment requirements without first considering the type of data teachers needed to plan for the various models of instruction.
On the other hand, a 2018 study of about 25,000 schools finds that school improvement planning is more successful when teachers are involved: “[I]nstructional leadership is independently, significantly, and positively related to student achievement, after controlling for the background characteristics of schools (such as poverty level), and this is for both mathematics and ELA.”
Learn more about how to develop a distributive leadership team that uplifts teacher choices and voices.
- Job-Embedded Professional Development with an Instructional Focus
Some schools only offer professional development through one-off workshops, where teachers attend a few training sessions that lack connection to classroom realities. Darling-Hammond et. al. find that these short, fragmented workshops fail to impact student achievement. Because most of these types of professional development opportunities are designed to provide information instead of building capacity and sustainable practices.
Instead, research indicates that principals should plan job-embedded professional development, which helps teachers improve their instructional practice. Job-embedded Professional Development:
- Is aligned with the curriculum,
- Builds upon teachers’ knowledge of the pedagogical content,
- Engages teachers through active learning, and
- Incorporates ongoing opportunities for feedback and support.
Learn more about how to create job-embedded professional development opportunities.
- Ongoing Training, Coaching, and Collaboration Throughout the School Year
In their 2009 study, Darling-Hammond et. al. report that student achievement is NOT significantly impacted when teachers receive less than 14 hours of professional development per school year. Investing time and money into your school’s professional development strategy should be thought of as you are setting your teachers and students up for long-term success. Rather, research suggests that teachers should engage in a variety of interactive professional development activities consistently and frequently throughout the school year. These professional development activities should include:
- Conferences, workshops, and seminars
- Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and other collaborative experiences
- Instructional rounds
- Teacher feedback and evaluations
Learn more about how to develop a well-balanced, evidence-based PD strategy.
- Removal of Barriers to Professional Development
The best laid professional development plans can fall flat if teachers can’t access them. The Economic Policy Institute identifies some of the common barriers teachers face when seeking professional development learning opportunities:
- About 72% of teachers must pay for conference or workshop fees without receiving reimbursement.
- About 80% must pay for their own travel expenses to access professional development.
- About 21% lack scheduled time for professional development during the school year.
School and district leaders should consider teachers’ professional development needs when developing master schedules and budgets for the school year. Plan ahead to help teachers cover professional development-related expenses and set aside time for these opportunities.
Learn more about the role of a district administrator in planning teacher professional development learning opportunities that build capacity and long-term sustainable practices.
Get Support Building a Professional Development Plan
It takes a village to develop the proper supports for teachers and students. CSAS’ educational consultants work collaboratively with your leadership team to provide an outside, research-proven, and evidence-based perspective to your continuous improvement planning process.
Start by scheduling a free call with one of our expert consultants to help us understand your professional development priorities for the 2021-2022 school year. We’ll explore your school’s goals, strengths, and areas for improvement to find a consultant with the educational leadership experience to meet your needs. Then we’ll partner with your leadership team to create a customized, evidence-based professional development strategy that is designed to achieve results.
We look forward to supporting your school and community!