Transforming Professional Development: From Sit-and-Get to an Entire Ecosystem

Posted by Mandy GroenO

January 25, 2018

There can be negative connotations with education professional development (PD). ‘Sit-and-get” is a termed coined to refer to the fact that the state and the administration only care about the hours a teacher puts into PD. This one-size-fits-all approach often takes the form of lectures or all-day workshops. For three major reasons, states and districts have begun to rethink how PD is delivered and evaluated.


First, at the highest level, nationally, PD has been redefined under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


“The term ‘professional development’ means activities that… are sustained (not standalone, 1-day, or shortterm workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused.” —Every Child Succeeds Act S. 1177, Section 8002 Page 295, Paragraph 42


Secondly, many districts are experiencing difficulty with teacher retention. One in five teachers will leave their respective classrooms within their first five years on the job. A recent study identified that PD may be the answer to changing this alarming statistic. Finally, and most importantly, studies have shown that student achievement suffers under ineffective teachers.


With these factors pointing to the need for more effective PD, how can districts advance from the sit-and-get model?


Many districts are adopting additional instructional methods and forms of evaluation, including mentoring and increased focus on observation. However, this evolution to a more complex system of professional development can prove challenging to effectively monitor, track, and report teacher activity. To make sense of it all, we’ve created a model for the professional development ecosystem.





To support all teachers and meet the standards under ESSA, personalized professional development is necessary. The planning portion of the PD ecosystem is where teachers create their individualized plans. This is especially true for new teacher induction. What resources do teachers need to access to create these? Will skills assessments be involved? How will you track the creation of these plans? An important piece of planning is determining the desired outcome: career advancement, re-licensure, or teacher effectiveness/student achievement.


Instructional Method


How will your teachers be able to access professional development? Some methods include: coaching, PLCs, conferences, consultants, university courses, online instruction, or workshops. It’s important to have enough versatile options to meet all of your teacher’s personalized needs, but that doesn’t mean that all methods are right for your district.



Instructional Topics


This is where personalized professional development can feel overwhelming. The number of topics your teachers might be interested in or would like advanced knowledge on could be infinite. An important place to start is your state standards. Additionally, your district may have specific initiatives they are focused on, such as SEL or 1:1. Once you know the important topics necessary, you can do an assessment of the PD opportunities to identify any gaps that you have in your ecosystem.





This portion of the ecosystem is critical to ending the sit-and-get mentality. How will you identify teacher progress or achievement? A few formats that your evaluation can take are observation, assessment, and feedback. Based on this evaluation step, results can inform a future planning phase as well as identify if teachers have reached the desired outcome(s).



Tracking & Reporting


This is often the most problematic part of these more complex PD ecosystems for those coordinating the program. How are you tracking all the many plans, methods, topics, and evaluations? When reporting on PD, what does the state require? What does the district require? There are systems that exist to help collect this information. It is important to make sure all the areas of your ecosystem work together to enable efficient tracking and reporting.




All the steps in the ecosystem lead up to this point, whether teachers are looking for re-licensure, career advancement or to be more effective and increase student achievement.


To help ensure all the elements and systems you bring into your ecosystem work together, we’ve created a buyer’s guide. Download our PD Ecosystem Buyer’s Guide to help you think through all sections of the ecosystem and how they may interact.

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