A professional learning plan is a “set of purposeful, planned actions and the support system necessary to achieve the identified goals. Effective [professional learning] programs are ongoing, coherent, and linked to student achievement (Killion, J. 2008).” A strong PL plan should identify both short and long term goals, then outline a process that takes into account your teachers’ current needs.
Learning Forward suggests seven key steps for drafting a professional learning plan:
“In thinking about how to assess the needs of our teachers, we examined our own expectations of our teachers. We wanted to know how they cognitively engaged students, how they used instructional strategies that require students to think critically and problem solve, and how they monitored student learning.
If we expected them to grow in those specific areas, we had to plan our professional learning around those specific needs. We used KickUp to design a needs assessment that asked the right questions to help us to help our teachers in the areas we expected them to grow.” – Stephanie True, Instructional Programs Director, Affton School District
PL plans should outline a holistic approach to supporting your educators’ growth. That means continuous support and feedback. Define how your teachers will maintain their growth outside of scheduled workshops or events. Events may be a key aspect of a professional learning plan, but without supports throughout the year, they have little chance of producing change.
“It was important for us to administer a comprehensive professional development needs assessment that included survey items that were relevant to all certified staffing groups (e.g., counselors), not just our instructional staff members. By doing so, we were able to indirectly communicate to all staff that we value everyone’s professional learning and growth. Moreover, the comprehensive nature of the survey items helped us draft a professional learning plan for next school year that is not only aligned with our school improvement plan, but is differentiated to effectively meet the needs of all.” – Shannon McMurray, Professional Development Coordinator, Riverview Gardens School District
It’s common to assume that instituting a new initiative or curriculum means your educators will be starting from scratch, but that’s a dangerous assumption. Just like students come into classrooms with a diversity of experiences and skillsets, your teachers also likely have different needs. Personalizing PL can feel overwhelming, but a good needs assessment gives you the basis to differentiate your methods and is an opportunity to build teacher buy-in.
Once you’ve outlined your goals, consider how you’ll know if you’re on track to reach them. Build in opportunities along the way for formative assessment–so that you know whether your interventions were successful and how/if they have shifted your teachers’ needs. That might look like quick check-ins after an event, informal observations, or coach reflections. When possible, push your feedback beyond event satisfaction or attitudes; focus on translating your goals into observable indicators. For instance, instead of asking whether a teacher feels comfortable using technology, consider asking them to reflect on how frequently students are using technology in ways that support critical thinking.
Killion, J. 2008. Assessing impact: Evaluating staff development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
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