Drafting a professional learning plan is a critical step for districts who want to set their teachers up for success. We’ve gathered resources for making sure your plan is coherent and actionable, including tips from two Missouri district leaders.
Schools may be out for summer break, but directors of professional learning are already focused on making sure next year gets off to a successful start. Whether you’re currently lounging on the beach with your plan in place or just starting to draft it, a strong professional learning plan is critical for setting up your school year for success.
Professional learning plans
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.
Creating your PL plan
Learning Forward suggests seven key steps for drafting a professional learning plan:
5 Key Tips
Being specific about your teacher needs is critical.
“In thinking about how to assess the needs of our teachers in order to create a professional learning plan, it occurred to us to look at our own expectations of our teachers. We were looking for how they cognitively engaged the 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 these areas, we had to plan our professional learning around their needs in these areas. 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
Professional learning plans are more than a calendar of events.
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.
Consider all members of your staff, not just educators in core subjects.
“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
Don’t assume needs.
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.
Clearly define a plan for assessing your plan during the year.
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.
KickUp is a data analytics program and service that helps K-12 districts assess, monitor, and communicate about their professional learning plan’s impact. Want to see it in action? Schedule a demo or contact us to see if there’s an opportunity to collaborate.
Killion, J. 2008. Assessing impact: Evaluating staff development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.