The workshop’s done, the catering is cleared, and your teachers and staff are headed home for a well-deserved rest before putting their new skills to work. How do you make sure they’ll continue to benefit from PD training? And how to get actionable feedback that will make the next session even better?
The first step of planning for improvement is figuring out the baseline. Assessment and education practice expert Thomas Guskey has dedicated his career to the art of fine-tuning the PD process, helping researchers and districts illuminate what’s working and why through effective survey design.
“Good evaluations don’t have to be complicated,” says Guskey. “They simply require thoughtful planning, the ability to ask good questions, and a basic understanding of how to find valid answers. What’s more, they can provide meaningful information that you can use to make thoughtful, responsible decisions about professional development processes and effects.”
To make the most of your team’s feedback, Guskey proposes five levels of PD evaluation. These levels are meant to build on each other, creating a bridge of understanding between “PD action taken” and “student impact achieved.” As anyone who’s worked with student data knows, the complexity of factors at play makes tying previous inputs — particularly one as multifaceted as professional development — to the outcomes a difficult proposition. But taken in ascending layers, the data gains context and comes into focus. The question is how to design the collection in such a way that that everything is aligned from the start.
The Five Levels
|1. Participants’ Reactions
||Did they enjoy the PL event?
|2. Participants’ Learning
||Did participants acquire the intended knowledge and skills?
||Simulations / demonstrations, self-assessment surveys
|3. Organization Support & Change
||Was implementation of new practices facilitated and supported?
||Records, meeting minutes, interviews, administrator survey
|4. Participants’ Use of New Knowledge and Skills
||Did participants effectively apply the new knowledge and skills?
||Walkthrough evaluations, participant reflections, administrator and teacher surveys
|5. Student Learning Outcomes
||Did it affect the student experience?
||Student data, parent and student interviews, school records
Evidence, Not Proof
PD assessment is about degrees of supporting evidence, not finding conclusive proof. Since professional learning takes place in a job-embedded, real-world context, information from level 1 is simply not enough to draw a straight line to outcomes in level 5. (Not to mention the fact that systems are usually implementing simultaneous PD initiatives that play out side-by-side in the classroom.)
Instead, consider using feedback levels in conjunction with other data best practices such as meaningful comparison groups, evidence metrics tailored to the stakeholders, and appropriate pre- and post-measures. And remember: good evidence isn’t difficult to obtain if you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for from the start.