By David Dorn
Carl Glickman (Glickman et al., 2013 p. 234) provided a compelling mission statement to guide professional development within schools: “Education is a human enterprise. The essence of successful instruction and good schools comes from the thoughts and actions of the professionals in the schools.” Consequently, the goal for professional development is to strengthen a teacher’s knowledge base and skill set to improve instruction within the classroom and school. For professional development to be successful and have a long-term impact, it cannot be a capricious “one and done” but a carefully crafted learning plan for the school to ensure teacher growth and student learning.
Glickman (Glickman et al., 2013) identified several key attributes of well-designed and thoughtful professional development programs. It is critical that teachers within the school have significant input into the design, implementation, and assessment of the professional development program. This collaboration will yield a comprehensive program characterized by participant ownership focused on student learning.
An important aspect of a successful professional development program is the establishment of school-wide goals that allow for individual adult self-directed learning, a key tenet of successfully embedded professional development. The professional development plan must carefully scaffold the investigation of research-based effective instruction strategies as teachers collaborate and share their best practices to provide for a common knowledge of effective student learning strategies. To address individual adult learning needs, the professional development program must incorporate a variety of strategies to organize for adult learning. This menu of services might include job-embedded training, individual coaching for self-directed learning, or study groups of teachers to gain, process, and strategize new learning. The intent of a multifaceted menu is to create an optimum individual and group learning environment focused on the attainment of the school’s strategic plan.
Another critical attribute of a professional development program is the understanding that not all adults learn at the same pace; thus, professional development organizers must adhere to the three stages of professional development: (1) an orientation phase where teachers gain an awareness and information about the specific professional development constructs; (2) an integration phase characterized by teachers applying the learned knowledge into their classroom and/or professional practices through a trial and error process; (3) a refinement phase when teachers possess a firm routine management of the professional development learning and possess the ability to transfer or adapt that learning into their own teaching and/or professional behaviors.
A professional development program is a school’s instrument for teachers to increase and apply new knowledge to improve student learning.
Glickman, C. D., Gordon, S. P., & Ross-Gordon, J. M. (2013). The basic guide to supervision: And instructional leadership. Upper Saddle River, NJ, NJ: Pearson Education.