3 PD Models to Support Teachers

One of my passions is creating new models for professional development for the teaching staff in our school.  I started down this path as a principal four years ago when I realized that a “one size fits all” approach to staff meetings and early release days was not supporting the needs of my learners.  In addition, I was not utilizing the teaching strategies and methods that I was expecting out of teachers.  Since then, I’ve implemented two of these models and am working to implement a third.  This post will share the structure of three models for targeted, small group, differentiated, professional development plan, for an individual building’s teaching staff.

My hope in sharing is there may be something that educators can take from this and apply to their work.  All of my colleagues already have thoughtful PD planned for their teaching staff throughout the year.  My goal isn’t to change that, but to float other ideas and plans out there which may impact their thinking.  I know all districts have different professional development calendars.  Principals have different amounts of independence in the PD they provide.  In some districts, a principal may have 100% discretion on the content of their staff meetings while in another, that may be entirely dictated by the district office. 

My hunch is that there are components of these models that you are already doing.  If you have ideas that could be added to my plans, please let me know!  Part of the purpose of my blog is to expand my professional learning network and learn from your ideas.  If you have questions regarding the logistics or implementation of these plans, feel free to let me know.

1. Plan #1 – My first attempt. Not perfect, a little simplistic, messy, but I knew that I had to start somewhere.

* I surveyed the staff to find the instructional areas in which they most wanted to grow.  Three areas stood out, the teacher as the facilitator of learning, adaptive schools collaborative strategies, and student talk.  I grouped individual teachers into one of those three categories.

* We had our instructional coach, the curriculum director, and myself each lead learning for a small group of teachers in and area they felt confident in leading.  In districts where those may not be options, I would choose teaching staff who volunteered to lead that learning.

* Each group chose a book, article, or author to anchor their work in.  Time was spent reading, researching, and discussing.  That allowed all group members to have a similar knowledge base regarding the content.

* I committed to using every other staff meeting or PD time to focus in their small groups.  There were other initiatives (building and district) that also required attention. Using at least half of our time was key as it would’ve been easy to push this aside completely.  The small group leaders planned reflected together. Information was shared between the 3 groups on a google doc.  We culminated the year by whole group sharing out during a final staff meeting.

* Staff feedback was that they appreciated the choice, ownership, and focus on their learning.  A challenge was getting a clear picture of what other groups were working on.

2. Plan #2 – A second year was more building-based and with greater consistency.  What was unique here is that we didn’t choose an instructional focus area.  Our goal was simply “supporting students to become better people.”

* We chose that building focus area based on instructional rounds data, teacher feedback, and some of my thinking.

* Staff received consistent feedback in this area during our three instructional rounds visits as well as teacher evaluation.  This allowed us to tie in school improvement pieces.

* I committed to devoting some amount of time (this varied from 10 minutes to 60 minutes) at each and every staff meeting to our building area of focus.

* About mid-year, we broke into small groupings to discuss, plan, and work towards our goal.  Those small groups were initiated based on teacher thinking.  Teachers led each of those small groups (positive behavior planning, student goal setting, lessons) as I worked with them to plan and develop pieces to support our goal.

* Staff appreciated having one primary focus for the entire building, but small groups branching off to work on specific pieces together.  Great collaboration and targeted work.  A challenge was not as much teacher choice or differentiation.

3. Plan #3This is where my passion, research, thinking, and most updated planning currently resides.  I’m excited about continuing to read, talk with colleagues, and refine this into something most impactful for teachers in the future.  This is a past blog post that conveys the main components of this plan that I hope to implement in the future.


My purpose is simply to offer teachers an experience similar to what they provide students in the classroom.  I hope to offer them a choice in their learning, with strategies that fit their learning style, while ensuring that it is targeted and aligned to our focus as a school.