Build Your Own PD

How to create customized and differentiated professional development.

Photo of Susan Takami
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I love the process of “yes, and…” thinking and building new things. The world is complex and nothing exists in a vacuum, but trying to add components to our teaching practice can easily lead to loss of focus.

This led me to consider two questions. How can we combine multiple topics in to limited Professional Development time? And what do teachers want in professional development?

Here are the answers that jumped immediately to mind:

  • Relevance
  • Strategies/tools that can be used in the classroom tomorrow
  • Choice

1. Relevance: Under the notion of relevance, I went back to the basics. The California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP) apply to all educators, but how often do we review them to check our own practice?

Let’s begin by using the CSTP as the foundation for building professional development. Pick one standard that is relevant for the users and focus the development around it.

2. Strategies / tools that can be used in the classroom tomorrow: How can we improve our use of good teaching strategies, while learning new ones that may better meet the needs of our students?

There are many great teaching strategies and new ones are introduced every day. Teachers work very hard to fill their “toolbox”. This takes time and experience, but can get stale if not regularly filled with new ones.

Don’t just present strategies and tools, instead “teach” them by using them in the professional development. By demonstrating these strategies, participants can see them in action, understand how they are used, and adopt them into their own practice.

3. Choice: There are many specialties and new ideas within education, such as, English Language Learning, Special Education, Technology, Neuroscience, Making, Social Emotional Learning, Design Thinking, etc. How can we provide efficient and effective professional capacity building on the fundamental concepts of these ideas and expand awareness of existing objectives/policies, and also new thinking?

Develop workshop tracks, so that teachers have options for their own development.

So how would this all look? Just as we do for our students, let’s create a professional development goal for ourselves using a sentence frame for our three topics.

Teachers will: Meet Standard # by using Strategy/Tool while incorporating Choice into the lesson.

I tried this out with something that might be of interest to me and this is what I got:

Teachers will: Meet Standard #2 Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning: 2.7 Using instructional time to optimize learning by using Transition Strategies to incorporating Design Thinking into the lesson.

This model could be used for designing customized on-site professional development, or as digital modules for online learning. Teachers could teach other teachers face-to-face, or submit their best practices and/or specialized knowledge to a digital library.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sarah Lundy

Susan, this is a thorough and thoughtful articulation of how to design professional learning for success and then assess its efficacy! Just the seemingly straightforward "equation" sentence, "Teachers will: Meet Standard # by using Strategy/Tool while incorporating Choice into the lesson," when used with fidelity, could ensure that we make the most of our precious time!

Photo of Susan Takami

Thanks for your feedback.  It's a pleasure working with you!