Disrupting Professional Development: When Theory Becomes Reality


As educators, we are faced with the demands of improving student learning and achievement. This usually entails the implementation of some new program or initiative that will provide promising results. These results are an investment for our students. However, this investment does not start with students but with our staff. We need to invest in our administrators, teachers, and paraeducators in order to fundamentally improve educational growth and outcomes.

When we think of investment in staff, professional development is more than likely the first thing that comes to mind. This leads to many questions. Who is going to provide the professional development? What content will be delivered? Where and when will this take place? How can professional development be achieved in the most effective and efficient manner?

There are several choices that are currently available for educators to receive professional development that is necessary for educational improvement: offsite workshops and conferences, onsite professional development days, and online and virtual training. All of these methods have their place in education, but do we want to continue to sustain the current methods of professional development delivery or provide other options for educators? It’s time to disrupt professional development!

Disrupt professional development with time.

Professional development can be delivered in approximately 30 minutes or less. The shorter timeframe allows for more “digestible bites” of information for job-embedment. By streamlining the time and focus of each professional development session, educators are enabled to process the information in order to implement the initiative with better and lasting results.

Disrupt professional development by making it convenient.

People like convenience, and educators are no different. In schools today, we are faced with time constraints and demanding schedules. Educators need to have professional development in a time and location that is convenient for them. This could mean within or outside of the school day. It could be on a desktop, tablet, or on a smartphone. It could be on the go or in the privacy of one’s home. Professional development needs to be mobile, so it fits into the educator’s lifestyle.

Disrupt professional development through customization.

In order for professional development to be implemented, it needs to be delivered through effective program development. This includes research, planning, implementation, evaluation and feedback, and ongoing support. This five-step framework of program development involves everyone, but it does not look the same for everyone. You have to take into consideration roles and responsibilities in order to effectively customize your professional development for administrators, teachers, and staff. The intended audience will shape the focus and delivery of the training within each step of the program development framework.

Disrupt professional development by making it cost-effective.

Too many times, we find ourselves in the position that we cannot afford to train all employees for a new initiative. This does not stop us, however, from requiring all employees to implement the initiative. This may result in using a “train the trainer” model, using a bundling package that trains some staff members, or some other method that saves on total costs. These solutions may or may not work. It is time to disrupt this mindset and make professional development truly affordable. Professional development should be based upon an individual user and amount of time allotment. It must be driven by the fact that every staff member within an organization should receive professional development.

Disrupt professional development by making it ongoing.

Professional development does not stop when the initiative is implemented. There is a continual need to clarify questions, to expand content knowledge, and to discover additional resources for instructional delivery. There is a need to provide professional development for new teachers and those new to the district. Through the use of ongoing support, educators can continue to implement new programs and initiatives with integrity, resulting in promising results.

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Disrupting Professional Development: When Theory Becomes Reality