Developing an effective professional learning plan focused on the coming year

May 27, 2021

School may be out in the summer, but most schools and educators engage in learning to prepare for the upcoming school year – either on their own or through structured professional development days. A recent national study found that 99 percent of teachers participated in one or more professional learning activities outside of what was provided by their school or district. Overall, teachers said most professional development lacked opportunities to receive feedback that would help develop instructional skills. As a result, time invested in learning may not lead to better student outcomes or learning experiences.

Dedicating time to professional development is important. For that time to drive change at your school, and ultimately for your students, your team should create a plan for scheduled professional development days guided by several key  principles and practices.

Start by revisiting your shared vision for instructional excellence and student success, your collective pursuit. Professional development should be in service of this vision – if it is, it will be focused on helping teachers grow in practical ways that can be used in the fall to help students succeed. Taking time to create buy-in for this will influence choices teachers make on their own as well.

Once a vision is established, partner with teachers to determine what professional development is needed. Teachers can identify the gap between current abilities and what is needed to reach your collective goals. By asking teachers “what do you need?” before developing a learning plan, you’re emphasizing that the reason for this work is reflective and focused on continual improvement. 

Armed with a clear vision and understanding of what teachers need, develop a plan using two important  ‘spheres of influence.’ Learning experiences structured as collaborative inquiry can guide teachers toward a common goal. When implementing this approach:

  • Use an agreed-upon process for instructional decision-making around a problem of practice.  
  • Ensure that student work or data is used to foster inquiry and collaboration among teams.  
  • Reflect and modify important curricular content to support each student in their emotional and intellectual development.  
  • Create dedicated time and space for group and individual reflection, analysis, and creation of materials or tasks.  

Supporting the work of individual teachers is also an important component of your summer plan. Reflective practice and self-directed learning opportunities focus on just that, what each person taking part in the summer learning experience needs. When using this approach:

  • Provide multiple opportunities and different types of data for individual teachers to use as they reflect on their practice, recognize strengths, and self-assess on priorities for growth goals.  
  • Give proper time allocation for teachers to goal set and make decisions about their self-directed professional learning needs that address their identified areas of growth. 
  • Ensure there are a variety of opportunities, formats, and flexible time options for independent learning and other professional learning options that are teacher-directed.  These do not need to be facilitated by you, but perhaps can be suggestions to influence what teachers choose to do in their own time.

Taking time to thoughtfully put together your summer learning plan can align your staff behind a shared, motivating goal. In addition, this extra step will ensure that skills developed will help students succeed.

Looking for a partner to create an effective summer professional development plan? Reach out to the Danielson Group today!