Rethinking Professional Development,

As I move into my new role as a Digital Learning Coach for my district, I am very interested in ISTE Coaching Standard 3, Indicator c. In my new role, (as I understand it) I will be working with teachers and librarians- helping them enhance the curriculum with technology as well as facilitating professional development for the district.

ISTE Coaching 3c: Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.

My concern as I enter this new phase in my career is how will I be able to reach a diverse audience of educators and be able to provide valuable, learning-rich professional development opportunities? In this case, I’m using the word diverse to suggest that educators are different in teaching experience, grade levels, subjects, values and attitudes, and skills and abilities.

According to a 2014 study conducted by Bill and Melinda Gates and Boston Consulting Group, they found that only 29% of teachers are highly satisfied with the current professional development offerings. The article goes on to add that large majorities of teachers do not believe that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools.

As I reflect on my experience with professional development, I’m discovering a lot of connections with teaching a class of students. In our classes, we need to differentiate based on abilities. At the building level, the PD wasn’t tailored to my grade level specifically, because they were trying to make it relevant to 7 grade levels and specials. This mirrors an ineffective process that happens in a classroom of students- your teaching to the middle. You are leaving out 1/2 your class. When the school divides by k-2 and 3-6 grade bands- the trainings are better- but you still have to do some work to tailor it to your classroom. Again, if you do this in your class, you will reach more students, but not all students will find success.

Students that have choice and agency will be more passionate about the learning. Isn’t that the same for educators? When I sought out professional developments that were tailored more to my needs and applied to what I wanted to do in my classroom, I found that I actually implemented them.

The more I think about it, teachers want exactly what our students want. Educators want P.D. to be relevant, interactive, delivered by someone that understands their experience, sustained over time, and to be treated like professionals. (Karen Johnson, 2016) I know that my students want to know why they are learning X, they want it to be hands-on, they appreciate when connections are made to previous learning, and #1- they enjoy knowing that you trust them to do the work.

Sketch by @sylviaduckworth

How do we Transform Professional Development?

In one of the readings this week, I came across a document created by Ellen Dorr in collaboration with a regional team of educators. The document is a great place for us to start the conversation about how different approaches can impact learning. I am attaching the document that they created here, but I think that this document can be more powerful for teams if they were to brainstorm and fill it in based on their observations and the needs of their district.

“The chart was designed to expand thinking around PD to encompass more than just an initial experience using a digital tool. By focusing on the experience, rather than mere “seat time” or training, we saw that different opportunities had power to inspire different growth–all of which is much more powerful than a training.”

Ellen Door, EdSurge 2015

Redefining professional development is going to be a journey. There is so much to consider when preparing for a “training”, what do teachers need to help engage students, how will this “tool” help to increase student voice and agency, and ultimately, what is the impact on learning? I end this blog with more questions to ponder. Over the summer quarter, I will be using this model and research to help focus the professional development that I will be designing for teachers in my district.


  • ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2019, from
  • Dorr, E. (2018, December 27). How Administrators Can Design the Best Learning Experiences for Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved from
  • Johnson, K. (2018, December 27). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them-If Implementation Improves – EdSurge News. Retrieved from

Comments are closed.