Planning for Professional Development

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program

Performance Indicator B

  • Design, develop, and implement
    technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning
    and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

This week I am taking a look at the beginning stages of Professional Development. The question that I am researching is: How do I plan for building a successful professional development session/workshop with adult learners?

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Effective professional development to improve classroom teaching also concentrates on high learning standards and on evidence of students’ learning. It mirrors the kinds of teaching and learning expectations in classrooms. It is driven fundamentally by the needs and interests of participants themselves, enabling adult learners to expand on content knowledge and practice that is directly connected with the work of the students in their classroom. (Annenberg Institute for School Reform AISR, Professional Learning Communities: Strategies That Improve Instruction, as cited in Zepeda, 2013)

Building the capacity of educators to improve student learning outcomes is the goal of professional development. Professional Development should inform and engage, but it needs to systematic. P.D. must be planned purposefully and deliberately. (Zepeda, p.64) So, how do we begin? What are our first steps in determining what goes into creating professional development?

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I really like how the graphic above gets to the point of what teachers want to experience when participating in professional development. We have all been to PD where we sit for hours listening to lectures, sometimes not even relevant to our content. I want to take this time and really plan a PD Workshop model that hits these characteristics. An upcoming session that I am interested in planning is centered around Novel Engineering.

Novel Engineering is a strategy that integrates literacy with engineering. Born out of Tufts University, Novel Engineering is described as, students use existing classroom literature – stories, novels, and expository texts – as the basis for engineering design challenges that help them identify problems, design realistic solutions, and engage in the Engineering Design Process while reinforcing their literacy skills.

Currently, I am piloting Novel Engineering in a 3rd grade class. In December, we read a picture book and students worked in pairs to solve a problem for a character in the story. What was really neat about this process is that students have to empathize with the characters in order to come up with a solution to a problem that they are facing in the story. All solutions must be grounded in the constraints of the story, so it really strengthens comprehension and inferring skills. The students enjoyed it so much that we decided to take it further with a novel. The students are reading Amina’s Voice and are connecting to the story because they have a deeper understanding of characters motives, feelings, and cultural differences.

So this is where I am beginning to see the value of collecting artifacts that I can share with others in a district-based professional development workshop. I would like to use this blog, and some of my research to develop a strong PD opportunity. I found an article, The Three Most Common Types of Teacher Professional Development and How to Make Them Better (2018), that I would like to use their advice as a map for my future PD on Novel Engineering.

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Focus on Content:

” Provide PD that supports specific instructional strategies in specific subjects.” The content that I would be focusing on would be literacy and engineering and design principles. It would be in this portion of the PD that I would describe Novel Engineering and the benefits for students to approach a novel in this way. I would like to show a video from Novel Engineering much like the one above to give teachers an understanding of this topic. We would discuss the standards addressed and talk about the different ways that this could work in their classrooms. I would also love to share some artifacts from my experiences working with students so that they could see real-world examples of how this works in a classroom setting.

Create Opportunities for Active Learning:

“The theory of andragogy tells us that adults have a need to direct themselves, use prior experience, solve real-world problems, and to immediately apply new learning to current job responsibilities.” It is usually in this space that I don’t do the best as an instructor. I want to get to the activity, that I don’t spend time building in buy-in from educators. A great way for that would be to give the teachers literature so that they can discuss their findings in small groups and perhaps do a carousel protocol to get teachers up and moving reflecting what they have learned so far.

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Model Best Practices:

“Just like a tell me, show me, involve me strategy can work with students, moving to modeling and application instead of “sit-and-get” lecture-based professional development can be powerful for adult learners.” This is my favorite part of the workshop! Getting to experience the activity. I would like for the participants to experience the process of Novel Engineering so that they can connect with why it is so powerful for kids. I would present them with a children’s book that they could read and work in pairs to come up with a set of problems and select one to solve going through the engineering and design process. The participants would then create a prototype and share their thinking with the group.

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Coach and Support:

“Instructional coaching is a non-evaluative way to create opportunities for ongoing observation, feedback, reflection, and improved practice, whether provided by experienced colleagues or external consultants.” It’s really difficult for teachers to take a training and then go to their classes and recreate the experience for their students. The beauty of my job is that I am available to offer up follow up and coaching to teachers. I would let the participants know that I was available to co-teach and/or observe. I do not want to teach a new and complicated strategy that I know will help student learning outcomes and then leave the teacher alone to flounder. I want everyone to be successful.

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Incorporate Feedback and Reflective Practice:

“Providing teachers with substantive, specific, and timely feedback–and providing them with adequate time to reflect and act upon that feedback–is a best practice for instructional improvement.” This is probably one area that I am most excited about because I seem to reflect ALL of the time. (insert happy face) We have a new LMS available to us in our district called Microsoft Teams. I would set up a channel for participants to discuss, ask questions, post photos or videos of student projects. It would be highly encouraged that they share student learning outcomes. I would like this channel to belong to the participants so that they can learn from each other. I see my role to offer encouragement. connecting others, and provide feedback if requested.

I guess I have a skeleton plan prepared for a future workshop. Now I need to finish up with the class I am working with to collect stories and artifacts. I think that this process has really helped inform me what is needed when planning and preparing for professional development. As I mentioned before, I will be doing a great amount of reflecting about the process.


  • Zepeda, S. J. (2013). Professional Development: What Works. Second Edition. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • 5 Ways to Transform PD with Best Practices for Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Schoology. (2019, April 18). The Three Most Common Types of Teacher Professional Development and How to Make Them Better. Retrieved from
  • Effective Teacher Professional Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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