Professional Development Season! 5 Tips to Make it Successful

So it might not be as exciting as Wedding Season but Professional Development (PD) season is upon us.

Administrators have started, or will be soon, planning for the professional development that will occur prior to the start of school as well as throughout the year.  Some choose theme’s that will be discussed ad nauseum throughout the year, others develop PLC’s, while a few throw together events as they come up.  Hopefully you at least work in a district that falls into the first two!  I mean, how can administrators have high expectations for their staff if they themselves cannot perform at a high level?

As you approach this year and your PD let’s make a true effort to make it meaningful and fun for our staff.  How you might ask.  Well that depends on the culture and environment of your school and staff.  Before we get to my 5 Tips I want you to reflect back to one of the worst PD experiences that you have participated in during your stint in education.  What were some of the major flaws?  You might be thinking… I sat in my seat for an hour just listening, blah blah blah. OR I did not have a chance to talk with anyone or offer feedback but only to listen. OR We have been sitting here for 20 minutes and I still do not understand what I am learning from this session. OR you get the point.

There are a variety ways that people can fumble Professional Development.  Here are my 5 tips to make your PD Season successful:

  1. Develop a clear set of personal and campus goals for you and your staff.  This will help you to focus your PD to match these objectives, thus maximizing your time with your staff.  Here are some do’s and don’t to selecting objectives! Peter DeWitt does a nice job discussing several of these in this article, “Should These 10 Educational Words Be Banished?” and follows it up with “12 Words That Should Be in Our Educational Vocabulary”.  These are merely words but these words have certainly be the topic of some PD that you have received over the past few years!
  2. Research and look for best practices, success stories, or even stories of failure.  You want to make sure that when you sell this to your staff you are prepared and provide evidence to support your claims.  Your preparation will be recognized, appreciated, and noted.  If it is authentic and comes from the heart, this will resonate to your audience.
  3. Create a sales pitch and tell a story when you present your goals to your staff. Once you have outlined your objectives you need to sell these to your staff.  When you do it, consider telling a story to support your goals so that it resonates and connects with your staff.  This will create buy in as well as inspire them to follow your lead.  If this sounds different, read this and it may change your mind.
  4. Delivery:  Be Clear, Concise, and provide Context. So you developed your pitch, now you need to practice.  (Every time I say the word practice, I think of Allen Iverson, anyone else with me?)  But seriously, you want all of your hard work to pay off and you have 1 chance to sell this years goals and objectives.  Start the year off right and make a difference!
  5. Make PD fun!  So you have your objectives, practiced how you want to deliver it, now you need to develop the activity.  This can be a challenge.  A few things that I feel are crucial to making PD fun are to: allow for collaboration, create an environment for learning, and do not be afraid to try something new!  If not fun then it just needs to be engaging.  If you can get the audience to buy in an be engaged it will be a success! Here is an article to provide you ideas while also support you in the creation of these activities – Professional Development Should Be Fun.

For more information on how to potentially improve your PD, check out these resources that I have shared here before: Let’s Flip Professional Development and PD – It Should Be More Like ‘Masterchef’


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