Throughout my time creating and offering professional development book for my division and through professional conferences numerous tenants of quality professional development have risen above others. Developing PD begins with data, conversations, surveys, and/or research. Successful PD has been researched and surveyed for years yielding a range of attributes characteristic of high quality PD. One of these tenants is beginning with a solid foundation. This foundation or development utilizes data from prior PD or assessments, survey results of needs and/or skills of potential attendees, personal conversations with constituents, and research into best practices. It is critical to not structure or plan PD based solely on what leadership desires or believes. PD must take all stakeholders into account from the very beginning stages of planning.
From this point it is important to connect people to the PD intrinsically and, if possible, emotionally. In Drive, Dan Pink (2009) informs readers on the most impactful forms of motivation and the steps to make them reality. Intrinsic motivation is by far the most powerful form of motivation to accomplish great things especially when coupled with a sense of feeling like you are working as one part of a much larger community. Coupled with Sinek’s (2011) concept of the golden circle, which informed that what you do isn’t as important as the driving force of why you do it, this is a powerful concept. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They don’t follow what you do, they follow why you do it. This why must be within the mission and vision of the school or division to truly link them to intrinsic motivation. In turn, PD align with this mission and vision to have a lasting impact.
The next important tenant of a quality PD plan is carefully planned implementation. It is important to not launch directly into sessions and change from the development phase. Time should be taken to build a critical mass of support before the plan is launched completely. These implementation measures include informational emails, videos, pre-launch meetings, and informal conversations. Committee members or PD planning teams become what Fullan (2014) terms “agents of change” through providing information, receiving feedback, representing the PD plan with enthusiasm, and establishing themselves as sources of support and feedback throughout the entire initiative. This foundational implementation step directly supports a bottom-up approach to change that facilitates a more positive mindset from the beginning.
High quality PD which yields both staff and, in turn, student growth, must be of a sufficient duration, have a majority of active learning, provide time for actual classroom use, reflection, and collaborative iteration. Large scale change with accompanying PD should have multiple sessions and last multiple years. Meaningful and lasting change must be phased in to be successful. It cannot become part of the norm of the school culture if it is suddenly forced or launched all at once. Within this timeframe of PD sessions, revision, and growth a great time is found to build capacity within the school community for the PD plan as well as building leaders from within; both valuable measures of quality PD plans and schools. All sessions will be planned and implemented by a diverse district or school committee in order to ensure differentiation for not only school level but content areas as well; there should be no one-size-fits-all sessions. PD is a journey schools must often take all together but differentiation is just as important here as in the classroom.