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Answers to Common PD Questions

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in an Ed Week live chat. In preparation, I decided to do some advance planning, anticipating some of the questions and preparing responses. You can access the entire chat transcript here, but I wanted to post just a few of the questions that I'm frequently asked. These answers may be a little short - but I hope they get some conversation going.

Q: Why do school systems still rely on one-shot workshops?
A. One-day workshops can be useful in providing foundational knowledge and skills. The problem is when districts either 1) use these workshops to define their PD approach; or 2) hold teachers accountable for implementing what is introduced in a one-shot workshop providing no support for implementation.

Q: What types of professional development have the greatest impact on teachers?

A: This might seem like a simple question, but it isn't. The goals of the professional development are what matters. Professional development that impacts teaching and learning occurs over a sustained period of time, includes developing knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors, and provides intensive support for implementation within the classroom. This form of support includes coaching, peer observation and feedback, principal support for creating conditions for changing practice, and time for collaboration and reflection to assess the effectiveness of the new learning on teaching practices and student learning.

Q: There is an impression that high-quality PD involves having teachers working on issues for a significant length of time, with opportunities to revisit material, etc. How do you get school systems to commit time and resources over an extended period of time?
A: First, examine time that currently exists within the schedule that includes faculty meetings, planning time, professional development time, etc. Always share information on the impact of your investments. Providing information about how other high-performing countries use workday time is one way to provide information to districts and policy makers about the importance of time.
Our book, Finding Time for Professional Learning, is another valuable resource.

Q: How do you evaluate professional development?
A: First, ensure you have something worth measuring. Second, get clear on the measurable results you are seeking. Third, choose an appropriate design for evaluating. There are a number of resources on our web site to help you in this area.

If you've got a question about professional learning, we'd love to hear from you.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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