5+ Guiding Principles for Professional Development

“Effective professional development is intensive, ongoing, and connected to practice; focuses on the teaching and learning of specific academic content; is connected to other school initiatives; and builds strong working relationships among teachers.”  – Linda Darling-Hammond & Ruth Chung Wei, 2009

PLT understands that all professional development is not created equally. We are focused on designing and delivering the highest quality professional learning experiences for the teachers, administrators, and others with whom we work. We regularly scan the latest literature on what constitutes effective professional development and integrate what we are learning into our training workshops and events.

In 2013, PLT commissioned a literature review by PEER Associates on what current research tells us about best practices in professional development. These principles now inform how we design and deliver all of our training events.

Guiding Principle #1 – More is Better

Long-term sustainable and intensive professional development is needed to affect not only teacher knowledge and practice, but also foster change in student performance and achievement. These are generally agreed upon outcomes of effective professional development. The design of PLT’s training workshops, as well as our curriculum materials, are proven to improve content knowledge, teacher practice, and behavior change.

Guiding Principle #2 – Clarify & Prioritize Outcomes

Clarity about desired learning outcomes is necessary to help define and design the appropriate program model, features, and characteristics of effective professional development. PLT consistently designs its training workshops and events to meet specific learning outcomes and objectives for its program participants.

Guiding Principle #3 – Create Collaborative, Reflective Learning Communities

When communities of teachers from the same grade, subject, school, or organization can interact and collaborate over time, professional development is more effective. As appropriate, PLT designs its training workshops and events to build learning communities among its program participants.  

Guiding Principle #4 – Embrace Online Tools

Online tools and technology provide powerful professional development opportunities that can be used to complement (but should not necessarily replace) face-to-face activities. PLT integrates technology in authentic and meaningful ways through the design of our curriculum materials. We also offer online courses to extend and enhance our in-person training workshops and events. 

Guiding Principle #5 – Five Core Features

Professional development best practices frequently include these five core features: integrated content & pedagogy; coherence with standards and policies; active learning opportunities; mentoring/coaching/apprenticing; and individual learning. PLT integrates these features into our training workshops and events, as appropriate for the program participants.

Guiding Principles “+” – Additional Supporting Ideas

Though not as strongly represented in the body of research, attending to the following dimensions can help increase the effectiveness of professional development: standardization versus flexibility; importance of the facilitator; pilot testing; evaluation; context; and caveats.  PLT addresses these dimensions as appropriate, given the desired learning outcomes and objectives of our training workshops and events.