5 critical components of effective PD

By Christine Burke

It’s safe to assume that as educators, we desire effective PD that feels worthy of our time. PD that is relevant to where we are professionally — and all the better if it resonates personally, too. We yearn for PD that doesn’t stop at one-day-in-time inspiration, but that gives us the tools and collaborative framework necessary to realize real change. At the end of day, why do we engage in professional development? Because we want to ensure each and every student has access to a quality, well-rounded education.

Because PD can take on such varied forms, it can be difficult to weed through the wealth of potential opportunities. Review 5 critical components we’ve found to be indicative of effective PD:

  1. Builds on existing knowledge

    The brain stores information in complex neural pathways and it can be tough to get new information integrated into those networks. Effective professional development supports learners as they integrate and connect new learning into previously stored knowledge (Willis, 2010).
  2. Offers choice

    Adult learners benefit from the same autonomy and flexibility that we afford our students. Choices can come in the form of learning progression (self-directed or prescribed), environments (virtual, in-person, or combination), and content types (text, video, audio).
  3. Values practice

    Learning should take place in a meaningful context that values experimentation with new skills.
  4. Facilitates collaboration & community

    Frequent, low-stakes, nonjudgmental conversations are essential when asking learners to make changes in practice, because they provide an open forum for collaboration and experimentation. Interacting with peers who are going through similar learning experiences aids in internalization and mastery of new learning.
  5. Provides opportunities to demonstrate learning

    Learners benefit from being able to gauge their understanding and demonstrate learning in authentic contexts.

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