Updating the Professional Development Plan - Steve Barkley

Updating the Professional Development Plan

I was asked this week to facilitate school based teams responsible for professional development in a New Jersey school district. The NJ DOE requires each school to submit a professional development plan designed to increase student achievement. Since last year was the first for statewide implementation, schools this year are asked to evaluate current plans and modify or extend for 2011-2012 school year using this process:

I used the backwards planning / forward implementing process illustrated in the example below from Joellen Killion’s article, 8 Smooth Steps published by Learning Forward. Beginning with students’ increased achievement on the right and planning backward to leadership’s behavior… Implementation begins with the work of leadership.


1. Key leaders hold vision for project.
2. Leaders develop partnerships and plan for project.
3. Technology resources are readily available for teachers and students.
4. Teachers receive professional development that includes training, curriculum development, and support.
5. Teachers change classroom instructional practices.
6. Teachers provide inquiry and exploration based student learning activities.
7. Students engage in learning.
8. Student achievement increases.

Here are the questions that the teams explored:

• What are the student achievement goals of the current plan?
• What will students have to do to reach the achievement goals you have set?
• What teacher behaviors are most likely to generate the desired student behaviors?
• What will teachers need to learn or change?
• What did you agree to do to promote the needed teacher learning?
So far we have…
We still need to…
• How do you rate the quality of the PD experience that has occurred so far? Why?
• How will you know teacher practice is changing?
• How will you know what students do is changing?
• How will we know that student achievement has increased?

Lastly we examined:
• How can professional learning communities be part of your plan?
• How might peer coaching assist your success?

A middle school principal approached me near the end of the session to share an “aha”. He said, ”I realize that as principals we are often called to district meetings where the superintendent and central office administrators ‘speak at us’. We then return to the school, call a faculty meeting and ‘speak at the teachers’. Then we go into classrooms conducting walkthrough observations and wonder why we find teachers ‘talking at’their students.”

He realized the impact of the statement I consistently make to school leaders; ”We need to model the model”. Once you have identified the classroom culture and practices that you desire, they should be modeled in all your interactions, meetings, and professional development activities with teachers.

“The best administrators are creating a democratic environment of professional development—not dictating to teachers. Likewise, the best teachers are creating democratic classrooms. This is where the best learning takes place—in the process of making decisions together.” … Alfie Kohn

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4 Responses to “ Updating the Professional Development Plan ”

  1. terri Says:

    This is really good, Steve. It carries throughout the school culture and goes well beyond the classroom and education to embody virtues of good leadership everywhere.


    New book….?


  2. vicki Says:

    Great questions to help school professional development committees and teams focus in on targeted priorities. This needs to become a part of the supports we offer. It makes their thinking become instinctual. Thanks for taking this to the next step.


  3. Stephen G. Barkley Says:

    Vicki and Terri…. thanks for the encouragement… I was able to see the groups become quite concrete and specific in identifying how to revise their planning and process”what can we do now?”


  4. Peggy Says:

    I used this example with a group of Utah educators last week. It was very insightful for them. Thanks for the good information!

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