Monday / June 17

Three Keys to Building Effective PD

Three Keys to Building Effective PD

As districts face challenges with a revolving door of excellent teachers, it’s time to find ways to offer sustainable, relevant, and engaging PD in and across schools.

EFFECTIVE PD displays three primary characteristics:

  1. Sustained
  2. Collaborative
  3. Active

It’s when these three characteristics are combined that real results are achieved in professional development for teachers, no matter how long they’ve been in the profession, and we can see those results in student success.


We already know that “drive-by” or “sit-and-get” PD doesn’t work. An instructor behind a podium speaking to a room of dozens of teachers who are less-than-engaged and would rather be spending their time elsewhere isn’t exactly a breeding ground for fresh ideas and bright-eyed enthusiasm.

Real, effective PD takes time. Yes, that means there’s some investment involved, but that investment is well worth it.

Did you know that teachers who receive 49 hours of PD on average can boost student achievement by up to 21%?  Contrast that with the results of studies examining the least amount of PD—somewhere between 5 and 14 hours—which showed no significant effects on student outcomes. Yikes.

Just spending one day with an external expert isn’t going to revolutionize your teaching or re-enthuse your novice teachers who’ve begun to feel disheartened, which is why it’s important to build internal capacity for sustainable PD delivery. After all, not every district can afford to bring in external speakers and professional developers multiple times a year.


Collaborative PD is a process.

Collaboration gives teachers the time and space to meet regularly in learning teams, which can be organized by grade level or by content-area. These learning teams share responsibility for their students’ success and each team pursues a cycle of continuous improvement, illustrated here:

The Collaborative PD Process

From this effort, team members will develop powerful lessons and assessments and learn how to apply new strategies in the classroom effectively.  And, with a continual process of refining those lessons and assessments, followed by educator reflection on the effect the changes have made on student learning, positive results are sure to follow.

Then, once those new strategies are in place, the whole cycle is repeated, but with updated goals.


No, I’m not going to tell you that you should go on a jog or do hot yoga or take a group hike to the nearest waterfall to meditate on your learnings while you sweat. Active learning in PD is about practicing that new knowledge and teaching skills with hands-on work.

When educators had the chance to practice their new content knowledge and teaching skills with hands-on work, they reported a greater sense of efficacy, which, as we know from the Visible Learning research by John Hattie, has the largest effect on student achievement.

“Just like students, teachers learn better when they are able to actively participate and make sense of the information being presented,” according to a report by the Center for Public Education. Some active things you could try to create active PD may include readings, roleplay, live modeling, or classroom visits.

Click here to download the full white paper:

Why “Drive-by” Professional Development Doesn’t Work

Written by

Olivia is a Marketing Specialist for Corwin Classroom books, including topics like Literacy, Mathematics, and Teaching Essentials. When not working, you can usually find Olivia reading a good book, writing her own fiction, or planning her next international trip.

Latest comments

  • So glad to read about the recommended PD methodology. For directions to create sustained, active collaborative inquiry around student work, see Collaborative Analysis of Student Learning, by Colton, Langer & Goff. 2015, published by Corwin. Very practical guidebook for creating and running study groups to inquire into the links between student learning and instruction.

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