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Easy as 1–2–3! Three Steps to Data-Driven Professional Development


As educators, we are aware of the importance of nurturing a culture of learning both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers work tirelessly to foster a love of learning with students and develop instruction to suit their students’ needs. Similarly, the role of the instructional leader is to develop Professional Development (PD) — or professional learning experiences — for his or her staff, which in turn accomplishes the following:

  • Fosters intellectual engagement and reflection

  • Nurtures a culture of reflection

  • Responsively addresses school trends

  • Actively encourages collegiality

Many districts take beneficial steps to hold sacred time for staff development by implementing weekly or bi-weekly early release for students. Moreover, professional learning — especially data-driven professional learning — can be challenging to plan. Even the most experienced school leaders are likely to make the common mistakes below-

  • Stand-Alone Professional Learning: This refers to professional learning experiences that do not reflect school priorities, initiatives, or goals, and do not leave a lasting impression with teachers because there isn’t a plan for follow up. Similar to classroom learning, adult learning is most impactful when it is responsive to trends and content will be spiraled into future sessions.

  • “Overflow” Professional Learning: Overflow Professional Learning is professional learning that focuses on too many skills in one session. Simila

r to classroom objectives, Professional Learning outcomes must be bite-sized and manageable. They must allow sufficient time for teachers’ practice through session and demonstrate learning by the end of the session.

  • “Milk to Meat” Professional Learning: Have you ever delivered a PD, and realized some of the content went right over a few of the participants’ heads? Professional Learning must be layered, and objectives must be meaningful, manageable, and accessible to all professionals. The most important next step is to further teacher expertise in a particular area!

That said, planning data-driven PD can be quite overwhelming. However, it is important to take the time to strategically design learning opportunities to ensure they move the needle for student learning and staff expertise.

Use the three-step process below to plan your next professional learning series:

1. Establish the Goal.

Establish a marking period goal by first asking yourself two questions:

- What are our school’s yearlong goals?

- What is the most important and manageable first step to reach this yearlong goal?

Once you have answered these two questions, use baseline data to create one to two measurable goals for that report period for adult actions to directly drive to student learning!

2. Plan with the End in Mind.

Gone are the days of a one-stop shop Professional Development. A 2014 report by the Center for Public Education1 found that the most effective professional learning provided ample opportunity for teachers to acquire and grapple with a single skill in order to achieve masterful implementation. Chart the dates, topics, and goals for staff professional learning for the entire marking period. Keep PD goals bite-sized, sequential, and linked to observable planning or execution habits that drive towards the overall goal. Provide ample time between professional learning for practice, and feedback to support implementation!

3. Collect and Respond to Data

After each PD, complete a sample size of data through classroom observations and walkthroughs. Collect data on teacher actions from most recent PD and corresponding student outcomes. Following each walkthrough, reflect on the data to determine if you are on track to meet report period goals. If not, adjust the upcoming PD goal to address trends.


This process is as simple as 1–2–3! Have your PDs and workshops thus far achieved the goals that it set out to accomplish?

Use the attached template as a model to begin your plan today or contact us for a editable Microsoft Word version!

What difference do you hope to make by using these steps? Share in the comment box below- I’d love to hear from you!

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