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5 Steps to Choosing the Right Professional Development

5 Steps to Choosing the Right Professional Development

September 06, 2018

Have you ever left a conference or a meeting with other teachers feeling inspired, excited, and renewed? Sometimes you find the right mix of ideas and walk away with the energy you need to plan a new lesson, revisit something that isn’t working, or simply remind yourself of why you do what you do.


Those are the moments when professional development clicks, and it’s almost magical when it happens.

Unfortunately, not all professional development leaves us feeling ready to take on the world. If we end up in the wrong professional development, we can leave feeling drained and frustrated — exactly the opposite of how it’s supposed to work!

As you start setting your professional development goals and making the plans to meet them, think about these 5 steps to help make sure you get the training and inspiration that you need and deserve.

Step 1) Take a big picture look at your teaching experience.

A lot of the day-to-day work of teaching leaves our feelings about the work we do closely tied to how that day went. When a lesson plan goes well, we feel successful. When a lesson plan doesn’t work the way we’d hoped, we feel like we failed. When a struggling student has a breakthrough moment, we feel fantastic. When a student has a rough day, we carry the weight of that with us.


Before creating a professional development plan, you have to get a broader view of your teaching. Our careers will always have ups and downs, so that is more about taking stock of what works for you and where you feel less connected and sure of your approach. Consider those good and bad moments in the broader context.

Step 2) Make a list of your top 3 strengths and top 3 areas of improvement.

Professional development is not just about addressing the areas you need to improve. It’s also about leaning into your strengths and using them to create a strong foundation for the rest of your teaching. With your big picture look in mind, create a list of your top 3 teaching strengths and 3 areas in which you’d like to become more confident.

Step 3) Set some specific goals.

Take a look at the list you just made. What specific goals can you set that would help you further develop your strengths? What specific goals can you make that would help you address your areas for improvement?


For example, if you said that one of your areas to improve was being able to engage students with attention issues, how could you turn that into a specific goal? You could plan to develop scaffolding strategies that make a specific lesson plan more engaging for students with attention struggles. This makes your plan measurable and manageable. It also helps you look for resources to address it.

Step 4) Look for professional development opportunities that address your goals.

Now that you have specific goals in mind, it will be much easier to find professional development opportunities that address them. Knowing what you’re hoping to get out of the experience and how it will be immediately applicable in your teaching practice will make the experience much more meaningful and rewarding. It will also help you avoid feeling overwhelmed when you’re scanning the thousands of choices out there, and prevent you from picking something at random without knowing how it could help you.


When you look over professional development opportunities, you can use your goals to help you find keywords and paths. For instance, in our Marketplace, you will find professional development tracks addressing Classroom Culture, Curriculum Design, Instructional Leadership, Differentiated Instruction, Next Generation Science Standards, Mass Customized Learning, and Personal Growth. All of our professional development opportunities are ACT 48 and NY CTLE approved.

Step 5) Reflect and implement.

The worth of professional development is in its implementation. In order to leave with something tangible to implement and use, you will need to do some reflection and planning. Once you’re finished with the training, spend some time reflecting on what you’ve learned. This can be through writing exercises, audio recordings of your observations, or just a conversation with a colleague. Once you’ve had the chance to really think through what you’ve learned and how you can apply it, make a plan for when and how you can try it out. Remember to make your plans specific and measurable so that you can see your progress.

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