Professional Development for School Staff
First Edition
By: Adrienne Cox and Stacy White

Second Edition
By: Maryellen McClain and Ashley Schwartz


"Professional Development is generally referred to as ongoing learning opportunities available to teachers and other education personel through their school and districts. Effective professional development is often seen as vital to school success and teacher satisfaction..."

Why is Professional Development Important?


Sustaining Professional Development

Stefan Zehetmeier (2010 [1] ) discuses how the intent of many professional development trainings is to produce affects that will translate to student outcomes and achievement. While the short-term effects may be more present in the thinking process, practitioners should also be thinking about the long-term effects and how short-term and long-term effects can be considered sustainable. Sustainability relates to a lasting continuation of achievement, benefits, and effects of a project or initiative that last long past its termination. When planning for projects and considering the professional development, sustainable impact should be considered at the beginning of project and additionally a discussion should occur regarding potential unintended effects and unanticipated consequences unknown at the beginning stages. Researchers have found that sustainability is often overlooked or missing due to lack of materials, financial and personal resources. It is important to have the discussion and make a key priority of how you are going to sustain, keep going, and make the effects last through professional development efforts.

In the Zehetmeier 2010 article, a figure is presented that illustrates factors discussed "that promote and foster the impact of professional development projects" [2] .


Teachers: Ownership, Leadership, Inquiry Stance

Facilitators: Knowledge, Trust, Inquiry Stance

Programme: Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, Inquiry-Based Learning, Networking, Relative Advantage, Compatibility, Complexity, Trialability, Observability, Duration, Follow-Up Support, Evaluation, Dissemination

Context: Administrative Support, Resources, Beyond-School Support

What Makes Professional Development Effective?
Research from Michael S. Garet, Andrew C. Porter, Laura Desimone, Beatrice F. Birman, & Kwang Suk Yoon. [3]

Researchers Garet, et al. (2001) presented in their research design measures consistent with high-quality professional development focusing on structural features - "characteristics of the structure or design of professional development activities" and core features - "dimensions of the substance or core of the professional development experience" (p. 919).

3 Structural Features:

1. Type of Activity (i.e. workshops, institutes, courses, conferences, reform activities, new models of induction – for support of new teachers)

  • Traditional forms of professional development are widely criticized for being insufficient in providing staff with sufficient time, activities, and content to increase the teacher’s knowledge and foster the environment for meaningful change within practice.
  • Reform based professional development is a new direction many are taking for professional development because it generally takes place during the regular school day potentially as a part of classroom instruction or during regularly scheduled teacher planning time through use of mentors and coaches.

“By locating opportunities for professional development within a teacher’s regular work day, reform types of professional development may be more likely than traditional forms to make connections with classroom teaching, and they may be easier to sustain over time” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 921).
  • New models of induction to support new teachers could be in the form of mentoring beginning teachers with the veterans through peer observation and coaching, local study groups, networks across subject matters, ongoing seminars and c
ourses tied to practice, and interschool visitations.

2. Duration

“Almost all of the recent literature on teacher learning and professional development calls for professional development that is sustained over time” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 921).
Important elements of a focus on duration:

  • Longer activities provide opportunities for in-depth discussion of content, student conceptions/misconceptions, and sharing of pedagogical strategies.
  • With activities scheduled overtime, teachers are more likely to try out new ideas and practices in their classroom and receive the feedback on performance in the classroom.

3. Collective Participation
A collective approach allows for groups of teachers from the same school, department, or grade level to attend professional development together, which has a few advantages:

  • Provides an opportunity for teachers to discuss concepts, skills, and problems that arise during the professional development training.
  • If teachers are from similar area (school, department, or grade level) they can share “common curriculum materials, course offerings and assessment requirement.”
  • If students are shared among the teachers, student needs can be discussed across classes and grade levels.
  • With an emphasis of teacher grouping from the same school, this may help in the process of sustaining changes in practice over time.
  • Promotes opportunity for debate and personal professional growth in improving understanding.

Research has shown that a collective approach can be effective in changing teacher practice (Garet et al., 2001).
3 Core Features:
1. Content Focus

Research suggests that “content covered during professional development varies along at least four dimensions” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 923):

  1. Activities vary in emphasis given to the subject matter teachers are expected to teach and the methods they are expected to use.
  2. Some focus on helping teachers use particular curriculum materials or prescribed teaching materials, while others focus on general principals with less of an emphasis on curriculum or strategies.
  3. Activities that help teachers improve student basic skills performance (e.g. memorizing facts and mastering procedural skills) or focus on improving students’ conceptual understanding.
  4. Activities can also vary in emphasis of the way students learn particular subjects. This can be seen through improving teachers understanding of how student learn or through providing activities that “focus primarily on new curricular or teaching methods, while giving little attention to the way students learn” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 924).

2. Active Learning

Provides the opportunity for teachers to “become actively engaged in meaningful discussion, planning, and practice” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 925).
This can be seen through the following opportunities:

  • Observe expert teachers, be observed teaching in their own classroom, and get feedback from the expert teachers.
  • Link ideas introduced at the professional development to the teacher’s work context.
  • Examining and reviewing student work. Discussion of student work can assist in designing lessons at the proper instructional level. (*This may be a step to take under Tier 1 of a RTI framework.)
  • May provide opportunities for teachers “to give presentations, lead discussions, and produce written work” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 926).

3. Coherence

“A professional development activity is more likely to be effective in improving teachers’ knowledge and skills if it forms a coherent part of a wider set of opportunities for teacher learning and development” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 927).
Ask whether the activity is building on earlier activities and is followed up with later more advance work.
Since teachers receive guidance on what and how to teach from multiple sources (i.e. national, state, local frameworks, standards, and assessments) they can facilitate teachers’ efforts to improve teaching practice. If they conflict this could create conflict and tensions impeding teacher efforts.
Activities can “promote communication among teachers who are engaged in efforts to reform their teaching in similar ways” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 928). Ongoing communication can encourage sharing of ideas and reinforce the idea that in time changeand improvement is possible.

Making Time for Teacher Professional Development

Ideas For Making Time[2]

1) Free up time by using teaching assistants, college interns, parents, and administrators to cover classes
2) Regularly scheduled early release days
3) Restructured or rescheduled time lengthening school days four days a week, with early release on day five
4) Use regular staff meetings or district meetings for professional development
5) Common time scheduling common planning periods for colleagues with similar professional development needs
6) Block scheduling
The Future of Professional Development: Synergy, Technology, and Teacher Professional Development[3]
The Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT) has initiated the Synergy Project, which was introduced in 2000 in an effort to study collaborative approaches that allow the members of a particular community (e.g. school professionals) to be
tter leverage their collective work. Within this project, one of their many focal points is teacher professional development. The authors describe the many ways advancements in technology can improve professional development. First, Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to use Technology(P^3), which is sponsored by the Department of Education, is just one of the mentioned resources that benefit teacher professional development. P^3 seeks to develop future teachers who will be able to integrate technology in their practice. Another example is seen in the Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Settings, which is a partnership between Northwestern University, University of Michigan, and the Chicago and Detroit Public Schools to adapt innovative, technology-rich middle school science curricula for use in urban classrooms.These resources and other technological advances facilitate collaboration within the teacher education community, and support the preservice to in-service transition
In addition to more national examples of how technology contributes to professional development, educators in Indiana have the opportunity to be exposed to a number of useful resources to enhance their knowledge and skills through online professional development related to special education. The Effective Evaluations Resource Center (EERC) is a resource center through Indiana State University and offers professional development, technical assistance, and resource materials to help educators, student assistance professionals, and families ensure the evaluation processes are compliant, meaningful, and appropriate.

Finally, another resource called the Teacher Learning Community is a helpful tool for teacher professional development that is only available due to technological gains in the US. This resource is described in the video below, but please visit their website for more information.

Professional Development for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

The student population is U.S. schools is continuously changing with more students representing different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Unfortunately, in terms of culture and language, educational professionals and the student population do not share the same representation. As a result, many schools have recognized that cultural competence development is an important to develop in order to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds are receiving appropriate educations. Utilizing professional development is an excellent way to ensure that educators develop the knowledge, skills, and cultural competencies to effectively work with students from diverse backgrounds. The Center for Applied Linguistics provides a number of examples of schools that have successfully implemented professional development for teachers of linguistically diverse students. In addition they provide the following key conditions for the implementation of successful professional development:
1. District and school policies must support coherent and integrated professional development2. District and school leadership must make student, teacher, and organizational learning a priority 3. There must be sufficient time and resources for promising professional development

Indiana University School of Education partners with Indianapolis Public Schools in a professional development experience for teachers of students who are English language learners.

Best Practices: Implementing 3-Tiered Model of Academic and Behavior Supports Through Sustained Professional Development and Technical Assistance
Research from Stephanie A. Stollar, Karen R. Schaeffer, Seena M. Skelton, Karen C. Stine, Alicia Lateer-Huhn, & Rita L. Poth [4]

"Successful system change requires a long-term commitment to high quality professional development that explicitly builds knowledge and skills needed for accurately implementing innovations that have been shown to be effective in similar situations"
(Stollar et al., 2008, p. 876)
Skill sets and knowledge practitioners (school psychologists) need to foster continuous system improvements include: "system-level change, collaborative strategic planning..., collection and use of universal screening data, implementation of research-based culturally responsive practices for improving reading and behavior outcomes, program evaluation, consultation, coaching, teaming, and planning and delivering high quality professional development" (Stollar et al., 2008, p. 876).[4]
High quality professional development:

  • consists of strong content, that fits within the current context
  • uses processes that have been shown to result in desired learning outcomes
  • focuses on proven or promising prevention models
  • prepares educators with skills to engage in frank conversations about system bias related to race, ethnicity, social economic status, English language proficiency, and disability.

Focus on Systems Change

When schools are moving toward a three-tired model of service delivery it is important that everyone is on the same page regarding the model's components and support across all levels. Additionally, the professional development should be carefully sequenced and directed at all levels of the system involved in the change process. In instances where educational innovations are not implemented at a deeper level and sustained over time is due in part to the views of the innovation. Unless the system is analyzed prior to the implementation for the contextual fit with the new model or practice, the innovation can be viewed as an extension to current systems and as a result will not be properly implemented. With a change of systems, the implementation of a three-tired model will have an impact on other systems (i.e. assessment system, interactions with family members, and decision-making systems). Keeping that in mind, staff should identify and analyze systems that could interact prior to and during implementation of a three-tired model to increase effectiveness of instructional supports.

Collaborative Strategic Planning

Purpose: create a healthy school system defined by achieving academic and behavioral outcomes similar to what is seen in the 3-tier model.

Essential Content for Professional Development:

  • Steps of CSP (see Figure 1 below)
  • How to use data to answer questions at each step

Practice the process with school and district data during training sessions, school-based team meetings:

  • Use of student data allows the team to create a usable action plan by the end of the training period
  • Increases motivation through working on concerns your school is facing

Provide ongoing modeling and feedback through coach or consultant.

  • Should occur on-site
  • Consistent coaching or consultation on the process
  • Required over time until CSP can be supported independently when coaches or consultants are no longer present.


Key Features of an Effective Integrated Model

As noted in the chapter, Ohio's three tiers of academic and behavioral supports for students rests on an effective integration of the 6 key features that are shown below. As seen in the chapter as well, with these features at the base of the model of a cone-formatted 3-tier model emerges rather than the tradition two-dimensional pyramid or triangle (see p.881 in chapter).


ConsultationA coach can "work collaboratively with those in the system using the problem-solving process to address specific system-level problems and increase the ability of the system to solve future problems" (Stollar et al., 2008, p. 883). Focused on system-level assistance, different from classroom-level coaching, the coach models the CSP process, as noted above, and facilitates "the development and implementation of action plans that result from the leadership team engaging in the CSP process" (Stollar et al., 2008, p. 883).

Researchers Stollar et al. (2008, p. 883) have noted that "professional development that does not involve on-site follow up is no longer seen as effective for improving student outcomes."

Professional Networking Opportunities
Professional Networking Opportunities is one avenue that can provide needed ongoing support for improvement at all levels of the system involved. Goals include: 1) "encouraging those who are implementing a three-tiered model to learn from each other and share resources," 2) "providing support for role specific issues," 3) "celebrating success and steps toward success," and 4) "developing communities of practice for the purpose of improving implementation" (Stollar et al., 2008, p. 883). Supports can serve as reminders to why change is necessary, motivators, help direct thinking in a systematic manner.

Planning for Sustainability


In order for this model to be sustained over time, it must be implemented with integrity at all system levels, it must spread within and outside of the district, and the district should take ownership and knowledge of the model. From the beginning of planning stages for implementing a new model of system change, the topic of sustainability should be in the conversation and must be planned out and overtly discussed. Once plans are developed, they should be reviewed for the ability to promote deep implementation, spread of the model, and internal ownership of the model. These key features are needed for sustainability over time.

Professional Development components that promote sustainability:

  • From the beginning of implementation an explicit discussion and planning should occur to transfer the knowledge and ownership of the model to practice. Support should come from internal coaches with any needed materials. Modeling the facilitation of CSP and providing opportunities to practice with feedback should also occur.
  • Opportunities to network an encourage schools to spread the model will be a method schools can take ownership in and promote student outcomes.
  • “Explicit training for depth of implementation and providing school personnel with training and tools to measure the extent of implementation and student performance outcomes” (Stollar et al., 2008, p. 883).
  • Evaluation of professional development including depth of implementation and student achievement progress.
  • Attending to and creating infrastructure within the district to sustain high achievement for all students through the use of the 3-tired model.

Professional Development and Response to Intervention (RTI)


In relation to RTI, Kratochwill and colleagues (2007) note that professional development is a key component to the success implementation and sustainability of this model. Educational staff who are chiefly responsible for the successful and continued adoption of RTI require professional development across several areas of practice, which may include:
  • classroom management
  • evidence-based prevention and intervention practices (academic and behavioral)
  • academic screening, assessment and progress monitoring
According to the authors, research findings suggest that the effect of teacher-related variables on student academic outcomes is second only to the influence of home-related variables. Thus, “professional development is no longer just about the transmission of content knowledge and skills; effective professional development must result in changes in student outcomes” (p.622).

It is important to note that change in student outcomes as the primary criteria for assessing the effectiveness of professional development is also the ultimate criterion for evaluating the effectiveness of RTI efforts(Kratochwill et al., 2007, p.622)

Kratochwill et al. (2007) highlight two categories of components that have been found to influence the quality of professional development (Porter et al., 2000):


Social Networking and Professional Development

Education Week: Chat: Social Networking and Teacher Professional Development
Thursday, Nov. 12, 4:30-5:30pm Eastern Time - Click on the link above to see the whole chat.

"Tools like Moddle and Ning and Twitter, blogs and wikis, podcasts and vodcasts,have opened up a wealth of opportunities for teachers to learn from others - and each other." - Karl Fisch
Social Networking as Professional Development

This link discusses how blogging is growing in use as a personal and professional development tool because it provides the opportunity for engagement in really meaningful conversations about education - something that is possibly lacking in traditional professional development models.

Professional Development in Action

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) 2011 Annual Convention


Satisfaction -Related Professional Development

Tim Farrow and Janelle Maxson




[7] [5]


[[|Improving Impacts of Classrooms: Professional Development and Classroom Observation - From University of Virginia[6] ]]

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) 2009 Annual Convention

Designing and Conducting Exceptional Professional Learning to Create Lasting Change
Lynnae L. Psimas, Michelle Avila Bolling, Allison Schwartz, Kizzy Albritton, Stephen D. Trusco

As a part of their mini-skills presentation, the follow handouts were development for professional learning purposes. In terms of thinking about sustainability and creating lasting change these handout could be useful in facilitating that process:

Components and Enactment
external image msword.png Component_Enactment.doc

Framework for Training Handout
external image msword.png Framework_for_Training_template[1].doc
Framework for Training
external image msword.png Framework for Training.doc
The Components in Action
external image msword.png Nasp_worksheet.doc

Professional Development Strategies



RTI Action Network: Professional Development
Through a range of media, a variety of supports and resources are available to facilitate staff this learning process of implementing RTI with fidelity:

National Center on Response to Intervention (RTI)
If you ever have to do a professional development workshop for school staff on what RTI is and how to implement, this website would serve as a good resource to assist you in that process.


Colorado Department of Education RTI Professional Development Continuum
The continuum serves as a nice model for finding a focus for your professional development at various levels (building, intermediate, and advanced) when implementing RTI.

Wrightslaw: Response to Intervention

With the new IDEA 2004 laws and growing use of Response to Intervention, there are changes in the process for identifying learning disabilities. This site provides a number of resources to support and inform those involved in the process. When thinking about professional development it is important to incorporate laws and policies into training to ensure correct procedures are being followed.This site overall provides a number of special education court cases that could serve as use as well.


Boston, MA 02125-3393

  1. ^ Zehetmeier, S. (2010). Sustainability of professional development. INRP. Paper Retrieved
  2. ^ Zehetmeier, S. (2010). Sustainability of professional development. INRP. Paper Retrieved
  3. ^ Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38, (4), pp. 915-945.
  4. ^Stollar, S. A., Schaeffer, K. R., Skelton, S. M., Stine, K. C., Lateer-Huhn, A., & Poth R. L. (2008). Best practices in professional development: An integrated, three-tier model of academic and behavior supports. In A. Thomas, & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best Practices in School Psychology V (pp. 875-886). Bethesda, MD: The National Association of School Psychologists.
  5. ^

    Kratochwill, T. R., Volpiansky, P., Clements, M., & Ball, C. (2007). Professional development in implementing and sustaining multitier prevention models: Implications for response to intervention. School Psychology Review, 36(4), 618-631.
  6. ^

    Farrow, T., & Maxson, J. (2011) Re: Satisfaction With RTI-Related Professional Development [Electronic Poster]. Retrieved from
  7. ^

    Castillo, J. (2009). Re: The Relationship Between Systematic Professional Development and Educators’ Beliefs and Perceived RtI Skills: Preliminary Findings [Electronic Presentation]. Retrieved from
  8. ^

    Psimas, L. L., Bolling, M. A., Schwartz, A., Albritton, K, & Truscott, S. D. (2009). Re: Designing and Conducting Exceptional Professional Learning to Create Lasting Change [Mini Skills Presentation]. Retrieved from
  9. ^

    Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) (n.d.). On-site professional development: professional development activities. Retrieved from

  1. ^


  2. ^ Abdal-Haqq, I. (1996) Making time for teacher professional development. ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. Retrieved from
  3. ^ Baumgartner, E., and Hsi, S. (2002). Cilt2000: Synergy, technology, and teacher professional development. Journal of Science Education and Technology. 11(3), 311-315.
  4. ^ Stollar et al., 2008
  5. ^ National Association of School Psychologists. 2011 nasp convention handouts. Retrieved from
  6. ^ National Association of School Psychologists. 2011 nasp convention handouts. Retrieved from