Check out this fantastic resource for school leaders and teacher educators. The Learning Policy Institute, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond’s second act, offers fantastic fact sheets. (Though they could use some snazzier graphic design, the content is on point.) See the full post about what makes professional development effective here. In short, based on a review of 35 rigorous studies, they list the top 7 characteristics as follows:
1. Is content focused: Professional development that focuses on teaching strategies associated with specific curriculum content supports teachers’ learning within their classroom contexts. This element includes an intentional focus on discipline-specific curriculum development and pedagogies in areas such as mathematics, science, or literacy.
2. Incorporates active learning: Active learning engages teachers directly in designing and trying out teaching strategies, providing them an opportunity to engage in the same style of learning they are designing for their students. Such professional development uses authentic artifacts, interactive activities, and other strategies to provide deeply embedded, highly contextualized professional learning. This approach moves away from traditional learning models and environments that are lecture based and have no direct connection to teachers’ classrooms and students.
3. Supports collaboration: High-quality professional development creates space for teachers to share ideas and collaborate in their learning, often in job-embedded contexts. By working collaboratively, teachers can create communities that positively change the culture and instruction of their entire grade level, department, school, and/or district.
4. Uses models of effective practice: Curricular models and modeling of instruction provide teachers with a clear vision of what best practices look like. Teachers may view models that include lesson plans, unit plans, sample student work, observations of peer teachers, and video or written cases of teaching.
5. Provides coaching and expert support: Coaching and expert support involve the one-on-one sharing of expertise about content and evidence-based practices, focused directly on teachers’ individual needs.
6. Offers feedback and reflection: High-quality professional learning frequently provides built-in time for teachers to intentionally think about, receive input on, and make changes to their practice by facilitating reflection and soliciting feedback. Feedback and reflection both help teachers to thoughtfully move toward the expert visions of practice.
7. Is of sustained duration: Effective professional development provides teachers with adequate time to learn, practice, implement, and reflect upon new strategies that facilitate changes in their practice.