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Aligning Professional Development in Context

Aligning Professional Development in Context

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, students evaluate the importance of aligning strategic and school improvement goals to professional development plans.

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In this tutorial, we'll discuss the importance of aligning professional development plans to both district strategic plans and school improvement plans. We'll begin with an overview of professional development alignment, and then we'll take a closer look at aligning PD to district and site-based initiatives. Finally, we'll look at a specific example. Let's get started.

Let's begin by speaking in general terms about professional development alignment. When you are creating a professional development plan, there are many different areas of alignment that you can consider. Professional development might be aligned to professional teacher standards, for example, the ISTE or ISTE teacher standards.

It may be aligned to teacher evaluation rubrics or to site-based and district-based initiatives or improvement plans. Or professional development may be aligned to relevant theories including adult learning theories, networked learning theory, sociocultural learning theory, and situated learning theory.

With all of these possibilities for alignment, it can be really helpful to take a look at the overall picture. Just like site-based initiatives need to be aligned to the district strategic plan, both individual professional development and school-wide professional development need to be aligned to those site-based initiatives. And furthermore, any individual professional development goals that are created also need to be aligned to the appropriate school-wide professional development goals.

So let's discuss a couple of these elements in a little more detail. Let's begin with district strategic plans. A district strategic plan is created by first developing what we call a strategic roadmap. This roadmap provides the direction for the schools as they work together with the district to improve student achievement. That's the overarching goal of the strategic plan.

That finished strategic plan then helps to guide the selection of the desired student achievement outcomes. And also, it helps to guide the process of identifying the resources that are going to be necessary to achieve those desired student achievement goals. And those resources would include professional development.

It's important that district strategic goals are written in a student-centered manner. They often will include details about the rigorous content that is going to be implemented, the instructional strategies that will be used, and again, those very specific student achievement outcomes that are desired. So all of these elements make the district's strategic goals very relevant to our professional development.

The strategic goals that are identified by a district need to be formalized and approved by the school board. And after that, it becomes the responsibility of each individual school or program or site in the district to develop their own set of goals that are aligned with those district goals and district initiatives. This supports the idea that all of the sites in the district are going to be working together in order to ensure that the district's strategic initiatives are followed through on and ultimately achieved.

So when each of the sites in the district is developing their goals, these goals will generally include some professional development goals that again are aligned back to the district goals. And it's important to note that even those schools might be using site-based management, which gives them a definite level of autonomy, it still is a best practice for any site-based initiatives to align back to the mission and goals and vision of that overarching district strategic plan.

And again, remember, individual professional development plans are going to also need to be aligned to any of those identified school or program or site goals.

So once again, here's a diagram that can really help us to see the overall picture. Just as site-based initiatives are aligned to the district strategic plan, both individual professional development goals and school-wide professional development goals are aligned with those site-based initiatives. And furthermore, individual professional development needs to be aligned to school-wide professional development.

So keep in mind that if you are designing a professional development activity at the school level, that activity needs to align to both the school-wide professional development goals and any site-based goals.

So let's take a look at an example. This professional development plan for a middle school staff member includes action steps related to two separate goals-- aligning curriculum to common core standards and enhancing instruction with technology. Note that this plan outlines the alignment to both site goals and district goals.

This plan focuses on a site goal that reads, staff will demonstrate professional growth through professional development focused on research-based instructional strategies that support student achievement and college and career readiness.

This plan is aligned with two separate district-wide goals including all students will graduate ready for college or career and staff will use research-based instructional strategies to improve student achievement.

Indicating site-based initiative alignment and district initiative alignment right away at the beginning of your plan is a great way for you to stay focused as you add in details to your plan so that you can always be sure that the action steps and the related details that you're adding really do support the site goal and the district goal that you have identified.

So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Consider whether your current professional development plan is aligned to both your school or site professional development goals, to any site-based initiatives in your building, and to the overarching district goals or district strategic plan. If not, consider making changes to ensure that all of these pieces are aligned with one another.

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Aligning Professional Development in Context"

(00:00 - 00:24) Introduction

(00:25 - 01:05) PD Alignment

(01:06 - 05:03) Aligning to District & Site-Based Initiatives

(05:04 - 06:22) Example

(06:23 - 07:12) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Creating Effective District Professional Development Plans 

This tool guides the creation of district professional development plans linked to initiatives and SMART goals.

Strategy #4: Investing in Professional Development

This is a useful and informative page from the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory's Strategies for Success: Implementing a Comprehensive School Reform System.