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Professional Development, Professional Improvement, and Instructional Coaching

Professional Development, Professional Improvement, and Instructional Coaching

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, students will be able to define and demonstrate an understanding of professional development and improvement.

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Welcome, I'm Tricia Fyfe. And in today's lesson, we'll look at the lesson titled, "Professional Development, Professional Improvement, and Instructional Coaching." As we learn about this topic, we will work toward several learning objectives and together in this video lesson we'll use the following two questions to guide our learning. First, what are the similarities and differences between professional development and professional improvement? And last, what are the connections between professional development and instructional coaching?

As teachers, it's extremely important for us to continue learning and growing. We must take advantage of professional development or professional growth opportunities, as they can offer us chances to enhance our skills in the classroom, make improvements in our teaching, and learn more about instruction and methods. As teachers, we can drive these development opportunities ourselves or at times, professional development is change-driven. Maybe your school is implementing a specific strategy.

In this attempt to improve in our profession, it's critical to create and follow professional development plans. These development plans may be established for teachers that are new to the profession, teachers on corrective plans because they're struggling in one or more areas, teachers who are implementing new strategies, teachers who are part of a peer-based professional learning community-- and that community is working towards goals derived from that context-- and teachers who want to develop new skills or otherwise grow professionally.

Let's talk about professional improvement plans next. When a teacher struggles in an area and an evaluator identifies a specific need, they might be put on a corrective plan. If this is the case, a development plan, often called a professional improvement plan, is put into place for that teacher. These plans outline the area or areas of need with regard to that teacher's performance and areas that need improvement, as well as developmental goals and benchmarks to get to those goals, and steps and strategies to assist in this process.

Often, instructional coaching is put into place to support this teacher in development and application of the skills that are needed. The goal here is for this teacher to develop these skills and become successful in the classroom, and increasing student achievement levels. It's important to note that feedback is such a great tool for us as teachers. Accepting and using this feedback to develop professional development plans is beneficial and does not always indicate that the teacher is on a corrective or professional improvement plan. Regardless of the nature and type of plan, the goal for these two professional plans-- both development and improvement plans-- is to better the teacher.

Goals of professional development plans and professional improvement plans is what we'll discuss next. There are many common goals for professional development plans and professional improvement plans alike. These common goals include improvement of a teacher's skills, such as development of new methods for instruction, enabling teachers to apply appropriate and diverse skills and strategies, and supporting teachers in their creativity, their ability to take risks, and new skills.

Another common goal is that these plans support individual school and district goals, such as offering an approach to ongoing education. That applies to the individual, the school, and the district, as well as supporting individual educators, district and school goals, and initiatives. These goals and initiatives must be supported by the district and administration, be funded sufficiently, and should include ample time for planning.

Let's add instructional coaching into the mix. Professional development can also include instructional coaching. The main goal of instructional coaching is to improve both teachers' knowledge and their skills. Instructional coaches are sometimes individuals hired by the school or district to act solely as a coach. In this case, these individuals do not teach and instead, spend their time in the classrooms of teachers that they work with. They observe model lessons and techniques and give feedback.

Other schools and districts use peer coaching as their coaching model. This is when classroom teachers fill the role of coach for each other. Sometimes these relationships are formed within grade levels, within professional learning communities, or at times, they're established between single colleagues that develop a strong relationship. Remember the goal regardless of the type of coach is to assist and support teachers in professional development.

This coaching can be integrated into a professional development plan, as well as a professional improvement plan or corrective plan. Professional development goals can and should be aligned with instructional coaching needs. While this coaching relationship is beneficial, it does not last forever. When the teacher is successful in goals, the relationship ends, and the teacher is able to independently reach all students through these improved instructional skills and classroom management strategies.

So let's talk about what we learned today. We looked at the questions what are the similarities and differences between professional development and professional improvement, as well as what are the connections between professional development and instructional coaching. In today's lesson, we compared professional development plans and professional improvement plans.

Remember, professional development plans are aimed at supporting the teacher by promoting continued growth and development. This is important for each and every teacher. Professional improvement plans are created for teachers that are struggling in specific areas and are aimed at that teacher getting back on track, by giving the teacher skills and knowledge needed to make appropriate improvements. These both have very common goals, and they can both benefit by adding the component of instructional coaching.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect for a moment. What are the benefits to each of these plans, professional development and professional improvement? What might the challenges be in this process of implementing or following each of these plans? Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson "Professional Development, Professional Improvement, and Instructional Coaching." I hope you found value in this video lesson and are able to apply these ideas and resources to your very own teaching.

For more information on how to apply what you've learned in this video, please the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The Additional Resources section includes hyperlinks, useful for applications of this course material, including a brief description of each resource.

Notes on “Professional Development, Professional Improvement, and Instructional Coaching”


(00:00- 00:31) Introduction/Objectives

(00:32- 01:34) Professional Development Plans

(01:35- 02:45) Common Goals

(02:46- 03:41) Professional Improvement Plans

(03:42- 05:00) Professional Development, Improvement, and Instructional Coaching

(05:01- 05:46) Recap

(05:47- 06:32) Reflection 

Additional Resources

Optional Teacher Professional Development Plan (PDP) Template and Sample PDP

The New Jersey Department of Education has developed a helpful guide and template for teachers to use in creating their professional development plans. Although the plan is aligned to NJ standards, the process and template can be easily modified.

Creating a Professional Development Plan

This guidebook from Educause includes useful templates, planning resources, and monitoring tools to track your progress toward meeting your professional development goals.