The world of education has undergone a sea change over the past 18 months. COVID-19 clearly illustrated why effective teacher professional development (PD) is so critical to the success of not only students but entire schools.

When PD is done correctly and effectively, it’s an invaluable tool for educators.

  • It keeps teachers in the classroom. Attracting and retaining skilled teachers is one of the most challenging area educators face in building and sustaining a thriving school environment.1 According to one study, one-third of teachers leave the profession within three years, and half of teachers leave within five years. Research consistently shows that teachers (particularly new teachers) who work closely with instructional coaches are more likely to remain with their schools.2,3 
  • It helps educators learn how to include more meaningful strategies in their teaching, such as problem solving, communication and collaboration, critical thinking, and social-emotional learning.
  • It benefits students. When teachers experience continuous professional learning, they obtain more of the tools to be model instructors, leading to more student success in the classroom.

Some key strategies should consistently be incorporated into teacher professional learning to make it effective. Similarly, some tactics should be avoided at all costs if the coaching and PD program are going to achieve maximum impact. At the end of the day, PD should grow educators’ skill-sets and improve student outcomes.

Let’s look at some of the Do’s and Do Nots of effective teacher PD.

  1. DO Personalize Professional Learning to Specific Teachers and Schools.

Educators in a PD or coaching session have unique challenges and situations that they want the facilitator to address. If the PD is specific to their school or classroom situations, the session will be perceived as more effective and productive. If new learning is not relevant to the individuals participating in a professional learning opportunity, it will feel like white noise.

  1. DO NOT Overly Rely on Lecture.

There’s nothing engaging about “sit and get” professional learning – listening to a facilitator talk for hours at a time. On the other hand, getting the audience involved and participating in hands-on activities and relevant exercises creates a dynamic and collaborative environment in which professional learning occurs organically.

  1. DO Schedule Ongoing Professional Learning.

“One and done” workshops and sessions can seem productive, but over time the lessons learned during one-day sessions fade. It is important to maintain ongoing professional learning to reinforce prior learning and continue fostering the routine application of best practices. Implementing best practices in the classroom takes time and practice, so providing regular supports is instrumental in enabling positive outcomes in the classroom.

  1. DO Offer Ongoing Coaching Support.

In-class coaching has proven to be a very effective way to help teachers implement new strategies in the classroom. By having a trusted coach in classroom, feedback and reflection can be nearly instantaneous. And with that immediate feedback, teachers can more effectively apply new learning to their practice. Plus, having someone there for ongoing support is key in building teacher confidence and retention.

  1. DO Set Specific, Realistic Goals…and Stay on Top of Them.

It’s difficult to experience success without setting goals. For teachers, goals should be focused on specific problems to solve or how to improve student outcomes. Having defined, achievable goals allows both teacher and coach to track progress throughout the school year and address what’s working while identifying areas for continued professional growth.

  1. DO NOT Give Up.

Professional learning is a process—if it wasn’t, it would be called “Professional Instant Change.” Development, by definition, takes time and patience. Solutions will not materialize overnight. But by sticking to goals, maintaining ongoing communication between coach and teacher, and understanding that incremental progress is success when it comes to professional learning and implementing best practices, effective professional learning can occur.

Catapult Learning’s professional development solutions emphasize personalization and collaboration. These programs include:

  • High-Impact Coaching: Our high-impact coaching solutions provide educators with the tools they need to grow their skills and build capacity while applying research-based best practices to create positive outcomes in the classroom. Through a highly collaborative and personalized coaching plan, this customized approach is specifically designed to improve conditions for teaching and learning in your schools.
  • School Transformation: These programs include a comprehensive School Needs Assessment to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. An implementation plan will identify a set of priorities and a clear road map for developing organizational capacity. Leading indicators are identified, observed, and measured to monitor whether new knowledge and skills are being applied.
  • Special Education PD: Catapult Learning, as a leading provider of special education services, is uniquely positioned to help build schools’ capacity to serve all students with behavioral and academic support needs. Our national team of experts and practitioners allows schools and districts achieve their goal of helping every student succeed.

Coaching and professional development, when done effectively, can make a true impact in your school. To learn more about our Coaching and PD solutions, download our professional learning solutions catalog or browse through our workshops.

1 Market Workshop researchWISE, “Education Needs and Attitudes,” Catapult Learning. February 4, 2019.
2,3 Linda Darling-Hammond, “Keeping Good Teachers: Why It Matters and What Leaders Can Do,” Educational Leadership 60, no. 8 (May 2003): 6-13.