Archived Information

CPRE Policy Brief: Helping Teachers Teach Well: Transforming Professional Development - June 1995

A Framework for Reviewing
Professional Development Policies and Practices

A. How is professional development defined by teachers, district administrators, state officials, and legislators? How is it defined in collective bargaining agreements and in law and regulation?
  • What activities fall within these definitions? What falls outside of them?
  • Are prevailing definitions consistent with current thought about high-quality professional development?
  • Is participation in professional tasks that leads to acquisition of new knowledge or skills treated as professional development?
  • How much responsibility for professional development is placed on the teacher, on the school, and on the district?
  • Who decides the amount and content of professional development?

B. What growth opportunities are being provided for teachers?

  • Is support provided for beginning teachers?
  • Are growth opportunities built into teachers' workdays?
  • Do teachers have regular opportunities to work together?
  • Are teachers performing professional or administrative tasks requiring significant skills ?
  • Do the state colleges and universities provide appropriate courses accessible to all teachers?
  • How much time is set aside for professional development?
  • Do these opportunities vary across districts, schools, and grade levels?

C. What are the incentives for teachers to participate in professional development and to improve their practice?

  • Is professional development linked to personnel evaluation and recertification?
  • Do districts reimburse college tuition for graduate study?
  • Are salary increments linked to professional development?
  • Does professional growth bring increased responsibility, status, or recognition?
  • How do the incentives affect teachers in different locales, grade levels, or career stages?

D. Who sponsors and provides formal professional development?

  • What are the roles played by schools, districts, immediate units, institutions of higher education, state education agencies, and/or professional associations?
  • Is there collaboration among these agencies to improve quality and reduce redundancy?

E. What is known about the effects of existing policies and programs?

  • Are evaluations conducted?
  • Are there data on participation rates by categories of activity and teachers?
  • Are there data linking specific experiences with changes in practice and/or improvements in student performance?

F. How is professional development planned and coordinated?

  • Is there a state plan(s) and are there state priorities?
  • Do schools and/or districts have to develop plans? If so, what are the criteria for approving the plans?
  • Are local professional development activities tied to school improvement?
  • Is there coordination of activities within the state agency and between K-12 and higher education?
  • Is there coordination among providers?

G. What is regarded as "good practice" in professional development?

  • Are there "standards" or guidelines?
  • What do the outstanding districts do?
  • What do the "best" providers do?
  • What activities do teachers feel have the most value?
  • How do these "good practices" match up with proposed standards, and what is known about their impact on practice?

H. How is professional development funded?

  • How much is allocated for direct state and local expenditures on professional development?
  • What is the cost of tuition reimbursements? of conference and workshop expenses?
  • What is the cost of teacher salary increments resulting from educational experiences?
  • How much do teachers personally spend on professional development?
  • How much instructional time is lost annually? What is its cost?
  • What state subsidies are given to providers of professional development?

I. How is professional development linked to the improvement of teaching and to the changes in standards, curriculum, and assessment envisioned by systemic reform?

  • Are teachers required to develop professional improvement plans?
  • Are teacher salary increments dependent on the job-relatedness of the activities?
  • Are state initiatives to set standards and develop curriculum frameworks and new assessments supported by appropriate professional development?

J. To what extent are current activities consistent with principles for effective professional development? Do they:

  • Stimulate and support site-based initiatives?
  • Support teacher initiatives as well as school or district initiatives?
  • Build programs on the knowledge base about teaching?
  • Offer teachers opportunities to be active learners?
  • Offer intellectual engagement with ideas, materials, and colleagues?
  • Demonstrate respect for teachers as professionals and as adult learners?
  • Provide for sufficient time and follow-up support for teachers to master new strategies and content, and integrate them into their practice?
  • Ensure that professional development is accessible and inclusive?