Facilitating Meaningful Professional Development Plans for School Staff

September 6, 2022
Kelly C. Bawden, MS, CCC-SLP
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One of the biggest tasks on the school admin fall calendar is getting staff launched in the professional development cycle for the year. Professional development plans generally require that staff generate 1-3 professional development goals for themselves, and your role as their supervisor is to oversee their progress towards those goals. This can be an arduous, time-consuming task that everyone dreads, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to get to know your staff better and build capacity within your team. Read on if you’re interested in facilitating meaningful professional development plans for your staff and yourself.

Facilitating Meaningful Professional Development Plans for School Staff

Facilitate critical thinking 

It’s super easy to boilerplate these sorts of things to stay in compliance with district policies, but that serves no one (including students). Let your staff know that you’d like them to approach their goal writing as lifelong learners. Encourage them to think deeply about their work and the school community they serve. Ask them one or more of these questions to get them thinking about areas they might want to focus on for their professional development plan:

  • What is unique about the school or the student population they serve?
  • What are you curious about?
  • What is something you wish you were better at?
  • What is something you would like direct feedback about? 
  • What are you professionally passionate about?
  • What are your professional ambitions?
  • What is your 5-year professional plan?

Once they have answers, help them move from the broad topics (“I wish I were better at data collection,” “I’m passionate about early reading success,” “I want to get my admin license someday,”) to a more narrow goal (“I will develop a data collection system that allows me to get data at progress report time quickly,” “I will enhance my understanding of best practices for SLPs to support emerging readers,” “I will learn about my options for completing admin coursework while working full time.”). This gut-level teacher reflection format is a neat approach to get the broad topic thoughts flowing. This is a great professional development plan goal-writing framework from Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. Remember, the key here is not just to check the boxes but to help your staff grow so that they can better serve students

Facilitate a useful meeting

We’re all perpetually crunched for time, and nothing is worse than a meaningless meeting when you’ve got 3 million irons in the fire. It can even be tempting to skip a face-to-face meeting altogether, but there is tremendous value in engaging in a focused, collaborative dialogue when doing this work. Let each staff member know that you’ve blocked out a set amount of time where you will focus on them and their professional development plan individually, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Set your meeting date and time, then share the above questions with them with the expectation that they will have thought about them and have some answers in mind. Depending on how long your meeting will be, you can even ask them to draft their goals before the time together. Then spend your face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) time digging in, clarifying, refining, and finalizing the goals and the plan. Use your time together to do only what can’t be accomplished via email or collaboration on shared docs. End your meeting by setting clear goal-oriented action steps and due dates for you and your staff member.

Facilitate learning and accountability

You have a unique viewpoint as the person overseeing the professional development plans for multiple staff members. Therefore, you can see patterns and opportunities for collaborative learning that no one else can. Are there several people on your team who wrote goals pertaining to a particular skill set or subject area? Maybe it makes sense to bring in an outside PD provider to address that topic or to start a topic-specific book club for the year. Is there a seasoned staff member who wants to improve their mentorship skills and someone newer to their career? Connect them and allow them to support one another in their professional goals. Connecting peers with shared purpose and goals builds accountability structures and strengthens relationships within your team.

Professional development plans may never be anyone’s favorite part of the school year, but since you have to do them, make them worthwhile for everyone involved!