The Problem with Teacher PD and How to Solve It

We have all sat through required professional development that had no impact on us. The problem with PD is that we don’t have enough choice, we don’t have enough time, and it doesn’t always meet our needs.

So, how can we create more meaningful learning opportunities for educators?

Differentiate and Provide Choice

There’s nothing worse than sitting through a required hour long session about something in which you are already skilled or doesn’t apply to your specialty. To solve this problem, many local districts have begun offering Conference Style PD, in which teachers choose from a list of sessions. Conference Style PD is great because it offers a wide variety of sessions ranging from literacy to math to technology on a variety of levels.

This is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Often times, expert teachers are asked to lead PD sessions, which is GREAT! The best sessions I’ve ever attended at any conference have been presented by fellow teachers. The problem with this model is that these expert teachers are not getting the opportunity to learn because they are leading the PD sessions. How are these expert teachers going to grow as teachers if they are not receiving PD themselves? There needs to be a balance between being a presenter and being a learner.

Flip It

School systems should be flipping professional development.

By flipping PD, teachers can complete PD when it is convenient for them. It also provides increased choice for teachers. Flipped PD allows for a greater reach for the PD leaders. Traditionally, we might cap a session at 50 participants, but with flipped PD, the information could be shared with every teacher in the county and beyond. Flipped PD can get training on new resources to teachers immediately – no need to wait for the next PD day anymore!

Book Clubs

At least four or five times over the course of my career, I’ve been given a book and told to read it – so that we would discuss it at staff meetings. Not a single one of those books were meaningful to me because it was forced learning.

A better option – let teachers choose a professional book that they’d like to read and allow teachers to create their own book clubs based on their interests. As a school, you could choose 4-5 books on a variety of topics that align with your school vision and allow teachers to create book clubs based on their interests. Instead of just purchasing one book on one topic for your entire staff, make your order based on the interests of your staff. Not only will you get more buy in, but it will create meaningful learning opportunities for your staff.

I am dying to read Invent to Learn and Teach Like a Pirate and plan on reading both this summer, but how great would it be if a whole team of teachers with similar interests read the same book. Imagine the type of change that could inspire in a school.

Need help finding a good book? Check out this list of best books for teachers by Nick Grantham.


We don’t always need the higher ups to facilitate the PD sessions, sometimes, we just need time. We need time to explore resources, read books, and have discussions with our teams.


We can’t continue teaching teachers in the same way that we always have. Our students are changing, our schools are changing, our resources are changing, and as such, we must change the way that teachers receive professional development.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Pearson,KyleD.

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