Numerous literature reviews have found that for professional development to be effective, it must include opportunities for the participants to actively engage with the content (Archibald et al., 2011; Darling-Hammond et al., 2017; Trivette et al., 2009). Participants must have opportunities to acquire, use, and evaluate new knowledge and relate it to current understanding. Each of the indicators in this domain help to ensure that professional development providers plan opportunities for participants to clarify their knowledge and skills, connect to the new knowledge and skills, and tie the new knowledge and skills to their workplace settings.
Small-group discussions asking participants to compare and contrast critical concepts to existing practices could be one way to start participants on the journey of engaging with the new knowledge and skills. Participants should have the opportunity to engage with the content at a state of higher-level thinking. For example, participants may analyze how the new knowledge and skills will impact student outcomes. While they are doing that, participants should also have a chance to make the learning personal by connecting it to their own context. Throughout the acquisition and learning process, participants benefit from collaborating with others. Finally, within this domain, professional development providers should be planning opportunities for the participants to apply their new learning in a meaningful way. By engaging in learning, participants expand buy-in and self-efficacy, increasing the likelihood that they will apply the learning in their contexts.
To ensure adequate engagement, the local provider and presenter need to discuss what is reasonable in the given time period. For example, in a one-hour webinar, it is not likely that participants would have enough time to practice four critical concepts. It is important to schedule adequate time for engagement, even if that requires a reduction in the number of learning targets.
The presenter should:
- Share learning targets/objectives for each critical concept, written at a level of higher-order thinking.
- Structure the agenda/time to allow for practice of each critical concept.
- Ensure that practice opportunities promote collaboration among participants.
- Connect the new knowledge and skills to previously learned material (in other words, the presenter should have knowledge of local initiatives and previous professional development that participants are likely to have participated in).
- Assist with the development of follow-up activities that allow participants to apply the new knowledge and skills (if not completed during the initial professional development, these activities can be led by a local provider after the session).
To support participants’ engagement, the local provider should:
- Ensure that there is a learning objective for each critical concept and that it is written at a level of higher-order thinking.
- Schedule a follow-up session in which participants can practice the new knowledge and skills if there is not enough time to practice during the professional development event.
- Share content-related initiatives with the presenter (for example, past districtwide professional development on phonological awareness if the presenter is providing a workshop on early literacy).
- Brainstorm with the presenter, as needed, to design activities that guide participants to practice each critical concept.
The HQPD Checklist indicators in the domain Engaging in Learning include:
The presenter describes how the content is an extension of participants’ existing knowledge/skills.
The presenter refers to content provided in previous trainings within a sequence.
The presenter prompts participants to compare and contrast critical concepts to common practices within their field(s).
Using descriptive indicators of the content/practice, participants compare and contrast these indicators to their current practices.
Participants analyze a video example of an individual implementing the practice and then discuss strengths and weaknesses of the implementation.
Participants work together to formulate definitions of intervention components, then compare their definitions to those of an expert in the content.
The presenter facilitates participants’ analysis of the critical concepts by using a graphic organizer to create a logic model of the key elements.
The presenter promotes buy-in by prompting individual responses to “I think this practice would benefit my students because …” and “A challenge that I anticipate is …” Individuals then share their responses in groups.
Participants work together in small groups to strategize ways to overcome barriers to implementation, then share their ideas with the whole group.
To create a personal connection to content, each participant shares out modifications that they would make to customize the practices while maintaining fidelity.
Participants work individually to revise an instructional plan for a student using the critical concepts, then share with their team prior to the next session in the online series.
Each participant observes and analyzes a video example related to the content and discusses the findings in pairs or small groups.
With partners, participants role-play each of the practices being taught and reflect together on insights.
Through virtual discussion boards or breakout rooms, participants build on each other’s ideas regarding the implementation of critical training concepts.
Participants have opportunities, following each learning objective covered throughout the day, to process the information in teams.
During a webinar series, local teams work together to complete application assignments between each meeting.
After receiving training on how to complete an observation, participants practice completing the observation using a video example.
The presenter has participants establish teams and practice a mock lesson using a newly learned instructional strategy.
After reviewing a data analysis skill, participants practice analyzing various graphs of data to identify areas of needed support.
After learning a coaching skill, triads practice, with one person acting as the coach, one acting as the coaching recipient, and one observing and providing feedback, switching roles throughout the practice opportunities.
Each participant modifies a lesson plan to incorporate the newly learned concepts.
Using a case study, each participant determines the best course of action as outlined in a decision tree.