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On the Right Track

Develop Your Professional Development Plan by Evaluating Student Achievment

by Barbara Bray

Published May 2001 | vol 23 | No 5 | OnCUE Newsletter (Professional Development Column)

Linking the technology professional development program with improving student achievement provides teachers an effective action plan that teachers can use. To do this, teachers along with key members of the school community contribute to a shared vision that defines where students need to be to become successful learners.

Student data with evidence and anecdotal conversations about the status of their students provides a reality check for teachers that helps determine if the student program is on the right track. A successful professional development program involves planning how the school integrates technology as part of the student program starting with where students are now to the vision of where they will be in the future. The action plan for the professional development program needs to be a key part of the school’s improvement goals and plans. (Bernhardt, 1994) Planning for the action plan needs to be based on improving student achievement.

A Plan should address the following stages:

  1. Assess the Current Status of Students
  2. Assess Teachers’ Use of Technology
  3. Create a Complete Inventory of Resources
  4. Use Performance and Content Standards
  5. Develop a Shared Vision
  6. Model and Demonstrate Curriculum Projects that use Technology
  7. Facilitate Curriculum Mapping
  8. Develop Individual Learning Plans
  9. Design an Action Plan
  10. Evaluate Effectiveness on an Ongoing Basis

Assess the Current Status of Students
Everyone wants students to emerge from school with a good repertoire of knowledge, well-developed skills, and an understanding of the meaning, significance, and use of what they have studied. (Wiske, 1997) Last month’s column on becoming knowledge managers explained that knowledge is information on tap (Bray, 2001). A student has knowledge when they can reproduce it when asked. To know whether a student can write a persuasive essay on a position on slavery, the teacher will ask them to produce a sample of their writing. The student may have learned the mechanics of how to write the essay, but they may not understand the issues of slavery well enough to build an argument. To know if students really understand the content involves quantitative and qualitative measures. Each student’s different learning styles and backgrounds will effect how they produce or respond to any lesson. Using rubrics developed by teachers and students helps students know what is expected of them. If students are involved in the development of rubrics, they develop a sense of ownership of what they produce. As part of the professional development program, teachers need to be involved in the evaluation of data and the development of the tools to be used. This involves how to develop rubrics and other tools, how to use data from standardized tests, and how to analyze data and evidence to see if modifications to the student program are necessary.

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Assess Teachers’ Use of Technology
A self-assessment survey provides basic information on what teachers know about technology and its use in their curriculum. Teachers may not know the appropriate technology to use, because they may not have seen or used it before. Observations are another way of assessing how teachers use technology, but this technique is time-consuming. Performance-based assessments are difficult, because these are based on what the teacher knows at the time they are creating the evidence. Using and designing assessment instruments require involving those taking them. Teachers will find that a combination of instruments they agreed upon used on an ongoing basis provide a better picture of where they are and what they need to learn to be able to use technology effectively in their curriculum.

Create a Complete Inventory of Resources
An up-to-date inventory of technology resources is a must for any school program. Teachers want to use the technology, but they sometimes cannot find the resource they need or it is not working. Teachers develop lesson plans based on existing resources. If a digital camera just happens to walk away, the lesson that was to include the camera now has to change. As part of the professional development program, teachers need to review and update the inventory and develop a plan or system of tracking and maintaining the resources.

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Use Performance and Content Standards

The standards-based reform movement reflects changes in goals. Content standards outline what students should know such as writing a persuasive essay. Performance standards or indicators determine how students should demonstrate their understanding on what the essay should include. For example, the essay needs a clear opinion supported by evidence with an explanation of opposing points of view. Performance and content standards may define what to teach and the benchmarks to reach, but they may not detail teaching methods, specific lesson plans, appropriate resources to use, assessment criteria, and how to influence a wide range of learners. (Darling-Hammond, 1997) Teachers need time and support to bridge standards and what happens in the classroom.

Develop a Shared Vision
There are four ways to change the practices and culture of a school. One way would be to point to other schools and make a case that their successes could be replicated at your school. A second way is to use a position of power and demand change. A third way is to use group dynamics where all members are pressured to conform. (When in Rome, do as the Romans do.) The fourth way is creating a shared vision. (Senge, 2000) If teachers and students provide input on what teaching and learning will be like at their school, then they will do all they can to make it happen. A shared vision where recommendations from members of the group come true creates a sense of ownership

"Teachers, along with key members of the school community, contribute to a shared vision that defines where students need to be to become successful learners."

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Model and Demonstrate Curriculum Projects that use Technology
Teachers may not know what technology is appropriate for a particular project or how it could enhance the curriculum. Time needs to be set aside so teachers that use technology can share a successful project or lesson. There may be teachers that find the project just what they need for their students but do not have the technology skills. Teachers with specific areas of expertise and background in curriculum development can be identified to support their colleagues. Another strategy that will help teachers is to build a library of just-in-time materials that support student projects. Use outside experts to support the mentors or to facilitate the process. Using experts, mentors, and support materials creates a learning community where everyone cares about each other.

Facilitate Curriculum Mapping
If change is going to happen, teachers need time to thematically align assessment, standards, curriculum, and instruction. Matching curriculum themes, topics, issues, and problems for implementation need to be explored in depth (Hayes-Jacobs. 1997). This is a professional development opportunity that all teachers will find not only beneficial but inspiring. Providing at least two weeks in the summer gives teachers the opportunity to develop a year calendar that aligns curriculum, standards, assessment, instruction, and technology resources. When teachers collaborate to design and map curriculum, it opens not only classroom doors, but brings down classroom walls. Teachers share ideas, help each other, and find ways of collaborating. Professional educators find that if they have the time to reflect, talk to other educators, read, and learn, they grow and students benefit.

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Develop Individual Learning Plans

Each teacher has preconceived sets of beliefs about technology and how it is used in their curriculum. Using the needs assessment data, each teacher can develop their own plan independently or with the help from a mentor on what they need to support the curriculum and how they will increase their technology skills. Teachers can use information from their needs assessment to determine not only what learning opportunities are to be included in their individual learning plan (ILP), but also when they can occur in the action plan.

Design an Action Plan
When the curriculum is presented over the calendar year, teachers then can see what they need to learn in time to support the student program. A good professional development program involves multiple learning opportunities and is tied to the student achievement goals and teachers ILPs. If students are to write a persuasive essay and create a rubric that evaluates the essay, it is important for teachers to have time to practice designing rubrics. If teachers are going to expect students to build opposing points of view, teachers will want to have the resources available for students. In planning for the year, teachers can determine how much time they will need to collaborate, read, reflect, learn, and support each other. The action plan provides a guiding document for what opportunities are going to be offered when. A variety of learning opportunities that are part of effective action plans include coaching during the day, regular collaborative planning time, on-site, off-site and on-line workshops, team teaching, attendance at conferences, reading journals, time for sharing, and even grant reading and writing. There are more that can be listed, but teachers have stated that providing more time is the most important factor to include in the professional development program.

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Evaluate Effectiveness on an Ongoing Basis
Any program benefits from ongoing reflection where teachers review the effectiveness of the student program. Samples of student work and work-in-progress can be reviewed by groups of teachers on a regular basis. Teachers can also compile their own electronic portfolio of lessons, projects, and the process used to create them. Taking the time to review and compare student data and samples of work, share information about the students who did the work, and learn from each other what worked and what did not work, will only improve instruction.

Starting and ending the year evaluating student data and evidence keeps the whole school program on track. The shared vision is the goal for not only the student program but also how professional development is designed. Teacher learning tied to the student program is the key. Without planning or a shared vision, many professional development opportunities stand-alone. Teachers want their students to be successful. If what they learn is relevant to what the students need to learn, teachers will be able to immediately transfer these ideas and skills to their classroom.


Bernhardt, V. The School Portfolio. Eye on Education, Inc. 1994.
Bray, B. Becoming Knowledge Managers. CUE Newsletter. 2001.
Darling, Hammond, L. The Right to Learn. Jossey-Bass. 1997.
Hayes-Jacobs, H. Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum and Assessment. ASCD. 1997.
Senge, P. Schools that Learn: A Fifth Discipline Resource. Doubleday. 2000.
Wiske, M. Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice. Jossey-Bass. 1998.

Barbara Bray is President of Computer Strategies, LLC and the new division, My eCoach. http://my-ecoach.com. Bray writes a monthly column on professional development for CUE and moderates an active listserv (techstaffdevelop-subscribe@yahoogroups.com). Any comments, questions, or information about the column can be directed to bbray@compstrategies.com


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