Top 6 tips for planning effective, school-wide professional learning and development

By Megan Peterson on August 23, 2023 in Leadership

Across the country, school leaders are actively planning for their team’s professional learning and development (PLD) for the upcoming school year. Term three is where leaders work on their 2024 strategic plans, consider their budgets, and think about applying for Ministry-funded professional learning.

We asked our team of over 50 education consultants what advice they’d give school leaders planning for school-wide PLD. Here are their top six tips.

Prioritise your greatest needs

School leaders should identify and prioritise the areas where they require professional development the most. Do an evaluation or audit of your current needs and create a priority list. You can’t attempt to meet all your PLD needs at once.

  • Look at what you need right now. Use student achievement data, student outcome data and evidence of teaching and leadership practice to identify the biggest areas of need. Draw on data that is useful. If you've recently finished and evaluated some PLD in your school, kura, or Kāhui Ako, use that information.

  • Look for what is coming. Think about your readiness to engage in Te Mātaiaho, the NCEA change programme, the Common Practice Model.

Get the voice of others to help you prioritise - senior leadership team, staff, teacher aides, ākonga, whānau. You don’t need to make the decisions by yourself.

Align with your strategic plan

PLD is a vehicle to make a difference for learners in your community. It is crucial to align professional learning with your school's strategic plan and improvement goals. Aligning your professional learning with your strategic plan creates cohesion. You should use the measurable outcomes of the PLD to monitor and evaluate your strategic plan. Don’t just think about the next school year when planning your professional learning.

Schools and kura have until 2027 to begin using the complete refreshed curriculum. Consider back mapping from then to support a long-term approach to PLD and understand what PLD needs to happen. 

Focus on literacy and numeracy as foundational to accessing the curriculum

There is very clear messaging in our current policies that literacy and numeracy core skills are required in every school in Aotearoa. Focusing on literacy and numeracy helps students to develop skills to access the breadth of the curriculum.

For student learning with literacy and numeracy to flourish, we need teachers and leaders who know how to embed strong pedagogical practices in literacy and numeracy. Educators need adaptive and responsive practice to build that solid foundation.

Your focus on literacy and numeracy may not be school-wide. You might look at specific learning areas where literacy and numeracy PLD will benefit learners, even within year levels, or within teams. Embedding effective literacy and numeracy requires a pedagogical approach. Focus on the pedagogy that builds teacher and leader capability to select the right strategies and tools to support their learners.

Leadership development so you can lead the PLD

Don’t forget to plan for your leaders and for yourself.

School leaders play a vital role in leading professional learning within their schools. Yet, many of them overlook the professional development they need to do this. Include specific leadership development for your middle leaders, senior leaders, and principals and tumuaki.

We’ve found that many leaders need support and coaching to implement PLD. This could be by learning how to work with adult learners, designing systems and processes, evaluating improvement across the school, to being skilful in solving problems that get in the way of improving teaching and learning.

Consider your commitment to the PLD

Before implementing professional learning initiatives, school leaders need to consider their commitments in terms of time, resources, budgets, and other logistical factors. Make sure that you have the required leadership to drive professional learning at your school. Think about how you might use teacher only days, call back days, staff meetings, or team meetings.

You’ll be preparing your budget for the upcoming year, so make sure to resource professional learning for it to be effective. This includes adequate release time so that leaders and teachers can collaborate on improving their practice.

While we are coming up to the deadline for Ministry-funded PLD applications, plan for a contingency. What will you do if your application is not successful? Your PLD needs are still there. Set aside contingency in your school budgets if you need to self-fund PLD. Our team is used to working with a range of school budgets and can help you figure out how to maximise the impact of professional learning with the budget you have available.  

While you’re considering your commitments during planning, reflect on how realistic, timely, and manageable your PLD plan is given your available resources.

Apply for Ministry-funded PLD

Take advantage of the last Ministry-funded regionally allocated PLD opportunity this year. Applications close on 15 September. If you would normally apply in term four for a term one start, you need to submit your application this term. As yet, there are no confirmed dates for Ministry-funded PLD in 2024.

When you’re applying, consider how your needs sit against the Ministry of Education's priorities. In English medium settings, these are:

  • cultural capability

  • local curriculum design

  • assessment for learning.

For Māori medium and te reo Māori settings they are:

  • mātauranga Māori and te reo Māori

  • marau ā-kura

  • aromatawai.

Digital fluency is a priority in all settings.

Think about which priority your needs best fit under. For example, if your data has identified that science is an area for improvement, you could look at this through a local curriculum lens. Alternately, if it is about students’ self-efficacy and self-regulation in science, then assessment for learning priority may be a better fit.

While Ministry-funded PLD will not cover all of the costs, it can definitely help with making sure that you’re well set up to achieve your professional learning goals.

Just apply.

By carefully considering these aspects when planning for professional learning, you can create an environment for teacher growth and ultimately improve student outcomes through effective teaching and leadership practices.

And we can help! An Evaluation Associates | Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga consultant can support you to write or review your PLD application at no charge. If you think this could be of use, get in touch now and book a time for one of our facilitators to work with you prior to the 15 September deadline.

If you have a particular Evaluation Associates | Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga facilitator in mind for your professional learning next year, why not give them a call now and let them know your intentions? Our facilitators have been in high demand this year – the early bird catches the worm!

Contact Cath to discuss your professional learning needs

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