Teacher Led Professional Development

Traditional professional development usually involves a conference or seminar led by an outside speaker. The teachers listen, take notes and ask questions before the speaker leaves to share his expertise with another school. While much can be learned from these experts, this traditional model of professional development does not always allow for collaboration or follow-up.   In response to the ESSA, which encourages ongoing professional development, administrators nationwide are turning to their own teachers for non-traditional PD.


One of the most familiar models of teacher led professional development is mentorship. Seasoned teachers are assigned as mentors to newer teachers. They come alongside the new teachers offering planning help, observing lessons and sharing constructive feedback.

Ask any seasoned teacher and it’s likely they’ll name a teacher or two that have poured into them over the years, but true mentorship is something special. Check out this article on Edutopia to learn more about David Culter’s mentorship experience. He credits not only his skill but even his staying in the profession at all to the phenomenal mentorship he received during his first year of teaching.

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Another fantastic, teacher led PD model is the PLC. A PLC may involve the entire staff or a small group of teachers who teach the same subject. Each time a PLC meets they come together to share experiences and advice around a common theme (standards based grading, project based learning, etc). Often one or two “expert” teachers are featured, but everyone is invited to share their experiences and resources.

The PLC model is making its way into more and more districts nationwide. Gateway School District, in Pennsylvania, was an early adopter and has seen this model truly transform their teachers’ views of PD. Check out this YouTube Video to learn more and to see their learning in action.

Special Subject Integration

Many times PD focuses on the core subjects, but specials teachers (art, technology, foreign language, etc) also have something to offer. Studies show that subject integration is beneficial to student learning, but it can be overwhelming for a classroom teacher to find these opportunities on her own. In a subject integration PD a specials teacher hosts the core teachers and shares practical ways to weave the special subject into core classroom instruction. Examples include introducing apps to practice math facts or an art project that piggybacks on a literacy unit.

Karen Bosch, a K-8 technology teacher from Michigan, is a master at helping teachers find ways to infuse their teaching with technology. She not only shares her expertise at her own school but also with teachers worldwide via StreamNet. This video will teach you how to weave technology into almost any lesson via digital storytelling.  

Master Teachers

Schools often have a yearly initiative (differentiation, PBL, etc) that the entire staff needs training in. The master teacher model trains a group of teachers in this initiative ahead of time and then allows them to share with the staff as a whole. This is far superior to a single day lecture on the topic as these master teachers are well versed in the initiative and available for ongoing training and mentorship throughout the year.

Sarah Brown Wessling has become such an expert in the instructional model initiative adopted by her district that professional learning is now a part of her job. She spends mornings with students and afternoons sharing her expertise with teachers and administrators. You can see this model in action by watching her Teaching Channel video.

A little out of the box thinking can find a wide variety of professional development opportunities within the walls of the school building. Has your school tried any of these teacher led PD models? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!


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