Meeting Professional Development Needs Through Blended Professional Development

By: Judy Zorfass, Tracy Gray, and PowerUp WHAT WORKS

The Perpetual Questions

  • Where do you find the time for ongoing professional development (PD) that meets teacher needs and interests?
  • How do you help teaches integrate technology into best practices?
  • How do you ensure PD offerings directly relate to college and career readiness standards?

It's a given that high-quality, ongoing, and student-focused professional development (PD) is key to improving teaching and learning. But questions such as those listed above—about time, adult learning needs, relevancy, and technology integration—plague PD coordinators, team leaders, coaches, district and school administrators, and consultants. Recently, a growing number of schools are finding answers to these compelling questions by exploring, designing, and conducting blended PD.

What is Blended PD?

Blended PD is the careful combination of face-to-face and online learning activities. Face-to-face activities include workshops, meetings (e.g., grade level, vertical, and faculty), professional learning communities (PLCs), coaching sessions, and mentoring. Blended PD combines face-to-face activities with virtual activities such as audio and video discussions and conferencing, online courses, webinars, websites, blogs, wikis, and multimedia materials, and social media.

Face-to-face activities require educators to be physically present at a specified location, at a specific time. Generally led by a facilitator or designated leader, participants might read, write, see demos, discuss, watch videos, plan, practice using technology, and/or create materials. In contrast, virtual learning opportunities can be carried out in or outside of school, either individually or collaboratively, synchronously or asynchronously. These virtual learning opportunities often require teachers to work through a pre-identified sequence, or can be self-directed by the learner. To personalize learning, the online choices can involve the written word, images, video, and sound—all on a range of targeted topics.

Blended PD at a Glance

There is no single, right way to implement any professional development program, including blended PD. The district and school context, the standards and curriculum objectives, and teacher interests and needs all contribute to the planning and implementation process. This diagram captures the essence of blended PD, showing the relationship between face-to-face and online activities. In this example, team meetings, and coaching serve as the basis of the face-to-face learning opportunities. The online activities seamlessly help teachers to prepare for and extend learning before and after the scheduled face-to-face activities.

Free Blended PD Resources

Blended PD is resource-hungry. This means that the designers and developers need access to trusted, curated resources related to a particular topic or curriculum area. To fulfill this need, PowerUp WHAT WORKS has developed an entire section to planning and implementing devoted to blended PD.

One of the many PD-ready materials you can use immediately are the PD Playlists. Similar to a music playlist, the PowerUp Playlists present related materials organized around a particular Math and English Language Arts topic. Each playlist draws upon the PowerUp Instructional Strategy Guides, classroom examples, blogs, videos, and additional resources. Use any of the playlists as is, modify them, combine them, or create your own to develop customized blended PD.

This article is the first in a series drawing on the blended PD resources available in PowerUp WHAT WORKS. Each successive article will deeply explore a different content area (e.g., vocabulary, comprehension, writing, math concepts, and math language). Stay tuned.

Judy Zorfass, Tracy Gray, and PowerUp WHAT WORKS (2015)