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Professional Opinion

Individualized K12 professional development provides flexibility and freedom

District-created online program gives school teachers choice to hone specific skills
Tina Weaver is director of teaching and learning for Madison County Public Schools in Virginia.
Tina Weaver is director of teaching and learning for Madison County Public Schools in Virginia.

Seeking alternatives to expensive professional development that takes teachers out of their classrooms and requires substitutes, Madison County Public Schools in Virginia developed a solution. Teachers want relevant professional development to be available when they have time. They want choice and immediate feedback.

The district needs effective PD that is incorporated into classrooms.

As director of teaching and learning, I partnered with Sam Utz, our director of technology, to formulate district PD that’s delivered online through Google classroom. Teachers select topics based on their interest and needs, review instructional materials, and complete an assessment whenever they desire.

How to replicate

We believe any district can replicate our program by following some simple guidelines, as outlined here:

Determine your needs.

  • Query your staff and leadership to determine professional development needs.
  • Prioritize needs.
  • Determine what is feasible to be accomplished through an online PD venue

Starting strategically

All content was developed following a day-long, differentiated strategies PD session. To begin, district leadership chose three strategies to emphasize for online PD content: synectics, movement and dynamic tension.

The technology department reviewed teacher-submitted tech requests and developed instructional modules based on frequent questions and problems.

Self-paced modules

Content is district-specific and based on eight self-paced modules or phases that teachers have access to 24/7, and includes: Technology Basic Principles, Software Programs, Device Management, Hardware, All Things Google, Tech in the Classroom, Testing and Instruction.

Organized in phases or sections, teachers choose from a variety of topics and obtain a variety of skill sets.

How to replicate (cont.)

Create instructional modules.

  • Develop instructional modules based on PD initiatives and teacher needs.
  • Assign a test pilot group prior to implementation.
  • Obtain feedback and revise.

Topics are taught through videos, expert readings, manuals and classroom strategy practice, among other methods. Phases are non-sequential, self-paced and without time limits.

In the first seven phases, teachers complete the course content and take a quiz, and must score 8 out of 10 or higher to earn recertification points. Users can make two attempts per school year to pass each quiz.

Phase 8 allows for six to 12 recertification points, depending on implementation plans. Teachers choose from synectics, movement or dynamic tension. Then they read the lesson and watch videos demonstrating the technique.

How to replicate (cont.)

Create an online vehicle.

  • Determine the venue to disseminate the online course.
  • Work with your IT department to create a teacher friendly interface.

Provide continuing training and support.

  • Our instructional coaches provide PD introducing the online course and supporting teachers.

Each lesson contains a strategy description, how it works in the classroom use and additional resources. The teacher develops a lesson implementing the strategy and completes a self-evaluation reflecting upon the experience. If the teacher wants to improve on the strategy, subsequent lessons are created.

As our instructional leader, Madison Primary Principal Mike Coiner, notes: “This PD is a user-friendly format, easily navigated, accessed by faculty and staff at times that are most convenient to them."

This program also allows instructional leaders to easily create annual, individualized professional growth plans for faculty and staff, as there is no need to coordinate calendars with colleagues or dates for out-of-district professional development opportunities.”


Tina Weaver is director of teaching and learning for Madison County Public Schools in Virginia.