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August 28, 2018

10 Questions to Ask When Looking for Teacher Professional Development

Teachers have a few things to consider on a daily basis:

  • What new “disease of the day” will arrive in my classroom today?
  • Which helicopter parent will blow up my email and phone with “suggestions” for how I can be a better teacher?
  • How am I going to cover the new curriculum while incorporating personalized learning for my diverse set of 35 kids?
  • And our favorite… perhaps the most simplistic yet most realistic: When can I squeeze in a five-minute bio break?

Now we’ll add one more to the list (perhaps the most panic-inducing):

  • My teaching license expires next year and I haven’t taken a single minute of professional development… HELP!
Teacher working at a coffee shop

Don’t hyperventilate! Take a few breaths into a paper bag and consider these questions to help you find the perfect professional development.

Do you need professional development for relicensing/recertification purposes or to advance along your district’s salary schedule? Or both?

  • Relicensing: Check with the Department of Education for the state where you’re licensed. Many states and districts have unique requirements. Often states don’t require graduate credit for relicensure, but instead require continuing education units (CEUs), professional development units (PDUs), or clock hours (CH). Graduate credit courses typically translate to “hours/units.”
  • Salary Advancement: Districts often require graduate credit. Reach out to your district to make sure you understand the specific requirements necessary to move along your steps and columns/lanes.

 Tip: Consider double-dipping. The credits you earn by taking graduate-level courses may help with relicensing AND salary advancement needs.

Does my state or school district have any specific requirements for professional development or graduate credit?

As noted above, every state and every school district can have unique professional development requirements. Courses that are approved in one district may, for any number of reasons, be unacceptable to another. Some states and districts also require that graduate credit comes from an accredited institution. Check with your district to understand the requirements for professional development, maintaining your teaching certificate, and advancement along your salary schedule, as well as what type of accreditation is needed for course approval.

 Tip: Some accreditation terminology includes:

  • HLC: Higher Learning Commission
  • NCA: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools of Higher Learning
  • NCATE: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • CAEP: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
  • Regionally Accredited: an institution of higher education accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Higher Learning Commission, Northwest Accreditation Commission and Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

How much does a course cost and what is included in the cost?

Price is an important factor — and a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. A few questions to consider:

  • Are there any discounts available? Group discounts? Multi-course order discounts?
  • Do the required textbooks cost extra?
  • If you need graduate credit, is that cost included?
  • Is there an additional cost for a transcript from the university/college?

When you find a professional development course that you’re interested in, ask to review the course syllabus:

  • Do the requirements seem valuable to your day-to-day teaching?
  • Do they meet your district and state requirements?

Consider your schedule. Will you be able to get the most out of this course and meet the course schedule requirements?

  • Do you have to be in a certain place, at a certain time for class sessions?
  • Are the courses self-paced and allow you to work on your own schedule?
  • Do the courses start and stop at specific times or run all year round?
Woman reading while sitting on a chair in front of a bookcase.

How long will it take to complete a course?

Most college and university courses are three credit hours and will take approximately 40-45 hours to complete. On campus classes typically meet for three hours each week over the course of a 15-week semester. Online professional development may require a similar time investment. Or you may have the option of an accelerated study that will allow you to meet the expectations and requirements of a course at a more intensive pace, but over a shorter period of time. Before making a decision about a program, it’s important to consider the time you have available and when the coursework is due to make sure you have adequate time to complete the course.

Some people want to press the “Easy Button” to complete their professional development as quickly as possible. However, the time investment shouldn’t be your only consideration. You’re often paying your hard-earned money for this PD — wouldn’t it be great if what you learned could translate into lesson plans or help you lead a productive and engaged group of students? This way, your time will be an investment in more ways than one!

Who can you contact with questions when working on your course?

How accessible will the instructor be if you get stuck when working on the course?

 Tip: Look for instructors with office hours and a stated expectation of response time.

How is the coursework submitted?

Do you have to print and mail in your coursework or can you submit your coursework electronically by uploading or emailing? Look for the solution that makes the most sense to you.

How fast can you get a transcript?

Relicensing dates tend to sneak up on us. Will you have enough time to complete the work, have it evaluated, and get a transcript in time to satisfy your relicensing or salary advancement needs?

Are you maximizing your earning potential?

Take full advantage of any negotiated salary benefits available. Yes, you can often get a raise for time in the classroom, but you can often maximize your earning by accruing graduate credits.

 Tip: View an example of how this works by downloading our salary calculator.

Believe in the power of professional development! Not only will professional development help you keep your teaching license, but it will keep you up to date with the quickly changing education landscape, while building your passion for the profession and adding to your bank account.


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