A best-practice checklist for professional development experiences

Authenticity, contextual learning, creative climate, and reflection and transference are essential to high-quality PD
By: | Issue: February, 2018 | Thought Leadership
January 17, 2018

While innovations typically involve a high degree of novelty and a paradigm shift, tried-and-true best practices often serve as their launch pad and rocket fuel.

In designing and selecting professional development opportunities that harness and reflect best practices in education, there are four key elements for a high-quality experience: authenticity, contextual learning, a creative climate, and reflection and transference.

These insights have been validated through conversations with National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees—some of the country’s greatest innovators—over the last quarter of a century.


What are the stories that constitute the experience, whose stories are they, and do they feel like credible inspiration for your growth and development?

We asked many of our inductees to speak directly to educators and administrators across the nation. We captured their messages as personalized videos that we share in our professional development workshops.

Many of the inductees’ messages highlight specific teachers who gave them inspiration, illuminating the power of the personal impacts of educators.

Contextual learning

Is the learning of the material engaging, does the content help you view subjects in a transdisciplinary manner and make meaningful connections, and are you learning by doing?

The best way to gain insights and understanding of concepts is through hands-on engagement. Independent evaluation findings have demonstrated that job-embedded professional development experience of instructing Camp Invention¬Æ has transformed the classroom practices of thousands of teachers across the country—making them more comfortable with and excited about teaching STEAM in an immersive, hands-on manner that follows the lead of the children.

A creative climate

Is the learning environment supportive, will you feel safe to set and work on stretch goals, and is novel thinking and risk-taking encouraged?

All of our programs focus on cultivating a climate for creativity and innovation. One of the most powerful ways this can be accomplished is by applying a key rule of classic brainstorming: deferring judgment. This rule can often be easier to employ in relation to others’ ideas than it is for our own. Strategies for overcoming this challenge and others are integrated within our programs, along with dynamic tools, techniques and processes from the creativity and innovation fields. In addition, we focus on building other 21st century skills, such as team-building, collaboration and communication.

Reflection and transference

Will you have the opportunity to assimilate your learning from the experience and self-assess, create a transference plan and reflect on benchmarks for growth and success with the material at hand?

Innovators must get their ideas out of their minds and into prototype form, so that they can test and reshape those ideas based on observation and feedback. It is just as important to consider how an individual feels about their own growth as it is to receive external feedback. Our professional development workshops empower individuals to take stock of their own progress and consider how they will positively apply that development in a way that impacts the youth with whom they work. When you bring these four key elements together, you are on track to having an exceptional professional development experience.

For more information on our educational programs, including professional development, visit www.invent.org/inspire/educators

To download DA’s Professional Development Special Report visit districtadministration.com/pd