Building on Strengths; Our Professional Development Program

This year we embarked on a new type of PD plan and since that is the topic of tonight’s #edchat, I thought that I would share the plan for the year.  It focused on not only developing our knowledge in certain focus areas, but it also was based on building shared leadership within our building.  These were the two major goals of the program.


Forest Green and Connections for Learning have many experts in different areas, so as a staff, we have decided to move forward to deliver our own professional development opportunities for the 2009-2012 school years, with an opportunity to continue on with this program past this time frame.

The following plan will be based upon building on the strengths of our shared staff, while also giving everyone the opportunity to further their own learning in the priority areas.  This will help to build expertise within our shared sites, while also developing shared leadership and knowledge.  It will also give an opportunity to staff to share best practices with their colleagues.

This plan has been modified based upon feedback that was given to administrators on how to best suit the needs of our unique sites.

Focus Areas

The main focus areas were determined based upon the following factors:

  1. Forest Green/CFL Education Plan
  2. Forest Green/CFL Annual Education Report
  3. Parkland School Division Initiatives

The main focus areas of the PD plan for both sites are as follows:

  1. Technology Integration
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Special Education
  4. Citizenship and Social Responsibility

The objectives of each one of these main focus areas will be determined through the discussion and planning by each lead group.  Each one of these lead groups will have time allocated during each PD day to discuss or plan how they will be sharing information.  Groups are also encouraged to either formally or informally discuss ways to further CFL and Forest Green in the main focus areas as set out by this PD plan.

Lead Groups

All staff will have the opportunity to join one of the lead groups (Tech, Critical Thinking, Special Ed/CSR) based upon one or both of the following criteria:

  1. Personal/Professional Interest
  2. Personal/Professional Strength

The lead groups will be responsible for the following in each area.

  1. Clearly defining the objectives to be accomplished in their focus area by the shared sites in consultation with the administration team.
  2. Clearly defining the measures that they will use to understand if their objectives have been met within the time frame of the project in consultation with the administration team.
  3. Delivering a PD session on 1-2 of the PD days within the 2009-2010 school year.  The suggested time frame for the delivery of these sessions should be between 2-3 hours but this is negotiable based on the needs of the group, and the format of the session they are delivering.  Lead group members would be expected to be “on-call” for the PD day that they deliver, to help further the learning of any staff who would like to delve more into the topic.
  4. Deliver small opportunities to all staff through a means of the group’s choice.  This may be in the form of email communication, after-school PD sessions, or other opportunities.
  5. Identify any resources that may be used to help with the delivery of the FG/CFL PD plan, including, but not limited to, conferences, media materials, or substitute days needed for development.
  6. Complete the “Lead Team Planning” document that will summarize, amongst other things, the objectives, planning, resources, and measures of the project.
  7. Summarize the project in writing at the end of the year.  This will be continued upon the original “Lead Team Planning” document.


For any project to be successful within a school, it is recognized that time must be allocated during shared school time to ensure that all members have an opportunity for input into the discussion.  This time has been allocated within each PD day to ensure that staff has opportunities to build upon their shared vision.

It is also recognized that for successful PD plans to happen within a school and to create everlasting success, they must be ongoing for a significant amount of time.  The main focus areas defined within the project should be looked at as plan that develops over a 2-3 year period to mirror the school Education Plan along with the division Education Plan.  As it is important to work within a culture that promotes risk taking, the plan will be reassessed at the end of the school year to ensure that it has been successful and how it may be further continued.  Staff will also have the opportunity to take part on other lead teams in following years.

As we move forward next year, the staff will look at how we can interconnect the focus areas of the project so that we are all sharing best practices within the FG/CFL school sites and sharing expert learning amongst the lead teams.

As I have discussed previously, this plan has been very successful and we were very happy to see the results.  Going into next year, the idea of shared leadership will be continued, but the groups will be cross collaborating to extend our ideas.  For example. our Citizenship and Social Responsibility group will  be working with our Technology Integration group to perhaps focus on Digital  Citizenship.  Our Critical Thinking group will be working with the Technology Integration group to create e-portfolios.  This is a way that we can move our ideas forward while building upon what we have already learned.

As a school it is imperative that you build upon the strengths of people and share leadership.  As I have said before, the power of the collective is more than the power of one.


  1. George,
    I love your plan! Particularly the different groups: (Tech, Critical Thinking, Special Ed/CSR), great idea! I will definitely follow your Critical Thinking group in their development of their e-portfolios.
    We started our efforts this year. We joined PLP (Ohio Consortium). You know about it as Alec is Community Leader of the Ontario Cohort. Our Action-Research project was on developing a PD program. You can see our project here:

    Our plans for 2010/2011 started with our faculty and administrators creating their own Individual Plans for 21st Century. Here's our plan if you are interested:

    I appreciate your leadership and guidance, it is an honor to have you as a member of my PLN!

    • I appreciate your feedback on the plan. It was a great way to engage staff and I tried my best to give them an opportunity to be engaged in their own learning by letting them choose the direction.

      Thanks for sharing your plan.

  2. alford300

    Lots of choice and room for your teachers to build on their strengths! As a teacher, I would love this! I would not to miss any of it! I also like how they are expected to be accountable for their own learning!
    Now, at my school, I think I would rather have a root canal, then attend one of our PD days!

    • We don't do root canals at my PD because people hate them so much! Trying to engage people is tough but if you focus on people's strengths, it definitely will be beneficial. I know that we sometimes focus on the weaknesses of people but this is definitely counter productive.

  3. There are so many things I appreciate about this plan. The alignment to district/division vision and goals, identification of focus areas, the concept of lead teams and teachers planning and executing PD sessions… thanks for sharing this. Definitely will inspire our work going forward.

  4. Cale Birk (@birklear

    As usual, I will be stealing something from you George! The lead group concept is brilliant, and is exactly the type of thing that I wanted to have going forward with our School Improvement Plan.

    Thanks for your insights, as always.


  5. Missed this posting from November. Better late than never. I have been thinking about PD plan for my school. Your framework is one that resonates with me and could work within the structures we have in place. Great stuff!

  6. Kat

    I'm constructing a fictional school PD plan for My M.Ed. program and was thankful to find your ideas. I wasn't sure how to begin but having read your plan I believe I can finally get started. Thanks for the guidance.

  7. Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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