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Professional Development Planning with Purpose

Planning Professional Development that Makes an Impact

Each year about this time school and district leaders around the country are beginning, or finalizing, their professional development planning for the upcoming school year. From time to time, I get questions around how this process worked for me and what recommendations I have for school and district leaders hoping to make their PD plan a success. I recommend you follow the Rule of the 4 Ws. Focusing your efforts around the What, the Why, the Who, and When will ensure upfront clarity and communication, leading to wins (another W) down the road.

Focus on What, Why, Who, and When

Because I often get questions about professional development planning, I will share with you not only my strategy, but I’ll model one of my favorite leadership moves: answer a question with a question.

What: when planning professional development, begin with what it is you are thinking. Don’t start with what PD you are thinking, though, consider what it is you feel needs to be addressed. As well, knowing what it is that you want to see as your outcome, an increased or new skill for staff, better engagement, or simply lifting the spirits and morale of the staff. Knowing what is a key.

Why: Simon Sinek will tell us, and has us all now saying, start with why. In this particular instance, professional development planning, I would place why right after the what. Hard to know why if you aren’t sure of the what to begin with. You’ve identified what the work is that you’d like to focus on, now think about a few why’s to connect with it. Why, for example, is this important to you? Why should it be important to others. Why would someone be excited about this work? Why would someone push back?

Who: This might seem like a no-brainer, but who is your target audience? Is this work applicable to all individuals in that category (teachers, custodians, bus drivers) or is it specific for only some of them? Who is going to be your be your sounding board, the ones you discuss this with prior to rolling it out? Who will be the champion of this work? Who will need the most support? Who will you need to make this work, both inside and outside sources?

When: Often, we roll out new PD at the start of a school year. But what if this time is not optimal and actually would cause the work to be less than effective? Can you contain your excitement to hold this for later in your year? Does this fit in the grander scheme of your PD plan and, if so, when is the optimal time for it to be added?

FREE professional development planning tool

In addition to these questions, I have a FREE professional development planning tool available on my website. Follow this link to and click the download now in the middle of the homepage. It’s that easy…enter your email address and we will send the PD tool to you free!!

Professional development planning can be tough, but stick to the 4 Ws and you’ve got this! If I can help, reach out to me with a DM on social media or email me at

Have a #RoadtoAwesome week


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