Rethinking Professional Development So It Actually Improves Teaching

Teachers need to have say in their own PD, but how do you help teachers become intrinsically motivated to learn? Today, Jarod Bormann, author of Professionally Driven: Empower Every Educator To Redefine PD talks about designing PD that works and interests teachers.

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Rethinking Professional Development so It Actually Improves Teaching

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Date: March 8, 2018

Vicki: Today, we’re talking to Jarod Bormann @jbormann3, Technology Integrator in Iowa, and author of Professionally Driven: Empower Every Educator To Redefine PD.

Now Jarod, you have been rethinking professional development. How are you rethinking it, and why do we need to rethink professional development for teachers?

Jarod: The happenings of it and the surroundings of it sort of stem from a particular kind of planning session that I had with a technology planning team.

There was a school initiative that was going one-to-one for 6th-12th grade with MacBook Airs.

So they were kind of setting up what I would call “ala carte” PD, where they were kind of thinking, “OK, we need some Google Suite things. We need some Apple Suite training, and so forth.”

Really, it kind of came down to the superintendent seeing the plan, and we were feeling really good about it.

Then he said, “So, what are we doing for the educators that don’t need any of that? What about them?”

And that really opened up the conversation to really think — not just tech PD but professional development as a whole — how could we rethink that?

So, we really developed this model that kind of ended up being embedded on the idea of three big pieces that I think are really important to allow an educator to truly begin to redefine the letters PD from a thing that we do, to a thing that represents us — professionally driven.

  • It’s got to be embedded on the idea of developing a growth mindset, a process, an active process of developing that growth mindset.
  • The process has to start with intrinsic motivation, and that intrinsic motivation needs to be sustained all the way through the learning journey.
  • And then the third big piece is sustainable autonomy. The sustainable part — the reason that I’m so adamant about including that is because there are school districts that do utilize that autonomy piece.
    • I’ve talked to some administrators who say, “Hey, we did an EdCamp last month, and the teachers loved it. They love that autonomy.”
    • And I say, “Excellent! So are you doing it again this month?”
    • And they say, “No, we don’t plan it again this school year.”

So the autonomy cannot a “one and done.” It’s got be ongoing.

A model of PD based on THREE big ideas

Based on those three big ideas, we really shaped a model of professional development that really supports what I feel is proper technology integration.

And that is the fact that if I were to start with intrinsic motivation, and I’m developing my own journey. at Point A on that journey?

Where do I start?

So what I do is I try to prompt with some coaching and questioning, to try to get to the idea of, “Where do I see students consistently operating in the lower levels of Bloom's’ taxonomy?”

Then the question needs to be, “How do I move them into the upper levels more frequently over the longer course of time?”

This, I would fee is a truer definition of the word engagement than how you would typically hear it used in some parts of the educational stratosphere today, where it’s kids active and doing things.

I want to get my kids cognitively engaged as frequently as possible.

The interesting idea is that, when moving kids from lower level to upper level of thinking more frequently over the course of time, that is probably going to require some kind of use of technology.

I don’t know how to do that with a textbook. I don’t know how to do that with a packet of worksheets. Technology is probably going to be the accelerator in that, but not necessarily the driver. The pedagogy is the driver.

Technology is probably going to be the accelerator in that, but not necessarily the driver. The pedagogy is the driver.

Vicki: OK. So let’s unpack this a little bit.

Now, this — the second one you listed, which is intrinsic motivation. Now, this is tough.

We’ll put on our psychology hat. Of course, extrinsic motivation is when someone motivates you from the outside. “You do this, and I will give you that.” I’ll give you a raise. We call it the carrot and stick. I’ll give you a positive or a negative.

And then intrinsic motivation is when we are motivated within ourselves. Intrinsic motivation is pretty much the holy grail of real motivation, because you are unstoppable when you are highly motivated to do something.

But, Jarod, you know, this intrinsic motivation? It’s hard!

Jarod: (laughs)

Vicki: How do you propose that we help teachers be intrinsically motivated?

Intrinsic motivation? For and by teachers?

Some teachers are tired, or they’re wondering, “Do I still want to do this?” Or they have a lot going on in their lives. Intrinsic motivation — it’s not easy to just turn on, like a lightbulb.

Jarod: Yeah, you’re exactly right. But what I have seen in most cases, with traditional forms of professional development, is that usually, someone else other than me is laying out the path of learning.

We usually disguise that learning in some kind of form of training. “So I need you to complete this,” and then as I’ve mentioned, maybe you’ll receive whatever it is at the end.

Or “We need you to do this because we see it as a major deficit in our school’s data, and we have to understand it better and do it better.”

But what I’m trying to advocate for — and in no way, shape, or form am I say, “Personalized PD time for the professionally driven model should be 100% of any kind of professional development time, the contractual time.

What’s happening is, you have school districts that essentially use up all the PD time for what should be just labeled as training. Then they expect teachers to do the learning — the organic, intrinsically motivated learning — on their own.

Vicki: Yep.

Jarod: And if they don’t, then they are quickly labeled as a lazy or lousy teacher. And that’s just completely unfair. We’re not creating the proper environment for our adult learners, that we even want for our student learners.

What I try to advocate for is out of your contractual PD time, what portion of that per month can we offer for educators to go — either individually or in small groups if we have similar journeys — on their professionally driven journey using that personalized PD time.

So I have schools that offer as little as two hours a month — which I think is pretty much the minimum — but there are some schools that offer half of their monthly PD time which is dedicated toward personalized PD time. That intrinsic motivation sets forth.

I think the thing that administrators are really leery of even wanting to put something like this in place. It feels like — or it may sound like — “Oh, teachers are kind of just choosing something sort of willy-nilly out of the air, some trend that they find on Twitter or something like that.”

And that’s not necessarily the case. There’s more to it than that, as far as, “How do we exactly help give the directions and the right structure to help an educator find their “Point A” in order to then scale to the summit of “Point B” — which is positive effect on learner outcomes.

Help an educator find their “Point A”

Vicki: Well, and…

Jarod: Everybody has the same “Point B”. It’s just, that’s the positive effect on learning outcomes? That could be anybody’s “Point B” — no matter what grade level or content area you teach.

Positive effect on learning outcomes? That could be anybody’s “Point B”

Vicki: Well, and just ASKING teachers. I mean, when you as a workshop leader, go into a school and teachers have asked for what you’re teaching them…

You start off so far ahead of than if this is something that the folks on high say the teachers need to know. And the folks on high don’t even go.

You know, there’s just a difference.

I see this ASKING teachers, “What is it that you need to do your job better?” And then being part of the selection of PD.

Not… “Let’s play.” and there is, you know, some foreplaying as you learn…

Jarod: (agrees)

Vicki: But I think that’s important.

Ummm. OK

So… Jarod, as we’re finishing up…

A lot of folks are listening to the show who design professional development, or who are part of it, or who are teachers designing their own or that sort of thing.

Could you give us a brief 30-second encouragement for how we need to advocate for the things that we know we need to learn to be better teachers?

Why do teachers need to advocate for a new model of PD?

Jarod: I’m going to steal this from an administrator that I had the opportunity to talk to yesterday from a middle school that is doing amazing things when it comes to changing their instructional practices.

I asked him the very same thing.

I said, “So what data was bad that told you that you should be implementing this new (whatever it may be in your school district)?”

And he said, “Nobody should ever make a culture change based on bad data.”

“They should make a culture change based on the fact that they know it’s the right thing to do.”

And I would probably say that would be my motivator for anybody who is willing, or seeing their current learning environment for their adults — all adults in their school district — and sort of wondering, “What would be the right thing to do for them?”

Vicki: (agrees)

Jarod: Start making that culture change for them.

Vicki: Wow. So, Jarod Bormann. The name of the book is Professionally Driven: Empowering Every Educator to Redefine PD.


He’s also got, of course, a website for Professionally Driven, and a podcast, and lots of things for that from Iowa.

I think that these are some great questions and some thought-provoking ones about what really makes excellent professional development.

Truthfully, many of us have been struggling for a model that really captures where we need to be heading, and how we need to be personalizing it for teachers, and also making it engaging.

I think that this is a fascinating 3-part model for adopting a growth mindset, having our intrinsic motivation, and then sustainable autonomy as we proceed with our professional development.

So take a look.

Remember, remarkable teachers, you’re already getting some professional development because you’re listening to this podcast.

But we all have to intentionally decide that we are going to learn.

And I always have my “Big Three” — what are my next big three thing to learn?

I always have that list, and it’s part of what we are as remarkable teachers.

It’s what makes us remarkable!

So get out there and design some great PD for yourself even!

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Jarod Bormann is a Technology Integration Specialist at the Keystone Area Education Agency in NE Iowa. He received his Masters in Instructional Technology through the University of Northern Iowa in 2014. He is also an adjunct professor for the same Masters program. Jarod formally taught MS/HS English for seven years in one of the first 1:1 iPad schools in Iowa. He is a blogger at and and author of Professionally Driven: Empower Every Educator To Redefine PD

An annual presenter at the Keystone KPEC Conference, ITEC Iowa (2016 Iowa Featured Speaker), as well as other educational tech conferences throughout the midwest. He is an ITEC Iowa Board Member and co-hosts the Next Level Learning podcast. He is a 2016 ISTE presenter and recognized as the 2014 Iowa Safe Schools Educator of the Year.


Twitter: @jbormann3

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere