A Collaborative Approach to Evaluating PD for Continuous Improvement

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Active Schools Institute has been a proud member of the HSSS Professional Development (PD) Team since the beginning of the Healthy Schools initiative, funded by the Colorado Health Foundation, in 2016.

Prior to the development of this collaborative infrastructure, our team used to provide PD directly to schools and districts on an as-needed basis, but struggled with our capacity to provide sufficient ongoing support due to our separate roles as teacher educators and researchers. As a result, we shifted resources and energy toward supporting existing PD providers by collecting and reporting data for the purposes of continuous improvements, an area that can be a struggle for organizations highly focused on quality PD delivery.

We conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on effective continuing professional development and created the Quality Professional Development (QPD) Framework consisting of four characteristics and eight sub-characteristics of effective PD. We then used this framework to develop an evaluation system that captured not only participant reactions to the PD events they engaged in, but to examine a) participants’ actual learning, b) organizational support and change, c) participants’ use of new knowledge, and d) the impact on student outcomes (Guskey, 2002). These data were collected by trained members of the UNC Active Schools Institute and reported back to partner PD providers.

Over the past four years, we have been fortunate to work closely with four PD providers in the state of Colorado: Wellness Training Specialists, Action for Healthy Kids, Chef Ann Foundation, and Playworks. Each organization has their own unique strategies for providing PD to their stakeholder groups, so the evaluation infrastructure was adapted to meet the needs of each organization. Monthly PD Team meetings allowed us to connect with these partners on a regular basis and share our efforts with other PD providers around the state. Our connections on the PD Team also helped us remain current on all the amazing Healthy Schools work happening around the state and facilitated further collaborative opportunities.

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