PD that Thrives Part 1: Interactive Professional Development Strategies

Nicole Tucker-Smith

This is the first installment of Lessoncast's Planning Professional Development that Thrives series for professional development leaders at the school, district, region, or state level. We're all making yearlong professional development plans in hopes that by improving adult learning we can impact student learning. After leading countless PD sessions I’m still surprised when teachers say, “Your PD is so interactive! Usually we’re lectured to death!”. Here's one way I avoid this trap!

Step 1: Use Interactive Professional Development Strategies... Like Puzzle Mates!

As someone who has led countless professional development sessions for educators, I’m often surprised when teachers tell me, “Your PD is so interactive. Usually we’re lectured to death!” Education leaders implore teachers to differentiate and deliver engaging instruction, but rarely do we demand the same best practices for professional development.

Whether you’ve been the participant or the presenter in a professional development experience, you’ve probably heard the common grumbles, “What is this about now? What ‘new’ thing are they trying to make us do? Haven’t we heard this before? Here comes another educational acronym...” These are common, predictable questions and concerns adult learners may have during professional development sessions as they are naturally trying to make sense of new information and connect it to what they already know. The strategy featured below provides an interactive way to help PD participants connect the puzzle pieces - literally.

Puzzle Mates

When leading professional development, there is often the need to introduce, review, or emphasize core ideas related to the PD topic. Instead of introducing or reviewing the core concepts through a passive lecture presentation, the Puzzle Mates PD strategy provides physical movement and helps participants articulate the core ideas. This PD activity builds in a conversation opportunity for participants to interpret a picture (in this example a cartoon) and generate a statement synthesizing their understanding of the big idea or professional learning concept.


Using interactive PD strategies like Puzzle Mates is not only engaging for educators, but increases adult learning as well. This was the first of 10 Steps for Planning PD that Thrives Throughout the Year. Sign up to join the Lessoncast Newsletter and receive an email alert as new steps and additional interactive PD ideas are published. Here’s a list of what’s to come:


       Introduction: 10 Concrete Steps to Planning PD that Thrives

  1. Use Interactive Professional Development Strategies
  2. Lead Face to Face. Leave Digital Footprints
  3. Show What Target Changes in Instructional Practice Look Like
  4. Capture What Target Changes in Instructional Practice Look Like in Your Teachers’ Classrooms
  5. Share Teacher-to-Teacher Examples of Best Practice
  6. Build a Gallery Showcasing Your Teachers’ Expertise
  7. Personalize PD with Differentiated, On-demand Digital Resources
  8. Fuel Common Planning Time to Sustain Changes in Instructional Practice
  9. Collaboratively Develop Lookfors to Exchange Effective Feedback
  10. Use Real Results to Plan for Next Year

Tags :  PD Planning, Interactive PD, 10 Concrete Steps to PD that Thrives

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Nicole Tucker-Smith