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Professional Development Modules

Professional Development of Science Teachers

The National Staff Development Council (NSDC), the largest non-profit professional association, views high quality staff development programs as essential to creating schools in which all students and staff members are learners who continually improve their performance. In 1995 the Council created standards to provide direction for designing professional development experiences for educators. The NSDC revised these standards to focus on a broader staff development community and to include what has been learned about professional learning since the creation of the original standards. The revision of the standards was guided by three questions:

  • What are all students expected to know and be able to do?
  • What must teachers know and do in order to ensure student success?
  • Where must staff development focus to meet both goals?

Staff development standards make recommendations to assist educators to acquire necessary knowledge and skills. Staff development must be results-driven, standards-based, and job-embedded.

A brief summary of each of the standards follows. Please note - we have derived, quoted, and adapted all of the information for this section from National Staff Development Council (NSCD) Homepage ( Readers are encouraged to read the full text of the NSDC Standards at the address above.

  • Learning Communities: The workshop-driven approach should be replaced by organization of ongoing teams that meet on a regular basis, for the purposes of learning, joint lesson planning, and problem solving. These learning communities or communities of practice are committed to continuous improvement and experimentation to address school district and school goals for student learning.
  • Leadership: Leadership at the community, district, school, and classroom levels is necessary to advocate for high quality professional development for all staff. Leaders are able to articulate to all stakeholders the critical link between improved student learning and the professional learning of teachers.
  • Resources: The NSDC maintains that well designed and implemented professional development for school employees is an essential long-term investment in successfully teaching all students to high standards and advocates for the necessary resources to support improved staff performance.
  • Data-Driven: Goal development should be determined by data analysis (artifacts of students' learning and performance on external measures, like standardized tests). These goals subsequently set the focus for the content of teachers' professional learning in the areas of instruction, curriculum, and assessment.
  • Evaluation: Staff development that improves the learning of all students uses multiple sources of information to guide improvement of the program and demonstrate its impact. Accountability to all stakeholders demands such evaluation.
  • Research-based: It is essential that teachers and administrators must carefully and thoughtfully use the findings and recommendations of educational research when selecting both the content and professional learning processes of staff development efforts.
  • Designs and Strategies: To be successful in the classroom teachers use a variety of research-based instructional strategies. Similarly, successful staff development requires that planners, cognoscente of adult-learning preferences, select learning strategies that are appropriate to the intended outcome.
  • Learning: It is important that the learning methods used in professional development mirror as closely as possible the methods teachers are expected to use with their students.
  • Collaboration Skills: The NSDC recommends that teamwork among teachers and administrators in designing lessons, critiquing student work, and analyzing various types of data be increased. When professional development episodes occur in organized groups, members derive the social interaction that often deepens learning and the interpersonal support and synergy necessary for creatively solving the complex problems of teaching and learning.
  • Equity: Staff development that improves the learning of all students prepares educators to understand and appreciate all students, create safe, orderly, and supportive learning environments, and hold high expectations for their academic achievement.
  • Quality Teaching: Staff development that improves the learning of all students deepens educators' content knowledge, provides them with research-based instructional strategies to assist students in meeting rigorous academic standards, and prepares them to use various types of classroom assessments appropriately.
  • Family Involvement: Families and community members should be involved meaningfully in school operations for the benefit of students. The education of young people is a partnership between the school, the home, and the community. Staff development that improves the learning of all students provides educators with knowledge and skills to involve families and other stakeholders appropriately.


National Staff Development Council (NSCD) Homepage
Website of the NSCD that contains links to the professional development standards and information about publications, conferences and a free newsletter

Promising Practices
Examples and characteristics of promising professional development practices from a 1998 Department of Education Publication titled: Promising Practices: New Ways to Improve Teacher Quality.

Building Bridges
Mission and principles of professional development from Department of Education Goals 2000 Legislation

New Jersey Department of Education Academic & Professional Standards for Required Professional Development of Teachers
Brief introduction to standards for professional development for teachers along with a detailed list of standards

Teacher Tap
This website includes numerous links to professional development resources for educators. Includes many links to technology resources.

Middle Web
This website includes multiple links to professional development for educators.

CPRE In-Sites Issue On Leadership, Professional Development and Coaching
Consortium for Policy Research in Education archived newsletter, containing articles about teacher professional development

National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality
The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (NCCTQ) is the premier national resource to which the regional comprehensive assistance centers, states, and other education stakeholders turn for strengthening the quality of teaching-especially in high-poverty, low-performing, and hard-to-staff schools.

U.S. Department of Education
Comprehensive listing of resources for teacher education, including "Improving Teacher Quality", "Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative", and professional development information