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Coaching for Change: Professional Development

What is "good" professional development?

"The one-time workshop assumes the only challenge facing teachers is a lack of knowledge of effective teaching practices and when that knowledge gap is corrected, teachers will then be able to change. 

Research finds otherwise. It turns out teachers’ greatest challenge comes when they attempt to implement newly learned methods into the classroom. In all forms of learning a new skill, mere knowledge of it is never as difficult as its implementation....

Crafting effective professional development means confronting this reality and building a significant amount of support for teachers during the critical implementation phase in one’s actual classroom." 

—National School Boards Association Center for Public Education report

Learning Target

I can describe the characteristics of effective professional development.

Take the Quiz!

The Characteristics of Effective Professional Development, is a useful test that lets you evaluate your knowledge before and after working through the activities on this page.

The Concerns-Based Adoption Model 

The effective implementation of a new program is a highly personal developmental process for teachers. The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM), introduced in 1973 by Hall, Wallace, and Dossett is a representation of the process by which an educational institution adopts an innovation.

The model includes three diagnostic dimensions. It has become the basis for tools and techniques that enable leaders to gauge staff concerns and program use in order to give each person the necessary supports to ensure success. “Stages of Concern” is the most readily and commonly used. This is a great model to consult when planning professional development for the school year.

Watch: Andragogy

In his book The Adult Learner, Malcolm Knowles identified Six Principles of Adult Learning. According to Knowles, adult learners:

  1. Are internally motivated and self-directed
  2. Bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  3. Are goal-oriented
  4. Are relevancy-oriented
  5. Are practical
  6. Like to be respected

Watch the video Andragogy and reflect on the following questions:

  1. As an adult learner yourself, what connections can you make to each of Knowles’ Six Principles of Adult Learning?
  2. How would you define andragogy?
  3. Which characteristics of adult learners have the greatest implications for your work as a provider of professional development? Why?

Read: Skillful Facilitation

Recognizing the concerns and needs of the teachers with whom you work and knowing the characteristics of effective professional development are critical precursors to developing high-quality learning experiences. Delivering professional development that is truly transformative is the next step. 

EL Education appreciates the unique style or “voice” each professional development facilitator brings to the role. There are, however, certain characteristics that are consistent across all skillful facilitators. Read and reflect on your own skills related to this list of characteristics on the document below. You might choose to select one or two characteristics on which you will strive to improve: 

Professional Development Facilitation Criteria: An overview document from EL Education explaining the characteristics of skillful facilitation. 

Dig Deeper


A Measure of Concern: An article by Karel Holloway published in Tools for Schools that illustrates how CBAM’s stages of concern can be used to aid innovation. 
The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals: A succinct summary of the implications of the stages of concern for professional developers posted by the National Research Council.
Framework for Professional Development in EL Education Schools: An overview of the structures and roles used to support professional learning for the school community. 
Characteristics of EL Education Professional Development: A document describing EL Education’s beliefs regarding effective professional development for educators.
SEDLConcerns Based Adoption Model: SEDL’s website including additional CBAM information. SEDL is a nonprofit educational research institution. 


Concerns-Based Adoption Model Stages of Concern:  A chart explaining each of the Stages of Concern.
Concerns-Based Adoption Model Levels of Use: A chart describing the behaviors demonstrated that are aligned to the Stages of Concern.


For Coaches:

  1. What are the characteristics of effective professional development?
  2. How will you be sure to address the specific needs of adult learners when planning and delivering professional development?
  3. In what ways will an awareness of the Concerns-Based Adoption Model inform your development of a comprehensive professional development plan?

For School Leaders:

  1. What are the characteristics of effective professional development?
  2. How will you determine the stages of teacher concern related to innovation in your school?
  3. What will you do to gather information about how your staff is responding to implementation? How will you use this information to plan for and provide professional development?