Plan for and Optimize Professional Learning: A Q&A with Roland Espericueta

Roland Espericueta

Director of Professional Development

How can I determine the level of understanding of the learner?

Initially, you will need to determine if you have a built-in mechanism to measure the proficiency of the professional development (PD) or if you need to create one by comparing the present level of performance to the learning goal outcomes you determined when the PD was planned from the start. This may be done in one-on-one interviews, surveys, quizzes, classroom observations, rubrics, etc. The key is to ask yourself what you want to measure and what proficiency/success looks like so you can rate it.

Is there a standard for PD that districts should be providing?

I am not aware of any national standards that districts use for PD. Some districts may belong to professional organizations for PD, but there is no governance that I am aware of. Most districts do have a person who serves as an administrator for PD; this would be a great contact person to ask questions about standards, expectations, guidelines, etc.

Is train the trainer an effective strategy that I can depend on?

Yes, if done correctly. It is important to pick a trainer who is very experienced in the area. Training the trainer to ensure that they are delivering the instruction effectively and connecting with the learners is key. Some districts use solutions and software that can thoroughly instruct the trainers. The more trainers are familiar with the software or solution, the better chance they have at a smooth implementation.

What type of data is found to be most effective when looking for implementation fidelity?

This depends on what data points are being evaluated and what area is being analyzed. Look at the data that surrounds the area of evaluation specific to the situation to identify deficits. Then, address the deficits with “Why?” questions.

How do I know what type of PD is best for the teachers in the district?

Survey the staff to evaluate what their learning needs are and to determine gaps in skills. If the district provides data points around how teachers are evaluated, study them. See if they suggest deficits in certain areas and research whether those areas are PD opportunities.

How can I get my district to support PD for our teachers?

Devise a well-outlined plan and present it to a supervisor or department member to acquire their support. Showcase the proposal’s feasibility by fully answering the “Why?” questions and preview the “What?” questions.

How can I make regularly occurring training more lively and engaging?

Have different people lead different sessions. The change in presentation styles helps keep the learners engaged. Also, include activities throughout the presentation that foster participation.

How can I recognize gaps in skills that need to be filled?

Gaps in skills can be identified through direct observation or interaction with the teachers. The staff can also be surveyed, self-identifying their learning needs.

Who collects and observes the data?

It depends on the district. This could be the duty of the trainer, a leadership group, a data collection system, etc. Part of the planning process is for the PD organizer to determine who is going to monitor progress.

Is there an easy and effective way to collect data?

It is dependent on the type of PD being delivered. Mechanisms that collect data electronically are easy and effective. The physical collection is time-consuming and requires personnel resources, so it needs strong coordination.

About the Author

Roland Espericueta has over 20 years of experience in the special education field. He taught at San Antonio ISD before serving as an administrator at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. During his career, Roland supervised special education programs and specialists, monitored compliance, and organized district professional development. Most recently, his work has included training educators, providing consultation and assisting with the implementation of various solutions.