Here’s Why One-Size-Fits-All Professional Development Is a Waste of Time

I’ve been a professional development manager for more than 10 years. My first job out of college was in the corporate world, where I managed small teams of professionals—teachers, school administrators, and even a few school psychologists—who were supposed to improve the quality of education in their schools and districts. I spent years managing these teams and their professional development, and it always seemed like a waste of time.

The common professional development model of a one-size-fits-all approach to learning has been peddled for years. The goal of this model is to prescribe a one-size-fits-all course for everyone in a given profession. While it may seem like a good way to reduce costs and save everyone time, it’s actually a big waste of time and resources.

Many teachers and administrators hold the assumption that they must adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development (PD). This is a mistake. When you try to implement a one-size-fits-all PD model, you fail to see that each learner is unique, just like each person. If you want to effectively engage your learners, you need to pay attention to these key individual differences.. Read more about professional development and let us know what you think.



Chris Stewart, a mentor and friend of mine, often inquires, “How are the kids?” This simple yet powerful question has me captivated. I looked into the meaning of the question and discovered that the Masai warriors’ welcome and the answer, “All the children are well,” is the expectation of the response. If no one can react quickly enough to ensure that all of the children are safe, a national emergency is proclaimed, and all resources are directed toward the issue. 

I declared a national emergency at our school after the release of our ILEARN results, which is Indiana’s state exam. I informed my team that we needed all hands on deck because if you ask us how the kids are doing, we can’t and shouldn’t say they’re OK. 

We’re just getting started on our two-week summer institute for teachers, which will help them prepare for the next school year. The first day of school is August 9th, and we have two weeks to prepare our instructors. I informed my instructors that this is not the school for them if they are not worried, angry, or even ashamed by our grades.

Last year, I believe, was the first year after the COVID-shortened 2019-2020 school year. I realize that we have kids on virtual, kids in person, and kids going back and forth — but it’s an issue to pretend that we shouldn’t try to better. Better is due to our kids, their families, and our community. Because we are the gatekeepers, we must improve.

Professional Development That Is One-Size-Fits-All Won’t Work

I really feel that the instructors in the building believe that our kids are capable of excelling academically. Our instructors are dedicated to providing quality education to all of the students in our facility. There’s simply something lacking in the relationship between such ideas and student success.

So, while I’m encouraging my teachers to grow, I’m also asking myself and my leadership team how we can better assist them. How can we help our instructors learn faster in our building? I considered two factors:

  • I need to enhance our instructors’ professional development and coaching.
  • I need to make sure that professional development is specifically tailored to the pedagogical requirements of instructors. It isn’t always the case.

We can’t provide the same professional development to all of the teachers in the school if I want to speed their learning. We require instructors in content-based teams to get appropriate training. Professional development must be so broad that the same material is given to the whole faculty in order to accelerate instructors’ learning at a pace that will equip them to teach at the level our students need and deserve. 

Here’s what’s self-evident. The requirements of a kindergarten teacher are very different from those of a third-grade math instructor. My fifth-grade reading instructor examines data in a different way than my first-grade reading teacher. At my school, one-size-fits-all professional development will not work.

This shift’s job isn’t a major undertaking for the instructors, but it is for the rest of my leadership team and myself. We need to undertake this work on the back end because we need to spend more time digging deep into our professional development communities if we are going to get teachers the skills they need to teach the level and depth of the standard. Instead of spending time on development that may or may not be relevant to them, we need our teachers to work in subject groups that correspond with their practice.

This is a major change from how we’ve done things in the past. Only time will tell whether it achieves the outcomes we anticipate. We have no choice but to attempt at this time in our school’s national emergency. Our children need and deserve it.

Canva-licensed photo by Monkey Business Images.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • professional development
  • professional knowledge definition
  • employee development suggestions
  • what does professional engagement mean?
  • what is the period of professional engagement?

About the Author: Prateek

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