The Impact of Professional Development: A Theoretical Model for Empirical Research, Evaluation, Planning and Conducting Training and Development Programmes

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 37, No. 5, November 2011, 837–853.
(Reviewed by the Portal team)

In this article, the author presents several international trends regarding the provider, the participants, the aims the contents and the methods that found in professional development (PD)programmes.

International trends

In spite of differences in cultural and institutional traditions, a number of international patterns or tendencies in PD can be identified from a global perspective.
Current trends and paradigm shifts include the following:

– Centralised planning and decentralised implementation of programmes.
– New forms of cooperation and partnership.
– Dovetailing theory and practice.

– Qualifying teachers and teacher teams at school level.
– Promoting collegial support (e.g. professional learning communities, peer coaching).

– Adjusting the programme to explicit aims and objectives.

– Holistic approaches (content instruction and also promotion of motivation and reflection).
– Personal development instead of training for a role.

– From knowledge acquisition to creation and development of knowledge.
– Experience and application orientation.

The central question of all PD is that of its impact.
What leads to the experience of professional effectiveness, to professional competence, to gaining expertise by reflected experiences, and to professionalism?

Therefore, the author argues that two requirements are important for learning in (continuing) professional development.
Firstly, PD has to integrate diagnostic means as a starting point for training and development programmes.
Secondly, sustainability has to become a focus of attention. How is it possible to move from knowledge to action.


The author suggests several recommendations to progress matters and links made with school and leadership effectiveness issues.

The provider of the PD should be
– trainer oriented, i.e. the trainers of the PD are chosen carefully;
– evaluation oriented.

The target groups should be
– participant oriented, i.e. individual learning needs are taken into account by providing various options to choose from;
- participation oriented, i.e. aiming at the participants’ taking part in decision- making;

The aims of PD should be
– goal oriented, i.e. The PD starts from explicit goals;
– theory oriented, i.e. suitable theories are taken up and used;
– practice oriented, i.e. it focuses on school practice and school reality;
– research oriented, i.e. it is based upon recent national and international findings;
– competence oriented, i.e. knowledge, abilities and skills, as well as aspects of the individual motivation of the participants are taken into account;
– effectiveness and sustainability oriented;

The contents should be
– school system oriented, i.e. focuses on the recent developments in the school system.
– school context oriented, i.e. it starts off with the particular situation of the school (contextual-external: environment of the school;
– cooperation and communication oriented;

The methods should be
– reflection oriented, i.e. participants get various opportunities to reflect on their own particular competences and interests;
– activity oriented, i.e. aiming at the active involvement of participants;
– performance and feedback oriented;


The author concludes that this article offers a framework for evaluations, which helps to position evaluations and to sharpen the design.
The author emphasizes that the framework implies that different programmes evoke different kinds of impact.
Therefore the choice of criteria of impact in research and evaluation studies is important.

Updated: Aug. 19, 2013