One Size Does Not Fit All: PD and Collaboration

Written by Karen Barreras, Director of Leadership Engagement, NCEA, [email protected]

There are times when the mere mention of Professional Development (PD) was a challenge for me, in that, while we routinely talk about differentiation in instruction in classrooms, this is sometimes not the case for Catholic school administrators and teachers when it comes to PD.  How do we make it meaningful and useful to teachers and others with a broad range of expertise and experience, and who also teach various subjects in classrooms from Pre-K through 12?  Frankly, I have come to believe that in some, if not most cases, one size does not fit all. 

One example of this has to do with PD regarding technology.  There is sometimes a vast difference in the previous experience and learning of technological natives and those who are newer to technology.  But one benefit is that our attitude towards PD can have a significant impact on the outcome.  A wise nun shared with me, “try to take away at least one thing from every training you attend.”  That was very insightful. 

The mission of NCEA is: 

In service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, NCEA strengthens Catholic school communities by convening all stakeholders and providing professional development, data, public policy and resources to support faith and intellectual formation.

Clearly, one of our callings is to provide professional development for our members.

For the purposes of this blog, the original National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools (NSBECS) also reference professional development, particularly in, but not limited to:

Domain Three: Academic Excellence:

Standard 7: An excellent Catholic school has a clearly articulated, rigorous curriculum aligned with relevant standards, 21st century skills and gospel values implemented through effective instruction,

Benchmark 7.10: Faculty and staff engage in high-quality professional development, including religious formation, and are accountable for implementation that supports student learning and well-being.

The correlating rubrics are very clearly stated for this benchmark. (Annotation added for emphasis.)

Level 4 Exceeds Benchmark

Faculty and staff deliver and engage in high quality professional development, including religious formation, and are accountable for implementation that supports all student academic learning and growth in faith formation, which are evidenced through targeted assessment. Review of faculty performance includes monitoring of level and effectiveness of implementations. Professional development objectives are tied to student learning needs and mirror the focus of professional development currently in place. Faculty create planning documents for the implementation of professional development, and the assessment of the effects of the implementation are ongoing and frequent

(There may be changes in the wording in NSBECS, Second Edition, 2023, however, the intent is similar.)  

And therein lies the opportunity for schools, arch/dioceses and NCEA, as well as others, to collaborate and differentiate. NCEA members are welcome to participate and attend a wide variety of webinars on a vast array of topics designed to meet the different needs of many in our school communities. You have the option of watching webinars in real time or on-demand at your convenience. These webinars are given by subject matter experts who provide PD through the lens of Catholic schools…and these webinars are free! 

  1. Our incredible and extensive collection of books and Momentum magazine are also pertinent and useful sources for schools to jumpstart, add rigor to, or monitor their PD.  NCEA carefully checks resources and publications before approving them. This assures integrity to our mission, too. 

  2. The NCEA Collective is a new resource for those in Catholic schools. Check it out here: NCEA Collective. Educators and administrators are encouraged to submit what they are doing in their own schools that has been effective. Consider both using one or more of the resources, and also submitting your own efforts and successes!

  3. It is also worth noting that NCEA has developed a Content Map to assure our commitment to topics that are timely and important in Catholic schools.  Our Learning Arcs pertain to Affiliation of Students; Affiliation of Teachers, Principals and Diocesan Leaders; and Affiliation of Families and the Broader Community. We will also focus on Academic Recovery, as well as Evergreen Content that includes topics such as Centered in Christ, Student Learning Expectations, Inspiring Leadership, Data Culture, NSBECS, Public Policy and Legal Issues.

  4. Of course, our in-person NCEA events such as the Catholic Leadership Summit, NCEA 2024 Convention, Law Symposium and Regional Events are phenomenal places to be engaged in a broad range of PD and collaboration! Much of this is given by people who have been or are currently engaged in Catholic schools. 

Title-II funding may be able to be used to attend these events. There are also webinars that can assist in utilizing this funding, too.

Through collaboration, we find that we have more in common than not. We are stronger when we share our resources and knowledge, maximizing our own effectiveness as Catholic school educators. We further our individual and collective abilities to teach and spread the good news of Catholic education, keeping in mind that when it comes to PD, one size does not necessarily fit all!