What the Summer’s Hottest PD Topics Reveal About Educators

Dr. Lynn Kepp

What are the hottest topics for professional development in K-12 education over this extraordinary summer? As school districts across the nation prepare to return to in-person teaching, a snapshot of the most requested PD topics can offer insights into what educators feel they need to learn before they head back into their classrooms in the fall. My colleagues and I explored current data from 28,000 educators and what we discovered is that teachers this summer are seeking professional development that provides strategies for greater engagement, rigor, literacy and equity. In short, they are looking for effective resources that will help them close the opportunity gap that the pandemic has exacerbated.

An analysis of the PD topics most chosen over the summer of 2021 shows that K-12 educators are focused on accelerating student potential and transforming classrooms with more engaging, student-centered approaches. Administrators and education leaders, for their part, are looking for topics focused on broadening and deepening the ongoing improvement of instruction and the comprehensive culture of student success within their school settings. There is clearly a keen interest among educators at all levels in professional learning, collaborative discourse and sharing of best practices across core content areas.

Digital strategies and resources also continue to be of prime interest for educators seeking to engage students in learning and knowledge creation. The most requested professional development courses help teachers build technology-rich classroom cultures that blend WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading) strategies with technology tools to prepare students with the skills they need to be college- and career-ready. Given the still unfolding nature of the pandemic, teachers are also aware of the need to acquire strategies, digital activities and digital tools that can be leveraged in both face-to-face or virtual learning environments.

Specifically, educators this summer have been most interested in supporting and developing effective strategies in the following four areas:

  1. Leading Change for Educational Equity — Education leaders are focused on developing a systemic approach to college and career readiness through defined leadership theories of action. In choosing this topic, they are seeking to examine educator beliefs and behaviors to create campus-wide conditions that support engaging classroom communities. The goal of these PD courses is to equip school leaders to identify specific strategies to accomplish, anticipate, and troubleshoot potential obstacles/barriers and implement lasting change in support of college and career readiness for all students.
  2. Creating Engaging and Rigorous Classrooms — Educators who signed up for these courses are looking for tools to create engaging and rigorous communities of learners. Practices to acquire include learning how to coach students to nurture and grow their own student agency, opportunity knowledge and rigorous academic preparedness. Practices for building connected classrooms through relational capacity activities also help to foster safe and equitable learning spaces.
  3. Academic Language and Literacy Architects: Language Building Through Culture and Identity — Today’s educators are seeking to become language architects by cultivating and maintaining learning systems that insist on rigor, break down barriers, align the work and advocate for students. Through the implementation of language-building routines and scaffolded instruction, educators choosing this PD strand are looking to support students in using their voice, culture, identity, and language to access and produce rigorous and language-rich content.
  4. Fostering an Equitable and Engaging Culture in Classrooms — Professional development options in this area enable educators to explore community-building activities and strategies for empowering students and developing engaging classrooms to close the opportunity gap. Current research is explored, with critical conversations around the composition of a culturally responsive classroom. These collaborative experiences engage educators in strategies to guide them in creating supportive classroom communities, empowering student voices, and establishing and maintaining rigorous expectations.

With most schools planning to return to in-person instruction in the fall, educators clearly recognize the importance of relevant professional learning to accelerate student learning. The top requested PD topics for the summer of 2021 demonstrate that educators are eager to bring into the nation’s classrooms and schools instructional and leadership strategies to ensure a lasting impact and help maximize student success in their college, careers and lives.


About the author

Dr. Lynn Kepp is the Vice President of Executive Communications and Project Management Office at AVID, a nonprofit training 85,000 educators annually to close the opportunity gap and prepare students for college, careers, and life. She has a Doctorate in Education from UC Riverside with a research focus on Teacher Development and has a Master’s in Science Education from Cal State Fullerton.

To learn more about how professional development initiatives can help accelerate learning, contact AVID.

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