Evidence-Based Professional Development for Teachers

· High School,Career Readiness,Teaching,Development,Workplace



The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Today, in a digitally driven and globally interconnected world, this aphorism still rings true. In the realm of education, this constant flux keeps teachers on their toes. They must continuously adapt and enhance their pedagogical skills — not an easy task. In this article, we will explore how evidence-based professional development is key to this evolution, offering a structured pathway for educators to refine their teaching practices through actionable feedback from coaches.


This collaboration between teachers and their coaches is a dynamic partnership aimed at setting tangible goals, working diligently toward them, and meticulously documenting evidence of teaching practices. Read on to delve into the significance of goal setting in professional development, the pivotal role of evidence in teacher coaching, and how THINKING PRO helps augment teachers' capabilities in nurturing literacy and critical thinking.

The Cornerstone of Professional Development: Goal Setting

Teacher goal setting is an indispensable aspect of professional growth, providing a clear direction and a sense of purpose for educators. Teacher goals might range from enhancing student engagement to integrating technology into the classroom, increasing student-centeredness, and/or refining assessment strategies. The specificity of these goals allows teachers to focus their efforts and measure progress, ensuring that professional development is not just an abstract concept but a tangible journey toward improvement.

Using Evidence in Teacher Professional Development and Coaching

The integration of evidence into the professional development process is what distinguishes an effective program from a theoretical one. Evidence — whether it's video recordings of lessons, student work artifacts, reflection prompts, or other data — serves as a concrete measure of a teacher's practice. By collecting and reviewing this evidence, teachers and their coaches can engage in a meaningful dialogue about what works, what doesn't, and why.

Here are three kinds of evidence and how teachers can use information from each to refine their skills.

Video Recordings: A Mirror to Classroom Dynamics


Video recordings of classroom sessions offer a unique opportunity for teachers to observe their teaching practices from an outsider's perspective. This introspection can lead to powerful revelations about classroom management, teaching strategies, and student interactions. When reviewed with a coach, these videos become a springboard for constructive feedback, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Student Artifacts: The Proof of Pedagogy


Student work artifacts are another form of evidence that sheds light on the effectiveness of teaching strategies. Analyzing student outcomes helps teachers pinpoint areas of strength and opportunities for growth, not only in their teaching practices but also in their understanding of student needs. Insightful artifacts could include, for example, assignments, exit slips, writing samples, and log data in the learning platform.

Reflection Prompts: A Personal Touch to Professional Growth


Written reflections kept by teachers serve as a vital resource for coaching, helping to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness and identify areas for professional improvement. Through the analysis of these reflection prompts, coaches can gain insights into teachers’ perceptions of the lessons, the clarity of the instruction, and the overall classroom environment. By reviewing these candid insights, coaches can suggest strategies to better meet the needs of teachers and their students.

Collaborative Reflection: The Path to Setting New Goals

The process of reviewing evidence with a coach is not merely about evaluation; it's about reflective collaboration. In this partnership, coaches provide actionable feedback, brainstorm new and innovative strategies with teachers, and help identify how change can be measured. The ultimate goal of this collaboration is not just to reflect on past performances but to use these insights to set new measurable goals for the next coaching session.

For example, a goal might be to increase student motivation to participate in a group discussion, and a strategy for achieving that might be to allow students to identify local issues that matter to them, which in turn leads to more students engaged for a longer period of time. This cycle of setting goals, working toward them, and reflecting on the evidence is what drives the continuous evolution of teaching practices.


Research indicates that effective professional development “should consist of activities that are ongoing and sustainable over time, and that provide the opportunity for teachers to engage in cycles of experimentation and reflection.” Teachers can implement these sustainable cycles of improvement by practicing these goal-setting and evidence-driven techniques.

THINKING PRO: Helping Teachers Foster Literacy and Critical Thinking


In the quest for effective professional development, THINKING PRO is a key asset for educators. This learning program for all students is designed with the modern educator in mind, focusing on practical strategies to foster a culture of inquiry and analysis in the classroom. THINKING PRO equips teachers with the tools and methodologies necessary to engage students in deep, meaningful learning experiences, preparing them for the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more about how THINKING PRO helps teachers with professional development and educational efficacy.

Effective professional development requires informed goal setting and the strategic use of evidence in enhancing teaching practices. By adopting a reflective and collaborative approach to professional development, teachers can embark on a journey of continuous improvement, directly impacting student outcomes and the broader educational community. Programs like THINKING PRO play a crucial role in supporting this journey, offering targeted interventions that empower teachers to excel in fostering literacy, critical thinking, and beyond.

Here at Thinking Habitats, we use thinking tools to empower young people to lead successful lives and contribute to the well-being of their communities. Our online platform has helped students improve their critical thinking, reading comprehension, and news media literacy, and has had significant individual and community impacts. Try THINKING PRO today, and join our students who feel more empowered in decision-making, more mindful with their news engagement, and more connected to their local community!



Borko, H., Stanford University, Jacobs, J. K., University of Colorado Boulder, Koellner, K., & Arizona State University. (2010). Contemporary approaches to teacher professional development. International Encyclopedia of Education, 7–7, 548–556. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-044894-7.00654-0 

University of San Diego - Professional & Continuing Education. (2023, December 21). Goal setting for teachers [23 ideas to try today]. University of San Diego - Professional & Continuing Education. https://pce.sandiego.edu/goal-setting-for-teachers-23-ideas-to-try-today/