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Planning Template for Remote Professional Learning

The following tool can help school and LEA leaders plan remote professional learning opportunities for educators, from identifying priority topics through evaluating outcomes. The tips interspersed throughout provide research-based advice on specific components of remote professional learning with examples in the area of remote teaching.

Download a Microsoft Word version of the Planning Template for Remote Professional Learning. (Word)

Step 1: Select priority topic/s

Using the table below, leaders can list potential training topics for educators and determine which topics should be high priorities to include in professional learning.

Professional learning topic Priority level for your school/s (high, moderate or low) Evidence for priority level
(based on quantitative/ qualitative information, student indicators, and multiple stakeholders)
If the topic is selected, which educators should participate?
Example: Student engagement in virtual learning Example: High Example:
During Spring 2020 virtual instruction at Middle School X, teachers reported that among students who participated in virtual learning, fewer than half of students in most classes regularly responded to teacher prompts in class; and 35% of assignments were submitted on time.
Parent feedback cited lack of student engagement in online learning as a top concern in Spring 2020.
Department heads recently surveyed their teachers and reported that overall about 40% of teachers feel confident in their ability to engage students remotely.
Example: All teachers will participate; use follow-up virtual "walkthroughs" to identify teachers who can benefit from additional professional learning on this topic.

 Selected topic for the professional learning opportunity:

While remote professional learning can address a variety of topics—and is not limited to content about remote instruction—the following list includes training topics that experts and practitioners recommend for schools shifting to remote/blended learning for students.1

  • Student engagement in remote learning
  • Differentiated and personalized instruction in remote learning
  • Learning needs of students with disabilities (including adapted and/or modified online materials and activities to meet student needs)
  • Meeting students' social-emotional needs through remote instruction
  • Approaches to adapting curricula, assessment, instruction and materials to remote or blended instruction
  • Implementing LEA "core" programs specific to ELA and math at elementary and middle school levels in a remote learning environment
  • Effective administration of specific universal screening instruments, benchmark assessments, and diagnostic assessments from Beginning of Year through Middle of Year to End of Year
  • Administering local assessments, including unit/chapter assessments to students remotely
  • Formative assessment techniques in remote learning environments
  • Effective feedback to students on assignments and other assessments
  • Using student learning data from remote assessments to inform instruction
  • Assigning, monitoring and using homework effectively to improve student learning in a remote learning environment
  • Online academic integrity for students
  • Student safety in remote learning, e.g., student privacy and educator reporting of neglect/abuse (see the "Online safety and digital citizenship" section of this PDE page for resources)
  • Effective communication with students and families (modes, frequency, content, and tone of communications)

Step 2: Set goals

Develop a SMART goal for the professional learning opportunity's outcome: a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-Focused, and Timed. Goals should include student-level outcomes.


Goal/s for student-level outcomes
Example: In online synchronous lessons at Middle School X, students will have options to interact with classmates and respond to teachers through spoken, written and visual modes (e.g., emojis). By the end of Week 2, all students will participate at least twice per full-group lesson. In brief monthly surveys, the rate of students reporting that online synchronous lessons are usually engaging and easy to follow will increase and reach 90% by early November.

Goal/s for other outcomes (e.g., educators, leaders, families)

Step 3: Identify facilitators

Names/roles of professional learning facilitator/s:

Name of partner organization or 3rd party provider, if applicable:

What training, if any, will they need in facilitating online professional learning?

How often, and through what modes, will facilitator/s respond to ongoing questions and communications from participants? How will participants be engaged?

Tip: In remote adult learning, thorough and timely communication with the facilitator can make the learning more effective—particularly if learning occurs over a series of activities—and helps build connections and community.2If a 3rd party provider is facilitating remote professional learning, you may build into the contract a provision for sufficient communication and engagement with individual participants (e.g., frequency of online "office hours" or responses to participants' messages).

Step 4: Plan specific activities within the professional learning opportunity

Tip: When deciding whether a given portion of professional learning should by synchronous or asynchronous, consider how critical real-time interactivity is to build focal skills. Such interactive tasks can include role-playing or troubleshooting a common challenge. This can take place through technology tools such as breakout rooms that promote participant interaction. Other tasks can easily occur asynchronously, such as educators sharing lesson plans that apply a focal skill or viewing a recording of an exemplar lesson and responding on a group discussion board. Also consider that asynchronous activitiesallow educators to personalize the goals and timing of their learning.3 However, synchronous activities can provide more flexibilitywithin the learning opportunity; facilitators and participants can make on-the-fly adjustments as needed.4

Checklist for incorporating effective practices into components of remote professional learning

Activity 1 description:

Agenda (note what will be synchronous or asynchronous):

Focal skill/s or knowledge:
Instructions/notes for facilitator/s:
Instructions for participants:
Materials to use (videos, virtual handouts, etc.):

Activity 2 description:
Agenda (note what will be synchronous or asynchronous):

Focal skill/s or knowledge:
Instructions/notes for facilitator/s:
Instructions for participants:
Materials to use (videos, virtual handouts, etc.):

Tip: Professional learning community (PLC) formats lend themselves well to remote professional learning. Teachers can easily engage remotely with role-alike colleagues from other schools or LEAs. They can continue using the same online platforms they already use for informal support and collaboration with colleagues (e.g., group chats or closed social media pages). Virtual PLCs can include both synchronous and asynchronous elements.10 A set of PLC activities and protocols focused on the shift to digital learning are available from The Danielson Group.

Step 5: Consider logistics

Remote platform/ technology to be usedTechnology training available for participantsResources for ongoing tech support for participants (may include staff who are skilled with the technology)Back-up plan/s if the technology does not work as planned

Tip: Provide various modes for participants to communicate, which can enhance learning. For example, participants can respond to the facilitator or one another using a text chat, emoticons or even gifs—all of which can be a means to humanize virtual interaction among adult learners.11 Using various virtual participation approaches models for educators the communication modes they can use with their own students. Additionally, leaders can easily record participant communications, and analyze them to learn more about educators' questions, concerns and learning progress.

Audio communication mode/s for participants:

Written communication mode/s for participants:

Other visual communication mode/s for participants:

Step 6: Plan the evaluation of professional learning

The following table12 can help plan an effective evaluation of professional learning. Some evaluation levels—particularly Level 5—may not be observable soon after the professional learning.

A sample of a completed table is available in this article by Thomas R. Guskey.

Evaluation Level 1: Participants’ Reactions

What questions are addressed? How will information be gathered? What is measured or assessed? (refer to SMART goals) How will information be used?
​What was positive about this professional learning experience?
What suggestions do you have for improvement/enhancement?
Did the content make sense?
How relevant was it to your work?
Was the leader knowledgeable and helpful?
Was the virtual environment conducive to learning?

Evaluation Level 2: Participants’ Learning

What questions are addressed? How will information be gathered? What is measured or assessed? (refer to SMART goals) How will information be used?
​Did participants acquire the intended knowledge and skills?

Evaluation Level 3: Organization Support & Change

What questions are addressed? How will information be gathered? What is measured or assessed? (refer to SMART goals) How will information be used?
​ Was implementation of new knowledge and skills advocated, facilitated, and supported?
Are participants aware of how organizational leaders are supporting implementation of focal skills and practices?
Were barriers to implementation addressed quickly and efficiently?
Were sufficient resources for implementation made available?
Were successes recognized and shared?
What was the impact to the organization?
Did it affect the organization's climate and procedures?

Evaluation Level 4: Participants’ Use of New Knowledge & Skills

What questions are addressed? How will information be gathered? What is measured or assessed? (refer to SMART goals) How will information be used?
​Did participants effectively apply the new knowledge and skills to their practice?

Evaluation Level 5: Student Learning Outcomes

What questions are addressed? How will information be gathered? What is measured or assessed? (refer to SMART goals) How will information be used?
​ What was the apparent impact on students?
Did student outcomes change?
Did inequities in student outcomes change?
Did indicators of students' well-being change?
Did other student outcome goals (e.g., engagement or attendance) change?

Tip: Remote professional learning opportunities in which adult learners assess their own learning and practice are associated with greater learning outcomes for participants, and the participants tend to report higher satisfaction. Participants share self-assessment results with leaders, who can then track individual and overall learning progress.13

Self-assessment questions for participants to respond to at the end of the professional learning (may be tied to outcome goals):

  • How will I apply this information to my practice as an immediate turnaround?
  • How will I apply this information for long term planning and change?
  • How will I monitor the success of the application of this information?
  • How could this information change my practice?
  • Where do I need additional supports?
  • What related training opportunities do I now need?

1 S.B. Quilici & R. Joki. (2011). Investigating roles of online school principals. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 44(2), 141-160; Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (2020). Administrator guide to online learning; National Education Association. (2006). Guide to teaching online courses.

2 S.R. Aragon & E.S. Johnson. (2008). Factors influencing completion and noncompletion of community college online courses. American Journal of Distance Education, 22(3), 146-158; J. Lock. (2006). A new image: Online communities to facilitate teacher professional development. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(4), 663-678; B.G. Wilson, S. Ludwig-Hardman, C.L. Thornam, & J.C. Dunlap. (2004). Bounded community: Designing and facilitating learning communities in formal courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(3).

3 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2017). Reimagining the role of technology in education: 2017 national education technology plan update (PDF).

4 L. Darling-Hammond, M.F. Hyler, M. Gardner. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Learning Policy Institute; J.C. Dunlap & P.R. Lowenthal. (2014). The power of presence: Our quest for the right mix of social presence in online courses. In A. A. Piña & A. P. Mizell (Eds.) Real life distance education: Case studies in practice (pp. 41-66). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishers.

5 Darling-Hammond, Hyler & Gardner. (2017).

6 Darling-Hammond, Hyler & Gardner. (2017).; Dunlap & Lowenthal. (2014).

7 Ibid.

8 K.A. Ericsson & A.C. Lehmann. (1996). Expert and exceptional performance: Evidence of maximal adaptation to task constraints. Annual Review of Psychology, 47(1), 273-305.

9 C. Brooks & S. Gibson. (2012). Professional learning in a digital age. (PDF) Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 38(2).

10 Brooks & Gibson. (2012); U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2014).

11 D. Derks, A.E.R. Bos, & J.V. Grumbkow. (2007). Emoticons and social interaction on the Internet: The importance of social context. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(1), 842-849.

12 T. Guskey. (2002). Does it make a difference? Evaluating professional development. ​Educational Leadership, 59(6), 45-41.

13 C.M. Trivette, C.J. Dunst, D.W. Hamby, & C.E. O'Herin. (2009). Characteristics and consequences of adult learning methods and strategies. Research Brief, 3(1), 1-33.