Professional development programs

September 13, 2011

Add a splash of colour to your professional growth plan

September is here and it’s time to ensure you’re on track for a year of rewarding professional development.

Through professional development (PD), we continue to learn, keep our practice current and build strong relationships with our colleagues. In its many forms, PD honours the complexity of learning and enriches our community of practice.

PD is a rich combination of individualized and on­going learning activities. For these programs to be effective, they must be embedded in a larger professional growth plan. Successful PD is based on an individual’s assessment of previous experiences and projected needs. Knowing where you’ve come from and where you’re headed is critical to designing the map for your unique professional ­development plan.

Professional development balance

Professional development has its challenges, as well. One of the greatest challenges relates to the time provided to teachers for integrating or structuring professional learning into their work lives. The trend is to provide time for PD as part of teachers’ workday or workweek. The challenges are many. Most pressing are teacher workload and teacher working conditions, both of which can be a major source of stress. In the research publication Beyond PD Days: Teachers’ Work and Learning in Canada (Ontario Teachers’ Federation 2007), the authors underscore that new PD and teacher learning initiatives must consider the time constraints faced by teachers because of their ­demanding workloads and the intensity of their emotional commitment to their students.

It’s your professional responsibility

Exercising professional judgment in diagnosing and responding to the learning needs of students and in assessing their progress is central to what it means to be a teacher in Alberta. Teachers are responsible for determining curriculum emphases, designing instructional and learning activities, and developing and administering evaluations. Therefore, teachers also have a professional responsibility to keep abreast of new developments in education and to develop their professional practice.

In Alberta, every teacher and school administrator employed by a school system must develop and implement an annual plan for professional growth that outlines the PD activities the teacher intends to undertake that year.

The requirements for an annual professional growth plan are outlined in Alberta Education’s Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy (Policy 2.1.5):

  1. Each teacher employed under a probationary or continuing contract is responsible for completing an annual professional growth plan.
  2. The plan is submitted for review or approval to the principal or a group of teachers delegated by the ­principal.
  3. The plan may be a component of a long-term, multiyear plan, or it may be fulfilled by mentoring a teacher or supervising a student teacher.
  4. Each teacher will meet annually with the principal or the delegated group of teachers to review the plan and, in consultation, decide whether the teacher has completed an annual growth plan that addresses the following requirements:
  • Meets the teacher’s self-assessment of learning needs
  • Reflects the Teaching Quality Standard
  • Considers the educational plans of the school, system and government

More information about professional growth plans is available on the ATA website (, under For Members and then Professional Development.

For more information about teacher professional growth, supervision and evaluation, contact ATA staff at 780-447-9400 (in Edmonton) or 1-800-232-7208 (elsewhere in Alberta).

Get online

Professional growth plan tutorial

The ATA has developed a self-paced online tutorial to help teachers develop professional growth plans. The ­tutorial can be found on the ATA website ( under For Members, Professional Development.

The online tutorial is organized into four sections:

  1. Review Provincial Policy Regulations
  2. Reflect on Your Professional Practice
  3. Develop a Professional Growth Plan
  4. Prepare for a Successful Review of Your Growth Plan
PD must be transformational

Within the scope of a professional growth plan, teachers can undertake a range of professional learning activities, including reading professional journals, trying out new practices in the classroom and joining professional ­organizations. In the past, PD focused on individual development, workshops, inservice and external delivery systems. Today, the emphasis is on school-based activities, such as coaching, mentorships, partnerships and team/group development.

Transformational PD is a learning opportunity that ­results in undergoing personal change, questioning ­current practice, changing practice, changing beliefs or furthering learning.

Transformational learning experiences have personal meaning and are often holistic, self-directed and needs driven.

Get the most from your PD

The following 10 tips will help you to get the most from PD activities:

  1. Set a learning goal ahead of time.
  2. Let the facilitator know what you want to learn.
  3. Share ideas with other participants.
  4. Take notes in a double-column format: key points and personal reflections.
  5. Ask questions for clarification.
  6. Make connections to your previous knowledge.
  7. Attend with a colleague and share ideas after the ­session.
  8. Listen with an open mind to new ideas.
  9. Observe the presentation and facilitation techniques.
  10. Leave the session with a personal action plan.
Sign up for your annual membership in a specialist council

Specialist council memberships are available online

Are you a member of a specialist council? Did you know that active ATA members can choose membership in one specialist council at no charge? The no-cost council membership will continue until you decide to change to a different council. To register, or to change your ­council membership, log in at with your TNET username and password.

Specialist councils are an integral part of the ­Association’s activities. Granting members automatic membership in a specialist council is an innovative step toward increasing PD opportunities for educators throughout Alberta and promoting their professional expertise.

The 21 specialist councils offer a wide range of services and programs. Specialist councils foster the PD of teachers with a common subject specialty and similar roles. Opportunities to share ideas and gather information are provided through annual conferences, publications, websites, and regional workshops and seminars. The councils publish newsletters, journals or newsjournals pertaining to the subjects or specialties. ATA representatives on Alberta Education curriculum and policy committees are selected from specialist council members.

Visit the ATA website at to ­activate your specialist council membership today!

Specialist Councils

Alberta School Library Council
Career and Technology Studies Council
Le Conseil français
Council on School Administration
Early Childhood Education Council
Educational Technology Council
English as a Second Language Council
English Language Arts Council
Fine Arts Council
First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Council
Global, Environmental and Outdoor Education Council
Guidance Council
Health and Physical Education Council
Mathematics Council
Middle Years Council
Outreach Education Council
Religious and Moral Education Council
Science Council
Second Languages and Intercultural Council
Social Studies Council
Special Education Council (*including Gifted and ­Talented Education)

Conventions enhance teachers’ professionalism

Under the Teaching Profession Act, the ATA is responsible for advancing and promoting the cause of education in Alberta and enhancing the teaching profession. A ­primary way in which the Association fulfills this obligation is through providing annual conventions for teachers. The ATA has established 10 convention associations across the province, each of which is governed by a constitution and a board comprising teachers selected by participating locals.

Teachers have a professional and legal obligation to attend the convention to which they are assigned by their local. The mission for teachers’ conventions is to support professionalism and enhance student learning by addressing teachers’ professional needs, supporting professional collaboration, advancing effective teaching practices, and motivating reflective practice by exploring research and emerging issues. Convention details are available on the ATA website (

Convention Associations

Calgary City Mighty Peace
Greater Edmonton        Palliser District
Northeast Southeastern Alberta
South Western Alberta Central East Alberta
Central Alberta North Central

Looking for a dynamic workshop at an incredibly low price?

The ATA has developed a variety of research-based, hands-on workshops focused on student learning and school improvement. They are available to Alberta schools for only $100 per workshop. These sessions are delivered by a talented group of teachers and administrators, the Instructor Corps and the Administrator Corps. Workshop topics can support your comprehensive PD plan and can be customized for your school. Some of the workshops include

  • Coaching – Collaborating for Success
  • Learning with the Brain in Mind
  • Building Bridges Toward Effective Partnerships with Schools in Developing Countries
  • Here Comes Everyone – Teaching in the Culturally ­Diverse Classroom
  • Engaging Students – The Art of Effective Instruction
  • Alberta’s Approach to Collaborative Practices
  • Ensuring Success in the Early Years
  • Understanding Alberta’s FNMI Peoples

For a detailed list of workshops, visit the ATA ­website at and look under Professional ­Development.

For more information or to book a workshop, please contact Debra Augustyn, Professional Development program assistant, at 780-447-9485 (in Edmonton and area), 1-800-232-7208 (toll free elsewhere in Alberta) or 780-455-6481 (fax).

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