Unlocking Professional Development for K12 Educators




Joseph Kosiorek, AIA, Ed.D | Education Planner

Many years ago, a colleague of mine and a K12 administrator, said to me, “Of all workplace environments, schools are most susceptible to the flavor-of-the-week mentality.”

What does that mean? It means that there is a lot of distraction when it comes to educator professional development and the newest trends usually win. Current events rule the day, and a knee jerk reaction gets the most attention. However, K12 organizations can utilize flexible learning environments to support professional development and mentorships that comply with their long-term plan.

The abundance of advertising about the latest trends in school safety, teaching software, energy saving products, or collaborative classroom furniture generates excitement and creates confusion. Schools across New York State, per my research, often deviate from their strategic plans and invest in outside products rather than utilize their existing space and resources. This lack of consistency detracts from the focus on educator and teacher professional development.

There is a three-part solution for effective K12 professional development:

Align with Goals

The approach should line up with their strategic and long-range plans. All professional development opportunities should be vetted by the administration through the lens of strategic and long-range plans. Thematic consistency from year-to-year will increase organizational trust and build a successive and measurable growth pattern.

Multiple Approaches

Professional development must happen using both regularly scheduled organized methods and organic methods. Organized professional development alone is ineffective—first, because it happens only once or twice a year, and second, like a traditional teaching method, it is a one-size-fits-all solution for large groups of educators. It becomes a formality and enthusiasm fades when not reinforced frequently. Organic professional development happens when educators are provided with the opportunity to collaborate regularly and create an authentic mentoring environment.


Organic, or natural and self-directed, professional development is most effective in flexible learning environments, via teacher-to-student and teacher-to-teacher mentoring in various physically and visually connected space types. Organic professional development finds even greater promise when educators are given flexible learning environments supporting teacher-to-teacher mentoring, allowing them the space to model the way for student-occupied spaces. Flexibility and variety in instructional spaces, not offered in traditional learning environments, enables educators to address diverse student learning preferences, creating a comprehensive organizational sense-of-place.

K12 professional development empowers educators with the tools to adapt to the evolving educational landscape. It is most effective when schools incorporate a flexible, multi-method approach that aligns with their strategic plans.

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