PD Transfer

Professional Development for Teachers

Sometimes readers like you (or I) TRY SO HARD to make changes, then, something simple comes along that seems to make it appear to be so much easier.

Whether you attended my June or July sessions this summer, or ANY other professional development in the last two months, this article is for you. This issue speaks to the power of one or two persons who can make an amazing difference in a school. Yes, that’s all it took to start good things at this high poverty school.

You want to know WHAT they did and HOW they did it?

The Research

The research on the effectiveness of transfer (getting the learning from a PD into a classroom) is not encouraging. In fact, it is downright depressing.

In research, we look for studies on the effects of PD (Professional Development that have the following five criteria:

  • Large sample size (500-50,000 teachers) since it is hard to generalize from just one school, district or state
  • Recency (best if published in the last 10 or even 5 years)
  • Diversity of staff and students (otherwise you wonder if it would have been different with more or less diverse subjects)
  • Longitudinal (studies that look at the effects of PD over time, not just at the end of the day)
  • Strong metrics for measure (student achievement is just one of them)

The studies I am using are listed at the end of this newsletter. Here is what the results say from six (6) large, recent studies that each meet the criteria above.

  • Most (but not all) PDs are ineffective; gains are minimal
  • Less than half of the staff show gains in student achievement after a PD.
  • Most teachers make the greatest gains in their first ten years.
  • Teachers need high support AT EVERY STAGE OF THEIR CAREER, especially after the ten-year mark.

Getting Started and Taking Action

It is a good time to reactivate the crucial rule for PDs. If you have been receiving this newsletter for some time, you might recall that three years ago I did a newsletter on the “Rule of the Thirds“.

I said that to optimize PDs, you have to value ALL three parts of a well-done PD: 1) the pre-PD choices made, 2) the actual day of the PD, and 3) the follow-up and climate of the school.

Let’s flesh this out a bit to give you some insights. What can you do to increase the changes to a positive effect from a PD?

FOCUS ON THE PRE-PD (done days, weeks and months ahead of time)

Choices made: Does the topic fit into the school pathway, book study prep, integration of the content into the school mission, the presenter chosen, the day of the week chosen, the time of the school year, the venue and the circumstances (teacher pay?). In short, who decided on this whole idea, was there “buy-in” and was the venue and date chosen well.

FOCUS ON THE PD (the day of the event)

Will food be offered that day (and is it healthy), functional seating (rounds are ideal), teacher discussion preparation, buy-in from leadership, PD hours, breaks, etc. But most of all, was the presenter getting buy-in, making it relevant, engaging the audience and offering compelling, fresh, research-based content?

FOCUS ON THE POST-PD (follow up)

This final third of the three is all about the follow up. Leadership must show the staff that the content is relevant to them by actions, not words. They must show the staff that leadership cares and will support them by protecting teacher meeting and implementation time.

Now, let’s turn to a real-world event with real teachers who went to a PD. It happened to be one of my PDs (How else would I have heard about what the teachers did)?

The Role Teachers Can Play in the PD

Two remarkable teachers attended my 3-day summer program last summer on Teaching and Engaging with Poverty in Mind. Here is the true story of what they did and how it turned out.

By the way this story could happen with any teacher(s) at any school. In fact, it could have happened with you.

Lean in and enjoy reading about the path they took for success. The teachers (real names) are Jennifer and Amy.

After the Jensen Poverty event, the two teachers decided on what to present to their staff when they got back to their school. After all, that was the deal: you can go to this “Jensen event” as long as you come back and share it.

At the event, they set the gusty, gaudy, audacious goals they wanted to foster (high expectations) for their students. Let’s let the teachers begin with the end (the actual results):

“Eric, we wanted to take the time to write and let you know that we MET the “Gaudy goal” at last summer’s workshop! We have indeed had the best year of our professional lives! We believe strongly that our year teaching and presenting has been very successful because of our learning in Texas. We came to Texas last year as teachers of a Title I building with 80% low income.

“We knew from your book that your presentations would be very relevant for us, but we had no idea just how relevant. We are truly grateful that we were able to attend your conference last year, which resulted in the best year of our teaching careers!”

So, that sounds pretty good. But, HOW did it happen? First, many who attend ANY OUT OF TOWN PD are concerned about how their own “back at the school sharing” will be received. After all, there was a LOT of content in the 3-Day Poverty program.

So, how did just two ladies influence their entire school?


“Jen and I (Amy) were able to present at our building what we learned at your conference.

What we first thought would be a one day institute training, has turned into leading the Professional Development for the building for the entire school year.  We have been able to share our learning from your conference, and develop our presentation skills all year long.

Now, this is what we like: instead of overloading the staff at their school, they allowed their staff to “nibble” at the learning for an entire school year.

So, how did that idea turn out? Let’s let Jen and Amy continue:

“The feedback from the staff has been phenomenal. They found it engaging and incredibly relevant. It would have been fabulous to have you here presenting, however Jen and I are doing our best with our own ‘Erica and Erica’ show.”

By the way, here is a sample of the feedback they got back at their school, after presenting to their staff:

The ladies said, “I have attached some of the Comments from our Staff. The question was, “How did Professional Development this year impact you in your classroom?”

  • “Not only did the PD provide me with countless strategies to improve my classroom, it was very refreshing and motivating. I had a much more positive attitude after meetings, which had a strong impact on my teaching.”
  • “It changed how I see myself and my students. It gave me the tools to support my students as learners and as members of society.”
  • “I feel like it was so useful and applicable to EVERYONE! I loved the social emotional aspects. It changed my focus to raise my expectations and also my belief that the brain can change.”
  • “It completely changed me and my teaching strategies in everyday teaching. Thank you!”
  • “This PD was a breath of fresh air. Thank you for taking the time and taking the extra step to provide staff a new perspective and a new mindset when working with our students.”
  • I was a really positive teacher this year. This helped me to forge some incredible relationships with many students. I feel like the students had more trust in me.
  • “My students were so excited and eager to learn and really participated at a higher level – I loved the ideas for engagement and grit and through my learning about the brain, I was able to approach my students and know truly that they all can be successful – it just takes some grit!”
  • “The PD this year helped me with strategies in a year I needed it most!”
  • “This PD was so beneficial. I have learned so much this year related to teaching students from poverty. The engagement strategies have been so helpful (immediate change). I loved setting Gutsy/Gaudy Goals for myself and my students. Everything this year really confirmed the fact that we have to take care of our kid’s basic needs before we can teach them the curriculum.”
  • “Next year I want to focus on my mindset.  I need to have a positive attitude and a ‘don’t give up’ quote not only for myself, but also to empower my students.”
  • “Amy and Jen did such an amazing job engaging me and making Jensen’s materials exciting. I felt the courage to start implementing immediately.”


Jen and Amy said, “First, we have been able to apply many strategies into our classrooms. The change has been remarkable. To give you a little background on our classes, we both worked with a very challenging group of fifth grade students.

The students came to school in unmotivated states and did not receive much encouragement outside of school. We were so excited last summer at the conference because we felt that so much of what you were talking about was going to have a positive impact on our students.”


“We have also applied your strategies of engaging students in the classroom to our staff trainings.

“We can now say quite convincingly that it definitely has changed the climate of our classrooms. Starting with music, taking time for gratitude, group roles, real life jobs, etc…. Has really changed our classroom this year.”


Both of the ladies were gathering feedback this last year.

“Speaking for myself, I have even had my students write reflections about how school has changed. I have the unique opportunity to work with some of the same students for more than one year.

“In their reflections they have spoken to the idea that school is a better place to be this year. They have had nothing but positive feedback regarding the changes to the classroom.”


“We have also applied your strategies of engaging students in the classroom to our staff trainings. To wrap the year up, our staff participated in an anchor chart competition. We understand the importance of buy-in for our students and our staff and we have worked hard to obtain buy-in for our presentations.

“This is our culminating activity. We are so proud of what our teachers learned and produced! The staff did an amazing job on the anchor charts!

“About this time last year, we found your conference, filed our proposal with our district, and kept our fingers crossed that they would send us. We have had an amazing year and wanted to make sure you know that we feel like we owe you for our successes in the classroom and presenting.

“You have rekindled our passion for teaching and we believe that through us, other teachers are also finding their passion again for working with our challenging yet rewarding, low income population.

Thank you so much! Amy & Jennifer “

One last thing. You can’t get any more profound (or useful) than that. So … you are about done reading about these two teachers phenomenal year. Now, go ahead and select the strategy to start in your work role NOW! If two teachers can make this profound a difference in their school, you can too!

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning
Brain-Based Education


2 replies
  1. Eric Jensen
    Eric Jensen says:

    Hi Linda
    The Anchor charts were visuals on flip charts that showed the current “baseline” (the “anchor”) and the high expectations “gutsy goals” to strive for. They are done in many areas targeted for change.

    They are teacher-made and very inspiring!

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