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Are you planning professional development for teachers in your district? Here is a descriptive list of some hot-button training topics that can be used in any grade level or subject area.

Professional Development Topics

The topics below are some of the most current training topics that teachers are requesting at conferences and other professional development meetings. While many training topics are specific to particular subjects, ages, or ability levels, the topics presented here can be applied to classrooms across all grade levels and subject areas. For instance an elementary teacher who seeks to foster more on-task behavior might be interested in professional develop in gamification, maker space, or brain-based teaching. A high school science teacher who wants to push her best students to excel would benefit from training in blended learning, higher order thinking skills, and project-based learning.

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Blended Learning

Blended learning is the intersection of online instruction and face-to-face teaching.

Teachers in blended classrooms use online instruction to open more time for small group instruction and individual conferencing. It also requires an increased focus on data collection and analysis to make mindful choices about assignments and grouping. Blended learning offers the opportunity to truly differentiate and allows for more student autonomy, but it is a major shift away from traditional, whole group instruction and it requires technology to be available to students.


Gamified classes borrow the mechanics from games to create more engaging learning experiences for students.

These mechanics can be added in a low or high tech ways, but the key to successful implementation is to leverage the power of play to motivate students. A gamified approach means leveraging game elements, such as experience points, levels, avatars, or badges, making this approach to classroom instruction and management one that teachers find valuable, regardless of grade level or availability of resources.

Project-Based Learning

Teachers who use this approach give students lengthy, complex challenges. As students investigate, research, and learn, they develop skills, content knowledge, and the ability to work both independently and collaboratively on a task over an extended period of time. The projects used are often real-world based, which gives the meaning, and they require students to draw upon a variety of skills to complete them. Many teachers who incorporate a project-based approach also pull in a real audience to evaluate student work.

Maker Space

The maker movement is a do-it-yourself approach to engineering in which the students (makers) create, design, prototype, and build.

A maker space is a workshop where students design and build their own products, and these spaces can use low tech supplies like cardboard and glue or high tech devices like laser cutters and 3D printers. Teachers find the maker approach to be a way to introduce invention and problem-solving into the school day.


STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and the A in STEAM adds in Art. STEM lessons focus on these areas and their real-world application. There is often an increased hands-on component in lessons/classes that are STEM-centered.

All content areas can incorporate a STEM-focused approach, and this philosophy is being used from elementary to high school.


”Engaging” is a popular buzz word in education, and teachers are looking for ways to hook students and keep them focused on learning. There are a variety of approaches to building more engaging lessons, depending on subject area and grade level, and trainings on this topic might be as diverse as the use of augmented reality to incorporating music in the classroom.

Classroom Management

Organizing an efficient and productive classroom has always been a hot topic for professional development. New areas under this umbrella term might also include device management for schools with 1:1 computers or BYOD policies, behavior management and support for at-risk students, or a tiered approach to behavior intervention.


Centers have a long history in the elementary classroom, but they’re seeing increased use in the middle and upper grades. Teachers who haven’t been trained in the use of centers want to learn strategies for implementation and how to manage the transitions while using them. Schools with little technology can use centers to provide more access to students. Centers can also function to support the purposeful use of data to create learning groups.


Many states have adopted cross-curricular literacy standards, so teachers are looking for professional development on how to teach literacy skills in their content area.

Science and social studies teachers in particular have demanded training that specifically fits their subjects.

Brain-based Teaching

Current research into how the brain works when learning has influenced teaching practices. Brain-based learning strategies show teachers how to shape their instruction to maximize retention, based on the way their students process information.

These strategies can be incorporated in any classroom, regardless of content or grade.

Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

As the rigor in state education standards continues to increase, students have to think in more deep and complex ways, and teachers often need additional training to design lessons that will help students develop these coveted skills. Teachers who pursue this training will learn methods of crafting assignments, discussions, and asking questions that raise the bar for their students.


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