Accessing High Quality Professional Development

NOTE: This post is cross-posted with

In the previous post, I recommended that we consider professional development effective along five dimensions (contextual fit, disciplinary fit, collaborative interaction, self-directed inquiry, and a focus on student learning). As an art teacher, I was not always able to attend more meaningful professional development opportunities (that exhibited these five dimensions) outside my school. In the next three posts, I will discuss how funding, isolation, and issues of power and trust can work as obstacles that stand in the way of effective professional development for art educators. And don’t worry—next week we’ll talk about what to do to overcome these obstacles!

The small number of art teachers within a school building can make it difficult for school districts to provide meaningful school-based professional development for their art teachers. In Sabol’s (2006) report, 83% of survey respondents indicated that their district provided local professional development, but only 41% percent agreed that district-sponsored professional development was beneficial. Given that 61% of art teachers are attending professional development opportunities on weekends, after school, and during the summer, much of art teachers’ professional development is happening outside of their regular workday, and “art educators bear the major degrees of responsibility for pursuing their own professional development” (Sabol, 2006, p. 48).

However, many school districts offer some support for teachers to attend off-site professional development experiences. Sabol (2006) reports that 88% of respondents receive some type of support from their district, with the most common supports provided as professional leave days (64%), substitute teachers (60%), conference registration fees (53%), and travel expenses (41%). This support does not appear to provide for all of the needs or mitigate all of the barriers that exist. Fifty-eight percent of respondents reported that the support they receive to attend professional development experiences is inadequate.

When asked about drawbacks to attending professional development opportunities, two of the top three most frequent answers related to funding. Teachers’ most frequent response (35%) was that attending professional development was “too expensive.” The third most frequent response, “no support provided by district” (28%), indicates that funding is one of the main obstacles preventing teachers from attending professional development outside their district.

In my next post, I will continue considering obstacles, and will look specifically at the issue of isolation.

-Leslie Gates


Sabol, F. R. (2006). Professional Development in Art Education: A Study of Needs, Issues, and Concerns of Art Educators. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.