Reimagining K–12 Professional Development

Professional Learning Maps 2013 – 2017

What's Wrong with PD?

Professional development for K – 12 educators is frequently a day of PowerPoint presentations that deliver the same message to each educator, regardless of their individual experience, strengths, and areas of need. Even if a presentation is relevant, educators can't easily incorporate it in their classroom teaching. This leads to many educators being disengaged with professional development.

Based on her experience as a teacher and administrator, our team leader, Emily Lutrick, saw that an online platform could support each educator's evolution and provide an aggregate picture for leadership so they know where to focus their professional development time and budget.

My Role on the PLM Team

  • User research with educators and the coaches that support them
  • User experience design
  • User interface design
  • Sizable contributions to the front end code
  • Marketing materials and conference booth signage
  • Collaboration on educator materials

Reflecting on Practices and Visualizing Skill Confidence

After responding to a survey about their classroom practices, educators access a map that color-codes their confidence level for each skill within a topic such as using technology in the classroom or connecting the classroom with the local community. From there, educators choose to either learn skills in their preferred order or follow a sequence suggested by the PLM algorithm based on skill confidence level and difficulty.

Educators first complete a survey about their classroom practices. We found that some terms may be unfamiliar or have varying interpretations, so we added a way to display a definition on hover or tap.
An individual educator's learning map displaying their personalized guided path. Selecting a skill hexagon displays a summary and a button to access the learning resources for the skill.

Supporting Skill Learning & Use

Educators expand their skill knowledge and practice through materials crafted by a team of professional development writers. I supported their efforts through the design of icons and illustrations and production of interactive modules, PDF documents, and lesson templates. I made sure the PDF documents worked well online and when printed — many teachers prefer printed documents.

The learning resources for an individual skill, which may include lesson plan templates, podcasts, videos, and interactive modules.
A resource modeling a conversation between an educator and parent.

Marking Educator Progress

How can educators show that they have been engaged in personal professional development? Once an educator has worked through the resources provided by the PLM team, they can take a short assessment to claim a badge. The educator can print their badge view to include in their yearly portfolio, usually a part of an educator's annual review.

Once the educator checks off all the resources provided by PLM, they can take a short online assessment.
All of the badges the educator can claim are listed in a single view.

Building Skill Badge Assessments

Offering a badge for each skill means first building an assessment for each skill. To that end, the team needed a tool for creating assessments that could be used without requiring work from Jessica, our Technical Lead. Assessment expert Christine Burke determined the number and types of items that would be needed to provide meaningful assessment of skill knowledge, I designed the interface with those constraints in mind, and Jessica wrote the code to make it real. Our teammates found it very easy to use.

The assessment builder used by PLM team members to build skill badge assessments.
A drag-and-drop ordering item.

Providing Insight to Leadership

We knew we also needed to provide insight into professional development for state, district, and campus leaders. Once a quorum of educators completed a survey, an anonymized aggregate map would be generated. Leaders can use this map to inform their group professional development planning and answer questions like “Where do my teachers need support?”, optionally filtering the data to just a particular campus or educator role. They can also supplement the PLM-authored resources with their own that support their particular way of teaching or implementing a skill.

An aggregate learning map.
Adding a skill learning resource.


I designed advertisements, marketing one-sheets, and conference booth banners and posters. This required expanding my knowledge of print design and tools such as InDesign and Affinity Designer.

An advertisement for Professional Learning Maps.
Marketing collateral and booth banners at a 2017 Philadelphia education conference.

Educator Materials

I worked closely with Christine Burke, the PD design expert on our team, to design skill learning resources for educators. Sometimes this meant providing graphical assets, sometimes it meant designing individual documents and interactive modules.

An educator guide to determining the best means of communication to use with parents and guardians.
A video of an interactive for educators giving some ideas for how to use community connections in the classroom.

This is the first time in twenty five years of teaching that I walked away from PD excited to share my learning with my students.

A Utah educator

As an experienced professional developer, responsible for campus, district and all personnel levels of professional learning, and involved in national projects, the goal is to always personalize professional development, but it’s not easy. Professional Learning Maps is a research-based, easy to use tool that greatly supports our efforts.

A Texas district administrator