Designing a Statewide Professional Development System

Jill Monte - Content Specialist ·

Project Spotlight Q&A: EDSI’s Work with the State of Michigan

Helping statewide systems execute high quality professional development is an area where EDSI has deep knowledge and experience. The organization continues to be sought out for projects related to professional development (PD) programming throughout the Midwestern and Southern United States.

Recently, I caught up with Kim Glenn, EDSI Director of Innovative Learning Solutions to get more insight into these projects and highlight the great work that she and her team are doing currently with the State of Michigan, as they strive to enhance the strategic statewide professional development system.

Kim Glenn

Q1: From a historical perspective, how has EDSI been involved with statewide professional development planning and execution?

A1: In total, EDSI has worked with six states, designing and providing professional development programming. It all started about 10 years ago when EDSI answered an RFP for the State of Indiana to handle their statewide professional development programming for the workforce development system, specifically providing training for case managers, academic and career counselors and the welcome team/intake specialists. The scope of this project was massive, but as I was helping write the proposal, I felt confident that we could perform the work very well if we were awarded the contract. The experience of going after that very first PD systems project really ignited a fire in me, and thankfully, we won the contract, which led to a multi-year project working with the state of Indiana. This is where we got our first experience providing Adult Education Professional Development.

Reflecting on the Indiana project reminds me of the exact moment when we happened to be at the right place at the right time. We were there when Indiana’s Adult Education programming switched over from being under the umbrella of the Department of Education to the Department of Workforce Development. I remember our Indiana colleague saying, “You should consider going for this contract too.” We were excited to put our skills and experience to work to support adult education in the state of Indiana.”

Q2: How did you and your team learn to design and teach PD in the adult education space in such an effective and engaging way?

A2: Academically I had started pursuing an undergraduate degree in education and had some experience student teaching, but other than facilitating training or professional development for adults I had not had experience teaching adult education students. Voluntarily, I decided to enroll in adult education teacher training courses to learn all I could about teaching GED/HSE curricula. Before I knew it, I was teaching ad-hoc, drop-in Adult Ed courses for two years to learn more and really immerse myself into what it felt like to teach GED classes. The experience really provided me with context, experience, and confidence that we could design professional development that truly met the needs of adult education professionals. It also gave me a safe place to try out strategies and new methodologies/lessons before bringing them into professional development. It was a very exciting, challenging and rewarding time for my team and me.

Q3: What are some other content development areas where you excel?

A3: Besides running statewide professional development from the ground up, we have also been brought in by some states as a provider of quality content. For example, our work with the state of Georgia has involved providing programming for a variety of topics including but not limited to Lessons on Energy, GED Science Topics, Teaching Extended Response Writing, Differentiation, Classroom Management, Technology, Equity in Technology Access, as well as Building Teacher Resiliency content modules. This ongoing collaborative relationship continues to provide additional opportunities to support adult education-related content areas, in and beyond Georgia.

We have also designed some really amazing content on managing performance, administrator leadership, project management, sales for business service representatives, creating Integrated Education and Training Programs (IET’s), and much more. Beyond Workforce Development and Adult Education we have designed content for a variety of private, non-profit, and government entities across a variety of industries including but not limited to: Manufacturing, Utilities, Transit, Human Resources, Advocacy, k-12, Healthcare, Customer Service, Information Technology, and many more. For more information on our curriculum development and training services, email me:

Q4: It’s great that so many states are utilizing EDSI’s expertise in adult education professional development. How did we initially engage with the State of Michigan?

A4: We answered an RFP that was asking for applicants who could help the state office plan and execute professional development and provide technical assistance activities for the adult education field and the state office, including gap analysis, analysis of PD needs, program improvement activities and specific teacher trainings for instruction and administrator training. It was such a natural fit because we had just done most of this same work for the state of Indiana, and as a bonus, it was our home state!

Q5: What were you most excited about as you launched the project and how did you feel EDSI could make an impact as you started this new relationship with the State of Michigan?

A5: I was most excited about being able to help the state office create an infrastructure that could better support teacher and administrator professional development. Many adult education professionals are part-time employees with limited resources, and funding isn’t as robust as k-12 or higher education, so it was exciting to have the opportunity to support these educators by:

  1. Providing high-quality professional development
  2. Sharing standards
  3. Offering aligned lesson plans to reduce planning time
  4. Identifying best practices so they can help students achieve their goals
  5. Giving them “just in time” training and solutions

It’s been so personally rewarding to be able to help teachers on such a large scale. The strategies we use create a domino effect throughout the education process as teachers are better able to facilitate student learning, and then students start to progress more quickly to get their equivalency or their gain, which ultimately results in a transition to additional training or employment. Our entire team has a background in workforce development, and so we are uniquely able to see the connection between providing great professional development and the benefit received by the end-user as they gain employment and become self-sufficient.

Q6: What are some benefits of working with EDSI?

A6: One of the biggest benefits of working with us is our experience and capacity to quickly develop customized training solutions. We have a team of highly skilled and experienced instructional designers, eLearning specialists, and facilitators who have a broad range of experience and backgrounds. That wide array of expertise includes k-12, higher education, social services, workforce development, corporate training, etc. and leveraging that talent to provide holistic solutions to our customers is something we are very proud of.

EDSI's Innovative Learning Solutions Team

Another way we stand out as professional development experts is the commitment my team has to their own learning and development. We attend conferences, take classes, go to workshops, and participate as members of industry-relevant groups. For example, I’m a board member of the Association of Adult Literacy Professional Developers (AALPD) and previously I played a number of roles in the association, serving as chair and coordinating the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) pre-conference. Having a community of people at AAPLD who are experts at providing professional development –some at statewide levels, some at higher education levels, and some are teaching as well – gives us a variety of member perspectives, resources and connections. We love being a part of this association that is such an important resource for us.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of working with EDSI is our commitment and passion to helping those we serve. We deeply care about our customers and strive every day to learn and grow in ways that help us better understand our customers’ needs and design innovative solutions for them. Our passion for helping others is strongly aligned to the mission of adult education, and it is that alignment that allows us to wake up every day excited to support those who are helping make a difference in the lives of adult learners across the nation.

Q7: Can you give us a project overview of the work that is happening at the State of Michigan?

A7: Our work with the State of Michigan started off with a benchmarking study of Adult Education programming. Leveraging our experience in Indiana where we did a similar benchmarking study, we designed a custom survey to gather feedback from Adult Education professionals from across the entire state. This study focused on understanding how Adult Ed programs were running, where they were going for PD, what type of PD they wanted, what populations they served, what types of services were being offered, etc. This was a crucial step that helped us assess the field before creating professional development. We used the survey to then plan professional development that aligned to the State Office’s priorities and initiatives.

In 2020 we had a plan to deliver standards training regionally in an in-person format throughout the state. While out delivering our first round of training, COVID-19 shut the world down, and we were forced to postpone all in-person initiatives. While the whole world was on pause we decided to focus our efforts on launching a new learning management system (LMS) for state professional development. This was a priority from day 1, but the timeline was accelerated due to the pandemic. In addition to launching our LMS Keywe (powered by Canvas), we designed a series of professional development offerings called “30-minute Reboot.” There we designed and delivered just-in-time and supportive PD on a variety of topics including Teaching During Covid Trauma, Meditation, Math Apps, ELA Apps, Integrating Covid-19 into Lessons, and many more. These were delivered via MS Teams and were offered during lunch and break times for educators across the state.

It was also during this time that we decided to transition many of our professional development priorities into a virtual delivery format. We converted our CCRS training into a blended and self-paced version and ran facilitated versions every other month. We also designed a comprehensive Career Navigator training series, with a new module launching monthly over the course of 2021. Additional relevant topics such as Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Tech Tools for the Classroom, and New Teacher Training were also designed. Our focus had to shift, and working with the state staff we prioritized our efforts on creating a long-lasting PD infrastructure with content that supported state and national priorities and initiatives.

Most recently we completed a strategic planning session with our state partners and identified areas of focus for the upcoming 3-5 years. Part of that plan is to provide more PD supported technical assistance, improve communication and marketing of professional development, and build stronger relationships with local programs—something that the pandemic really hindered.

Overall, we are really proud of what we have been able to do as a new provider that started during a global pandemic! We are very excited to continue to work hard for the adult education professionals as we expand our efforts across the state.

Q8: What kind of eLearning content has been developed so far?

A8: My curriculum team has developed a ton of other eLearning content, and we have a robust library of content for a variety of audiences. Our goal is to constantly add to the offerings in our catalog to meet the needs of our customers. When it comes to content development for the State of Michigan, we prioritize topics that support statewide initiatives and priorities. For example, one statewide initiative is called “Futures for Frontliners in Michigan.” (Click here for details on Futures for Frontliners.)

To support this initiative we designed the Career Navigator series to help Career Navigators who are working with Futures for Frontliners to do career coaching and career navigation. Part of the design of this program was not just to support Futures for Frontliners, but to build Career Navigator training that would be helpful in the future—even once this initiative passes. Therefore, the series is rooted in evidence-based practices that align to core competencies associated with career navigation. This allowed us to create programming that is relevant beyond one specific initiative.

We also designed training on the College and Career Readiness Standards. We have a few different options for educators on this topic, including a comprehensive training, a math-only training, and an ELA-only training. This series directly stems from the initial survey results where it was identified by the field that there was a need for further professional development on standards.

With our focus being on state initiatives, we continue to increase our content offerings, including our most recent development – a new educator orientation program. This included designing an orientation for educators new to adult education in Michigan to give them an overview and introduce them to core concepts/topics. Looking ahead, the plan is to build off that and develop more teaching training modules throughout 2022.

Also within EDSI's owned and deployed learning management system, Keywe, we have access to resources on the latest technology for education, and what’s happening in the world of eLearning, which is super helpful in delivering the latest learning solutions to our clients. It is also our hope to resume blended or in-person offerings that leverage the self-paced content offered in Keywe.

Q9: Can you tell me more about the project's delivery method?

A9: From day one it was a priority for us to create a PD infrastructure that supported in-person, blended, and virtual formats. Obviously, the pandemic limited our ability to provide in-person offerings—but we are excited to begin to offer those again soon. Ultimately, we want to offer PD in formats, durations, and interactivity levels that meet the needs of our educators. We try to balance the needs of the field with the priorities of the state with a focus on transfer of knowledge. It is always our intent to design professional development in delivery methods that are effective, desired, and fit within the constraints our educators face.

Q10: What are important strategies that you and the team have implemented to make this project so successful?

A10: So many strategies … It is hard to sum them up! I would say that collaboration is one of the first things that come to mind. We believe in collaborating with state staff, programs, educators, administrators, other organizations and partners like MACAE and local Workforce Boards to understand what is happening and figure out where we should focus. The collaboration is important, and in general is a hallmark of how EDSI runs all of our projects. The second thing that comes to mind is flexibility. We tried a ton of different things during the pandemic to see what works. We were committed to listening and pivoting to meet the fields’ needs, all while supporting state initiatives and priorities. We are still adjusting and will continue to do so to ensure that we are as effective as possible. Finally, continuous improvement. We want to ensure we are providing effective professional development that educators want and need that ultimately impacts student achievement and experience. We use an evidence-based evaluation model called Kirkpatrick, which has four levels of evaluation, which you can see in the graphic below.

Kirkpatrick image
Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

1. Did they enjoy the experience?

2. Did they learn something?

3. Are they applying what they learned?

4. Did it result in the intended data outcome?

As an example of the Kirkpatrick model, consider this scenario:

Problem: Students are struggling passing the math portion of the GED.

Goal: Help students improve their math ability and confidence to decrease the time it takes for students to either get level gains in math or pass the math portion of the GED.

Solution: We looked at existing data and determined that students are scoring lowest on algebraic equations. In a survey to teachers, we realized that many of them are lacking confidence in teaching algebra or are not integrating the CCRS math standards into their lessons, thus leaving out critical components. We decided to run two trainings:

  1. Introduction to Teaching Algebra
  2. Integrating the CCRS Math Standards into Algebra Lessons

Level 1: After each training we provided a survey to assess whether educators found the professional development enjoyable and valuable.

Level 2: Through formative assessment and application activities we assess whether educators either increased ability and confidence in teaching algebra or learned how to create algebra lessons that are CCRS aligned.

Level 3: Post-professional development coaching and observations will tell us if teachers apply what they learned in training to their classrooms.

Level 4: Revisit the data. For those who participated, did student gains increase? Did the time it takes to get a gain decrease? Did scores on algebra see an improvement overall?

Our end goal when we design PD within statewide systems is to evaluate our efforts from levels 1-4 and make sure we are creating an effective system that shows positive results at all four levels of the Kirkpatrick Model.

Q12: As the project evolves, are there any new components emerging?

A12: Yes, there is an evolution happening with the support role that we play with the state office. We’ve identified that communication and marketing around professional development provided at the statewide level could be improved. Starting in 2022, our team will begin working with state staff to help streamline and improve communication around PD. We just wrapped up a survey that asked the field preferences they have about professional development and the communication of PD initiatives. Results from that survey are illustrated in the infographic below.

The survey results are helping us define how to best communicate and market PD to the field, with our goals being increased participation in PD programming and successful ROI correlated to state initiatives.

Q13: How do you work in partnership with other PD providers in the state of Michigan?

A13: We are focused on providing the best possible solutions for adult educators and want to be active collaborative partners with all stakeholders. For example, EDSI and MACAE are in the process of assessing our professional development offerings and collaborating on how to best serve adult education professionals across the state. MACAE provides outstanding professional development to the field, so figuring out how we can complement what they do is really important. We are also focused on doing a partner asset map in the upcoming year. This asset map will allow us to better understand the critical partnerships, how we can work together, and benefits to the field. We are proud to be building collaborative relationships and look forward to continuing to expand and grow them in the years to come.

Q14: If I’m a WDB leader or school administrator in another state, what are some of the primary benefits that EDSI offers to states looking to improve their PD systems?

A14: EDSI’s national perspective and the breadth of experience and knowledge we bring across multiple states gives our clients a great advantage. Our organization offers a holistic perspective to the statewide PD systems that we work with. Not only are we familiar with actually teaching and working with students, and creating robust lesson plans, we also know the workforce development system and understand how to integrate educational systems with workforce development systems, while considering WIOA legislation. WIOA is a huge component of state plans, so our familiarity with it allows us to build partnerships and relationships in a way that can leverage resources, improve economy of scale, and create a unified system that ultimately helps everyone in a more meaningful way. Couple that with our years of experience in designing really high-quality PD, and any state is in good hands working with EDSI!

Q15: What best practices can you offer to other regions who desire a more strategic statewide PD model?

A15: The 10 steps below will guide you toward a strategic and successful PD framework

  1. Do a benchmarking study to assess the current state
  2. Use data to drive decisions and professional development
  3. Understand performance, goals, and metrics
  4. Collaborate with state staff to design a system that supports state priorities and meets the needs of individual educators
  5. Set up a strong infrastructure – make sure you have a robust LMS and eLearning capability
  6. Develop partnerships! Whether k-12, higher ed, workforce boards, state associations, etc.
  7. Create a strategic plan—and reassess it yearly!
  8. Build a rapport with the field—create relationships and build trust
  9. Plan for continuous improvement – ensure there is a continuous evaluation process
  10. Use an agile approach when designing for state PD systems, allowing for changes and adjustments

Resources on Professional Development for Adult Educators

AALPD Professional Development Standards

Overview of different types of professional development models for adult educators

The Kirkpatrick Method

The Gusky evaluation model - very similar to Kirkpatrick and well known in education

If you’re interested in learning more about the statewide professional development consulting work we do, please fill out the form below and one of our experts will reach out to you.