How to Create a Joyful and Impactful PD Experience All Year Long

Story by cnmAdmin2030 / July 26, 2019

Participant Centered Learning

According to an article by Diane Thielfoldt, “Participant Centered Learning–See It! Try It! Got It!”, “learning” is defined as “a way of living” and being in the world. It’s a social experience, which strengthens an individual’s desire to explore new things by connecting them with other people and then relating those connections to 1. What they are already doing and 2. What they already understand how to do.

Creating Joy

To ensure your professional development trainings are impactful for your participants, it can be helpful to think of how they can be linked to the work we do everyday and how they may affect our interactions with others. When we approach learning in this way, it creates a space for innovation, engagement, higher performance, and ultimately, joy, for your employees.

When this style of learning is woven into an organization’s culture, it paves the way for individuals to become leaders and influencers. By getting to “do” instead of being “told”, individuals are able to develop into influencers and contributors within their organization, according to an article by Richard Sheridan, author of Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear.

Implementing a Feedforward Model

One specific example of this type of strategy is to shift from the end of year evaluation and performance review to the “feedforward”model. “Feedforward” is a term coined by Martin Goldsmith that favors regularly provided suggestions for behavior change “moving forward” throughout the year instead of stagnant, one-time evaluation sessions. At MSS, all team members have a coach or point person whom they meet with on a regular basis to engage in these types of forward movement conversations. This framework for learning can also be applied when planning professional development days.

8 Items to Consider When Planning Professional Development

At MSS, we have come up with 8 items for educators to consider when planning professional development. Whether it’s for your grade level team, department, or organization, thinking through the below suggestions can help your attendees learn by “doing”. Ultimately when we approach learning in this way, we provide our participants with a high impact experience that will serve to create more opportunities for connections and joy to be found throughout the school year.

1. Start with your “why”?

What is the overall mission of the organization? What are you working to achieve?

At MSS, we believe that a child’s zip code should not determine their access to high quality education and that by the time our students reach 5th grade, 85% should be at the 85% percentile in math and reading. Therefore, any professional development that we plan needs to connect back to this why. We choose courses that are designed to equip teachers and staff with the tools they need to ensure that our students are progressing and achieving and that kids always come first.

2. Know your organization’s values.

As long as your plans remain in line with your organization’s values, you will stay on track when it comes to guiding your team members to reach their goals.

At MSS, in addition to academic achievement, a cultural core of our organization is the of our Path to Success traits. These are a set of traits that serve to drive our work, our approach and our focus. These traits are:

  • Grit
  • Gratitude
  • Optimism
  • Empathy
  • Citizenship
  • Integrity
  • Self-control
  • Curiosity

These values are part of our everyday lexicon as an organization. The words are not only written on the walls of our school buildings, but they’re put into action each and everyday as we approach our work and our students. They remain at the very forefront of our mindset. Staying true to these values helps to keep professional development messaging authentic, accessible and impactful.

3. Know your audience

Who: We encourage thinking beyond general course registration (name, job title, etc.). Instead, think about the generations present in your workplace. Are there large groups of Millennials and/or Gen Z team members that will be present? If so, what are their learning styles? What are their learning priorities? How can these be seen as strengths to be blended with organizational goals?

Understand Needs: What connections does your intended audience need to make and with whom in order to master their job performance?

4. What question do you want your attendees to walk away being able to answer?

Starting with a well framed question leads us to a focused and intentional outcome. For instance, one question we want our team members to be able to answer through our PD is: What is my purpose within this organization? Through intentional PD program design, team members should be able to walk away with:

  1. An understanding of the organization mission
  2. Where they fit in that mission
  3. Empowerment to act in the direction of that mission throughout the year

5. What culture do you want to create?

According to Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of The Aesthetics of Joy, whenever leaders model joy and make it safe for team members to express happiness in the professional environment, it leads to a culture of joy throughout the school building.

6. Who is on your planning team?

Think about the team members who can work together with you to determine the following:

  • Who can help capture the message you want to send and push your thinking around this message?
  • Who can develop their leadership skills through work on this professional development? This is a great opportunity to build teacher leadership within your organization.

7. What should the environment look like?

Ingrid Fetell Lee explained that individuals are 15% more productive when they are working in an “enriched” environment (i.e. an environment that provides sensorial stimulation). Lee encourages us to rethink what we consider distracting in a professional setting and gravitate toward environmental stimuli that can serve to motivate us, increase our energy, creativity, and ultimately, lead to more productivity. This is applicable to the physical location of your training, the learning materials you choose, and how these may or may not appeal to the five senses.

8. How do you communicate this information?

Finally, consider how can you set your attendees up for success by providing them with information around:

  • What will they will be learning?
  • What are the intended takeaways?
  • What questions are left to answer?
  • How can they engage in this professional development to the fullest?

To learn more about professional development at Meeting Street Schools, check out our summer PD highlight video below.


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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.


  • 1/3

“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher

  • 2/3

“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

  • 3/3

“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent