How Professional Development Impacts Career Skillsets

You are here


Philadelphia Education Fund





Organization Overview:

Founded in 1985, Philadelphia Education Fund’s mission is to create equitable access to opportunities for students, by providing resources and expertise that build paths to college and career success. In Philadelphia, where one in four residents lives in poverty, and just two in three students graduate from high school (83% nationally), the Philadelphia Education Fund sees education as the key to lifting low-income, under-resourced youth out of poverty and serves 1,200 K-12 teachers and 30,000 students annually.

Through our direct services and extensive collaborations, the Philadelphia Education Fund is at the forefront of identifying and addressing education needs. One growing need is improving students’ STEM skills and achievement, which plays a key role in allowing low-income youth to step out of generational poverty. In response to this need, the Philadelphia Education Fund launched our McKinney Center for STEM Education in 2017. We assisted the School District of Philadelphia in designing its K-12 STEM curriculum frameworks; we recruit and train STEM professionals to provide career guidance to high school students;  we are developing clean energy curricula with School District, government, industry and nonprofit partners; and we offer professional development (PD) to improve the STEM teaching skills of local educators. It is for work within this last category- professional development -  that we seek a Fels student.

Project Name:

How Professional Development Impacts Career Skillsets
Project Type: 
Program Evaluation

Project Overview:

The Philadelphia Education Fund has been involved in designing, implementing and assessing professional development since its inception 35 years ago. Its topics have ranged from college access to STEM 101, and audiences have included classroom teachers, informal educators,
administrators, and direct-service staff. Dr, Nancy Peter, the Director of the McKinney, has been keenly interested in professional development for most of her career – which, over 40 years, has included environmental education, museum education, out-of-school time, sports-based youth development, and STEM education.  While working at the University of Pennsylvania from 2003 through 2015, Dr. Peter oversaw a number of research studies that addressed questions such as:

      • Can we agree on a common definition of professional development?
      • What are the key elements of an effective professional developement workshop?
      • What types of professional development truly impact staff, programs, and students?
      • To what extent does peer networking succeed as professional development?
      • Can we create tools that measure the impact of professional development, for both teachers and informal educators?

Dr. Peter is just beginning a research study that seeks to answer this fundamental research question: What types of professional development contribute to the critical skillsets of education professionals?

This study will combine literature reviews, an online survey, and participants’ personal experiences and perceptions. By answering this research question, the Philadelphia Education fund hypothesizes that:

      • Professional development (PD) providers, program administrators, and PD participants will better understand how PD opportunities contribute to relevant workplace skillsets.
      • Professional development providers, program administrators, and PD participants will be able to identify and utilize specific PD activities that can cultivate specific skillsets.
      • Funders and policy-makers will appreciate how supporting professional development contributes to critical skillsets in our education workforce.


A Fels student will produce

1) a comprehensive literature review pertaining to promising practices in and the evaluation of professional development;

2) customized evaluation tools for implementing this project;

3) an analysis of the downloaded data; and

4) a final paper summarizing the project, disseminated to professional colleagues, and appropriate for publication.

Through this work, he/she have many opportunities to acquire timely content knowledge and develop important skillsets; and to interact professionally with staff from government offices and nonprofits; and to engage with local, regional, and national STEM, education, and social justice individuals and organizations. Moreover, he/she will be immersed in cutting edge program design, empirical research, and policy reform. Finally, the PEF and McKinney Center team have many years of experience supervising both experienced and entry-level staff; adult volunteers; undergraduate, graduate, and high school students; and work-study students and interns. We enjoy supervision and mentoring, and take both very seriously.

Project Timeline: The Fels timeline, of January through August of 2021, works well for this project.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326