Professional Development Opportunities in Education

Industry Advice Education

Development is a process, not a destination. Learning spans the course of a lifetime, and professional development spans the course of an educator’s career as they try, test, and extend new practices.—The Aurora Institute

The field of education has experienced a number of disruptions that have created both challenges and new opportunities in the field of teaching and learning. Below, we share beneficial professional development opportunities for educators, specifically those interested in innovative teaching and learning and transformational leadership.

A New Era in Education 

The COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in widespread and ongoing changes to how the K-12 education system functions. With this disruption, educators are finding new opportunities for meeting students’ needs through remote learning opportunities, many of which will likely persist beyond the pandemic. Educators interested in developing their competencies with remote learning are seeking out new opportunities for professional development to improve their practice. 

The pandemic is just one example of the challenges of a new era in education where life and work are augmented by smart machines and often dictated by the environmental, political, or economic crisis of the week. Across the country states, districts, and schools are seeking to prepare students for an increasingly complex workforce, one that is impacted by increased inequality, political uncertainty, technological change, demographic change, globalization, environmental sustainability, and urbanization. Compounding these threats is the need for students to develop the skills to navigate the diminishing role of facts and analysis in public life, a phenomenon known as truth decay.

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The Role of Educators 

To prepare students for the challenges they face, educators must teach students to be intellectually nimble. The system of education needs to focus not only on basic literacy and numeracy, but also on complex outcomes like systems thinking, applied problem-solving, social and collaborative skills, and civic and social awareness. 

Whether you are entering the field of education as a first or second career, maintaining professional currency, or striving for career advancement, there are many ways to engage in professional development to improve your practice. 

Professional Development Opportunities for Educators 

The time each of us has to engage in professional learning is often limited. We must juggle the responsibilities of work and family, while we attend to our professional growth. Making a year-long plan for professional development that includes a mix of opportunities can help meet your goals. 

Before creating a plan for professional learning, first consider what your goals are for professional learning. Are you looking to get inspired? Build your experience? Make connections? Are you seeking to earn a credential? 

Think also about what is realistic for you to commit to in terms of time and money. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the fact that now most professional development opportunities are available online in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, often at a fraction of the cost of a traditional face-to-face experience. 


Higher education conferences are a great way to achieve many of your professional goals by learning with and from others who share your passions and interests. Taking advantage of the different planning tools many conferences offer can help ensure that you make the most of these experiences. Below are my recommendations for opportunities throughout 2021. 

Date: February 8-11, 2021

This conference brings together the nation’s top leaders in education and will explore the theme of “Educating for Tomorrow.”

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Date: February 23-26, 2021

The theme of this year’s 73rd annual meeting is “Resisting Hate, Restoring Hope: Engaging in Courageous Action.” 


Date: March 2-4, 2021

This conference helps technology leaders address key challenges as they transition to digitally enabled learning environments. 


Date: March 8-12, 2021

The conference, Learnit Live, is a five-day, online event featuring global education leaders driving impactful change for their communities as we build a “new normal” for education. 

SXSW EDU Conference & Festival

Date: March 9-11, 2021

This annual event fosters innovation and learning within the education industry and features conference keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases, networking, exhibitions, and more.

Deeper Learning Conference

Date: March 23-25, 2021

This annual gathering of educators focuses on creating more equitable outcomes by engaging students in deeper learning. This event encourages and supports these educators to be leaders of change, disruptors of inequity, and innovators of pedagogy.

American Educational Research Association (AERA)

Date: April 8-12, 2021

The annual meeting of this national research society will explore the theme of “Accepting Educational Responsibility.”

Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement Education

Date: April 19-28, 2021

This summit explores how improvement science and networked improvement communities can improve education. 

Digital Learning Annual Conference

Date: June 14-16, 2021 

This conference explores how online learning, blended learning, and the use of technology can increase student opportunities and improve student outcomes.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

Date: June 23–25, 2021

This event is designed to support the way educators learn, teach, and lead and explores the theme of “Empowered and Connected.”

The Green Schools Conference (GSC)

Date: June 28-29, 2021 

This conference brings together all the players involved in making green schools a reality: people who lead, operate, build and teach in U.S. schools. 

National Charter Schools Conference

Date: June 20-23, 2021

This is the largest national gathering of charter school professionals and offers a learning experience for those shaping the future of K-12 education.

National School Principals Conference

Date: July 15-17, 2021

This conference brings together school leaders to explore this year’s theme of “We Are All In.”

Distance Teaching & Learning Conference

Date: August 2-5, 2021

This conference emphasizes evidence-based practice, educational innovation, and practical applications of theories and research findings in the field of distance education and online learning. 

ASU/GSV Summit

Date: August 9-11, 2021

This summit connects leading minds focused on transforming society and business around learning and work with the goal of making sure all people have equal access to the future.

American Educational Studies Association (AESA)

Date: November 3-7, 2021

This conference is for students, teachers, research scholars, and administrators who are interested in cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching and learning


Date: December 1-3, 2021

This is a unique conference focused on developments and trends that shape the future of learning in the corporate, education, and public service sectors. 


In addition to conferences, there are a number of opportunities for engaging in online professional learning that leads to different microcredentials. These can take place in the form of different webinars, such as those offered by and through other platforms such as the ones listed below.

Digital Promise

This platform offers microcredentials of its own, but it also provides a platform for other entities to offer their own sets of microcredentials 


BloomBoard is the leading platform for enabling educator advancement by providing meaningful professional learning experiences to build new competencies.

Learn Next—2Revolutions

Learn Next is a free toolbox of resources designed to support your professional learning needs. Each resource is leveled against a progression of knowledge, skills, and dispositions, which allows you to choose targeted items that meet you exactly where you are.

Opportunities for Lifelong Learning at Northeastern

Northeastern University offers a number of professional development opportunities for educators that can be personalized to meet your professional and personal goals.  

Northeastern University’s Network for Experiential Teaching and Learning (NExT)

Northeastern University’s Network for Experiential Teaching and Learning (NExT) is a global knowledge network of educators, administrators, and industry and community stakeholders dedicated to making experiential education accessible to learners at every level. NExT offers a number of ways that educators can network and engage in different professional development opportunities both synchronously through our webinars and “pop-up” conference events and asynchronously through our NExT Commons, a virtual meeting place where you can connect with other educators to compare notes, innovate, share curriculum, design interscholastic group projects and participate in a professional learning community. 

Career Resilience Workshops

The College of Professional Studies (CPS) at NU has also just launched a series of modular and personalized microcredentials to help professionals develop career resilience. Learners can “stack” these credentials into our certificate and graduate programs. 

Take the Next Step

These professional development opportunities are a great place for educational leaders to start to improve and expand their capabilities. 

For education professionals looking for more comprehensive leadership training, however, a Doctor of Education (EDD) might be the next step. Northeastern’s Doctor of Education program, for example, rigorously prepares leaders to investigate, explore, and transform organizational and institutional landscapes, empowering its graduates to pursue the issues they’re passionate about.

To learn more, and to see if an EDD is right for you, explore our program page, or download our e-book below.

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