Professional Development

Professional development is a process of continuous growth, through involvement in programs, services, and activities designed to enable teachers, both individually and collectively, to enhance professional practice. (BCTF – 00 AGM p.15 June 06 RA , p. 8)


Professional Development assists teachers in

  1. Building and strengthening themselves as a body of professional teachers.
  2. Developing, revising, and implementing educational theories that can be applied to the practice of teaching.
  3. Reviewing, improving, and implementing curriculum and instructional development with the aim of improving the quality of teaching.
  4. Establishing better relationships with students and parents. (BCTF Policy Sec. 30.A.01)


The Vancouver School District, the Vancouver Elementary and Secondary Teachers’ Associations and the Vancouver Elementary and Secondary Principals’ Associations, have worked together to plan, develop and support professional development in the district for many years. A District Committee established in the Collective Agreement in 1992 has been central to that work. This  Professional Development Handbook is one project undertaken by the Committee. It is meant to support the work of Professional Development Representatives and the Committees they chair.

Members of the District Professional Development Committee have collaborated on the development of the VSB/VTF Professional Development Handbook. The purpose of the document is to provide support to School-Based Professional Development Committees as they take on the responsibility for planning on behalf of colleagues in the school.

Professional development is essential for individual members and groups of members as professionals. It is also important for the school community as a whole. Plans for professional development balance the needs of the individual professionals with the needs of the collective staff with a goal for the highest quality of student learning.

Professional development can take many forms such as reading, studying, participating in inquiry, research or study groups, attending workshops, seminars and conferences, taking courses, observing demonstrations in colleagues’ classrooms, participating in on-line instruction, and more. Members participate in a broad range of activities for their professional learning.

VSB/VTF Professional Development Handbook (Nov 1, 2021)


In 1972, Professional Development days (non-instructional days) were added to the school calendar at the request of the teaching profession after years of advocacy from the BCTF. The inclusion increased the number of days of work for teachers with no loss of instructional days for students. Pro-D days in the school calendar recognized that teachers needed time during the school year to hone their skills, improve practice, and stay current with changes related to teaching and learning. (BCTF Training Resources handbook 2007-08 p. 63.)


There are five Professional Development days and at least one non-instructional day(s) in a school year. The VSB School Year Calendar includes six days, one of which is a non-instructional day, and was formerly known as a “School Planning Day” or “Admin Day”. It is mandated by the Minister of Education to focus on student achievement. This day is planned and implemented by the district and/or administration only. Professional Development funds are not used on non-instructional days (NIDs). It is not deemed a “Pro-d Day” because participation in the programming is mandatory.  The day is not autonomous, so self-directed pro-d is not an option. In addition to these days, the last school day in June continues to be a “Year-End Administrative/ School Closing Day”.

The calendar includes several common pro-d dates. The third Friday in October is the “PSA Day”. It is a common date across the province when the Provincial Specialist Associations host conferences. There are two dates in common across the district, providing an opportunity to plan events open to members from multiple schools. The school year calendar is published with two placeholder dates (usually in September and January), which are labelled “flexible” pro-d days. These dates may be moved by individual schools, so they may not be common across the district. Finally, it is important to emphasize that on all professional days, individual teachers have the choice to participate in any opportunity that is relevant, responsible and autonomous.


The most recent research in professional development has highlighted some principles that apply equally to sessions planned in schools, at the district, within groups of members and for individuals. The BCTF has also endorsed a number of principles regarding professional development.

The following list represents a combination of those principles:

  • Members have an ongoing responsibility to develop professionally, in order to inform teaching practices, and to encourage collegiality and collaboration;
  • Professional development is primarily focused on student learning and instructional practice;
  • Professional development is ongoing and part of a continuum of professional learning;
  • Professional development is most effective when the school is organized as a community of learning and where collaboration is the norm;
  • Professional development is most effective when it is embedded in the work of teaching;
  • Professional development requires time, resources, and focus; and
  • Professional development incorporates a wide repertoire of member collaboration, mentorship, inquiry, workshops, professional course work, professional reading, peer coaching, and


 This statement has been developed by the Vancouver Board of Education, District and School Administrators, Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association, and the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association.

We agree with the following points with respect to self-directed professional development activities:

  1. Self-Directed Professional Development has a valuable role to play in the full complement of a member professional
  2. Members have a professional responsibility to plan for their Self-Directed Professional Development.
  3. A plan should be submitted to the School Professional Development Committee in advance of a Professional Development day (suggested about two weeks prior).
  4. The Principal is a member of the Professional Development Committee and has access to those plans.

We also agree there are principles which outline best practices for professional development, both self-directed and committee organized. These are outlined in the VSB/VTF Pro D Handbook and in a variety of BCTF documents. A variety of resources are available to assist in planning in the VSB/VTF Pro D Handbook and documents created by VSTA and VESTA.

The Principal may view teacher’s Self-Directed Pro-D plans, however, the Administrator is not to approve, or evaluate these plans.

Self-Directed Pro-D plans should be kept in confidence by the school Pro-D committee and not kept beyond the end of the school year.

School Administrators do have the right to know the whereabouts of teachers on Pro-D days.

Administrators do not have the authority to direct or control a teacher’s professional development activities.


In Vancouver, there are funds available at the school and the district level to support professional development.

The Joint Conference Fund and Professional and Staff Development Fund are available in schools and are governed by the Professional Development Committee, under the direction of Staff Committee. 

Joint Conference Fund: (8120) for individual teachers to apply for funds to attend workshops or conferences for their own professional growth.

This fund generally covers conference costs, and BCTF PSA membership dues, but may also be used for professional books and workshop costs throughout the year.

Professional and Staff Development Fund: (8114) used to plan Pro-D activities for groups of teachers.

This fund generally covers speaker and workshop costs.

Each school professional development committee (which is a sub-committee of Staff Committee) determines its own funding policy.

Generally, neither fund covers travel, accommodation, transportation, or parking. If these costs are involved, it is suggested that the teacher discuss the matter with their administrator to determine whether additional funding may be available from another source.

*Pro-D funds cannot be used towards educational courses where the teacher will receive credits.


Teacher Collaborative Inquiry Fund provides release time for groups of teachers at a school who wish to collaborate on a group inquiry project or question related to student learning and/or the improvement of professional practice. 

This fund is allocated for use each school year and the inquiry is expected to continue over several months.

Collaborative Inquiry Application Form 2023-2024 (pdf)

The Temporary Supplemental Pro-D Fund is

  • an opportunity for teachers to access Professional Development funds in addition to the school based and Collaborative Inquiry funds already available
  • a fund to enable groups of teachers and individual teachers to engage in professional development activities and opportunities
  • equally available to full time and part time contract teachers

Temporary Supplemental Pro-D Fund Application 2023-2024 (pdf)

Reimbursement Form – Collaborative Inquiry & Temporary Supplemental 2022-2023


Provides the opportunity for a teachers to determine their own learning goal(s), identify activities and resources required to pursue these activities, commit the time to pursue these activities, and reflect on what is learned, in order to enhance their own professional expertise.


By Robyn Ladner, teacher and BCTF Professional Issues Advisory Committee chairperson, Vernon

Teachers, like students, have different learning styles and needs. Our professional development (PD) activities should reflect this. Research tells us that the most effective PD occurs when teachers are in control of their own learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how teachers engage in PD opportunities. Time together in-person at conferences or in collaboration isn’t possible. Webinars and online conferences are often our only choices on PD days. Many teachers, weary of this format, are turning to self-directed PD as an option of supporting their growth. But where do you start and how can you move forward?

Choices for self-directed PD should be made carefully. A starting point is reflecting on your practice and teaching needs. What are you interested in improving or knowing more about? What additions and improvements to your professional repertoire would best support the needs of your students? What parts of your teaching practice do you want to strengthen?

You can use such guiding questions to create a set of goals or ideas that can be referred to when looking for PD opportunities. Themes and areas of interest begin to reveal themselves and can guide you as you search for and browse learning experiences that may fit your needs.

Self-directed PD can be transformational. It is a method in which teachers are truly in control of their learning experiences, in their own time, and under their own conditions.

Some options to consider when creating your self-directed PD plan:

  • Read educational journals, books, or articles.
  • Engage in a teacher inquiry project or form a teacher research group.
  • Conduct online research of a professional topic of interest.
  • Watch professional videos online.
  • Develop and/or facilitate a workshop for colleagues.
  • Develop and/or publish a professional resource/article.
  • Research, plan, and pilot a new or innovative program for your classroom.
  • Pilot or develop new materials for a specific subject area.
  • Apply for grant programs that could benefit your class or school.
  • Enroll in an online course or webinar.
  • Observe another teacher.
  • Go for a walk on the land to prepare for place-based learning opportunities.


  1. Do I have to participate in professional development?

Yes. Pro D is defined in contract as a professional obligation

  1. When is the next self-directed pro-d day?

Every professional development day may be used for self-directed professional development. Submit plan to the site-based pro-d chair about 2 weeks in advance of the date. There are no professional development days that are designated District Admin or Department days.

** There may be non-instructional days designated by the Ministry or the Vancouver Board of Education with specific areas of focus. These are not Professional Development days.

  1. Am I required to attend Admin planned Non-Instructional (NI) days?

Yes. These days are in-service days and are contractual requirements.

  1. Can I take my students on a field trip or attend a tournament/competition on a Professional Development Day?

No. Professional Development days are defined in legislation as days when students do not attend. Members have worked hard to negotiate this time for their own professional development.

  1. When is the next Pro D Day?

All dates are published before year end. Refer to the school calendar or agenda book. Note: Dates should be posted in prominent school locations such as the Pro D bulletin board, school offices and on school websites.

  1. When we identify non-instructional dates prior to the May 31 deadline, do we have to specify exact topics for the days?

No. The May 31 deadline was established so that schools can inform their parents and community of dates when they will not be in session for students with sufficient advance notice so that child-care and other arrangements can be made.

You must specify that the days will be used for professional development or curriculum implementation, but specific plans within these categories can be developed at a later date.

  1. Where can the staff get funding for Pro D activities?

Refer to the funding section of this resource. (Section E)

  1. A group of members knows that a special speaker is available. Can we have this person at the Pro D Day instead of what is planned?

While yearly and long-term planning is essential, there is a place for flexibility when a special opportunity comes along. Take your idea to the Professional Development Committee and the staff.

  1. Can we change the topic of a Pro D Day after the date has been set in May?

Yes. Approval must be obtained if dates are to be changed, but topics can be changed by agreement at the school.

  1. How do I get funding to attend individual Professional Development activities – conferences, workshops, PSA events?

Please refer to Section E of this handbook. Individual Professional development is mainly funded through account 8120 (Joint Conference Funds). If you have questions, please reach out to your Pro D Chair or Administrator.

  1. Why is there a place for the principal to sign on my application for Joint Funds?

It is the administrator’s responsibility to ensure adequate staffing for every instructional day. This includes knowing which members are offsite and/or requiring a TTOC for Pro D activities. Obtaining your administrator’s signature is a means of ensuring that they are informed of your planned absence from school.

  1. Can I do Pro D in the summer?

All members can do Pro D in the summer. Reimbursement policy differs between VSTA and VESTA. VSTA members may apply to be reimbursed for professional development undertaken in the summer. VESTA members support maintaining professional development funds for use within the bookends of the school year.

  1. Which resources can I purchase with my professional development funds?

You may not use professional development funds to purchase resources for students or for use in your classroom with or for teaching students (consumables, mentor texts, picture books, workbooks, blackline masters, individual white boards, equipment and materials, etc.)

You are able to use professional development funds for books and resources to support your own professional development. Professional resources are reference materials which guide and expand your teaching practice and approach.

  1. I am a TTOC. What does Pro D look like for me?

If you have been in an assignment for four consecutive days prior to the Pro D day, you are paid for the Pro D day. From “Non-instructional days shall be counted and paid for only from the fifth (5th) and subsequent consecutive working days on any one (1) assignment; notwithstanding the