Professional Learning Updates

We are working on some upgrades to the Renewal Unit Provider System. Additional information will be communicated to providers when we are close to the upgrade launch date. The upgrades include tutorials, guidance documents, and frequently asked questions. All providers are encouraged to subscribe to the Professional Learning Provider (PLP) Insider for the latest news from Professional Learning staff.

The Renewal Unit Provider System is now managed by the Professional Learning staff. Additional information for renewal unit providers can be found below.

Become a Renewal Unit Provider

Please note: Due to the COVID19 emergency, the OPI is not currently approving new renewal unit providers.  Staff activities have been redirected to other tasks for the duration of the emergency. Educators should connect with the school personnel responsible for issuing renewal unit certificates for any professional learning opportunities. Schools requiring approval as a renewal unit provider may contact us at

Your Responsibility as a Renewal Unit Provider

Per Administrative Rule of Montana (ARM) 10.57.216 - Approved Renewal Activity, "organizations wishing to offer professional development activities for the award of renewal units must receive approval from the Superintendent of Public Instruction prior to offering activities. Status as an approved provider will continue as long as the provider is in compliance with" the following:

  1. Activities provided are appropriate for professional development of licensees in compliance with ARM 10.55.714 - Professional Development and ARM 10.57.215 - Renewal Requirements;
  2. The renewal unit certificate process;
  3. The reporting requirements.

If your organization is approved as a provider, directions and tutorials will be provided regarding the above information.

Apply to Become a Provider for More Than One Event

To apply to become a provider, please complete this form on the Renewal Unit Provider System website (temporarily disabled due to COVID-19 emergency). Your application will be processed within 5 business days.

Apply to Provide Professional Development for a Single Event

An organization may wish to issue OPI Renewal Unit Certificates to participants of a single event. The following process must be completed in order to provide the certificates to participants:

  1. Complete the Single Event Provider Application (temporarily disabled due to COVID-19 emergency). This application must be submitted at least 10 days prior to the event. The event must meet the criteria defined in ARM 10.55.714 - Professional DevelopmentARM 10.57.215 - Renewal Requirements, and ARM 10.57.216 - Approved Renewal Activity.
  2. If approved, directions will be sent to the individual that filled out the application. The directions include submitting an Event Completion Report.


Evidence-Based Practices in Professional Learning

Professional learning providers have a unique role in ensuring that the professional learning provided to educators is evidence-based and improves student outcomes. Districts and schools may ask providers for applicable research and evidence that the strategies demonstrated in the professional learning opportunity improves student outcomes. Additionally, providers may be one part of a cycle of professional learning and educator development that extends beyond the initial professional learning event. The following resources can help providers understand the shift toward evidence-based professional learning for educators.


Guidelines and Standards for Professional Learning

Professional learning for educators in the state of Montana should follow certain guidelines and standards.  The guidance and standards below can help providers understand professional learning requirements. 

Federal Definition of Professional Learning

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) § 8101(42) defines "professional development," specifically noting that professional development activities are to be "sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused..." (ESEA § 8101(42), pg. 401).

Administrative Rules of Montana

There are a number of Administrative Rules of Montana (ARMs) that guide professional learning for education-related personnel, including:


  • ARM 10.16.3135 Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPDs) - CSPD is a regionalized structure that provides special education-related professional learning for pre-service and in-service educators, administrators, and paraprofessionals.

  • ARM 10.55.601 Accreditation Standards: Procedures - Continuous School Improvement Plans (CSIPs) are developed, implemented, and evaluated yearly by school districts and schools.  The CSIPs include a professional development planning component.

  • ARM 10.55.714 Professional Development - The Professional Development ARM specifies the standards that professional development opportunities must meet.

  • ARM 10.57.215 Renewal Requirements - The activities that are eligible for renewal units are professional development activities and college credits that are of a planned and structured experience and an activity that provides "exposure to a new idea or skill or an extension of an existing idea or skill."

  • ARM 10.57.216 Approved Renewal Activity - Approved renewal unit providers must offer activities that are "deemed appropriate for professional development of licensees in compliance with ARM 10.55.714 and 10.57.215."

Other ARMs address professional learning requirements for specific licenses and endorsements. Additional resources related to licensure can be found on the Montana Educator Licensing website.


Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning "outline the characteristics of professional learning that leads to effective teaching practice, supportive leadership, and improved student results" (2017).  The standards include:


  • Learning Communities - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment."

  • Leadership - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning."

  • Resources - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires prioritizing, monitoring, and coordinating resources for educator learning."

  • Data - "Professional Learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students uses a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning."

  • Learning Designs - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students integrates theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve its intended outcomes."

  • Implementation - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students applies research on change and sustains support for implementation of professional learning for long term change."

  • Outcomes - "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards."

If you have provided professional development, please log in to enter the number of certificates you issued: 

Login to the Renewal Unit Provider System

  • If you forget your username, it's most likely the user's first initial and last name (i.e. John Doe would be JDoe)
  • Reset a forgotten password
  • Is your organization already a registered provider, but you need to change the name of your provider account manager?  Request access to an existing renewal provider account by emailing with the following information - name of organization, your full name, phone number & email.

Planning Professional Learning Opportunities

There are many considerations to be made when planning professional learning opportunities for educators. Professional learning providers external to K-12 schools (e.g., governmental agencies, accredited colleges and universities, and approved educational organizations) may be unaware of how K-12 education-related personnel choose appropriate professional learning opportunities.

Guidelines and Statutes

Specific guidelines and statutes require schools to develop yearly professional development plans and continuous school improvement plans. These plans consider a variety of needs and priorities. Schools are required to provide a minimum of three days for instructional/professional/in-service development/training, pursuant to ARM 10.65.101. The majority of educators are required to complete 60 Renewal Unit hours of professional learning every five years to maintain licensure requirements. Therefore, most educators receive the appropriate number of Renewal Unit hours for licensure through the required three days of training provided by schools each year. These are important considerations to keep in mind when planning a professional learning opportunity.

Conducting a Needs Analysis

According to Philip O. Ozuah, author of "First, There Was Pedagogy and Then Came Andragogy," adults typically engage in learning to solve a problem (2005). It is important to partner with educators in planning the professional learning opportunity, as a "one-size-fits-all" approach to professional learning often does not provide enough depth for educators to make substantial changes in their teaching practices. Taking the time to conduct a needs analysis of the schools and educators you want to attend your event can help to ensure that the professional learning opportunity is focused on what educators need most. There are many needs analysis templates available online, but you may find that you would like to create your own based upon the subject matter you are hoping to address in the professional learning opportunity.  Learning Forward, a professional learning organization, has created a workbook that can help providers consider what districts and schools look at when creating short- and long-term professional learning plans.


Professional Learning Provider Insider Newsletter

The Professional Learning Provider (PLP) Insider is a monthly newsletter sent to professional learning providers, county superintendents, district superintendents, curriculum directors, and others interested in receiving the newsletter. The newsletter focuses on best practices in professional learning, updates from the OPI, and the latest research and evidence related to the professional learning of school personnel.


To receive the PLP Insider monthly newsletter, visit OPI Email Updates, enter your email address, and select "Professional Learning Network."

Past Editions


The Professional Learning Provider Network Collaborative

On the third Tuesday of each month from 3:30 - 4:30 p.m., the OPI will host a conference call for education-related providers in the state of Montana. 

The following links contain calendar invites that provide the information on how to log-in to the conference call.

You can also connect using the Zoom link or by calling 1-720-707-2699 and entering in access code 454 817 432 when prompted.

Share Your Event

If you are an approved Renewal Unit Provider for the Montana Office of Public Instruction, we are able to share your opportunity on the OPI Learning Opportunities Portal as long as it meets the eligibility requirements.
We will not post opportunities that are:
  • Sales-based
  • In conflict with Montana's Content Standards or initiatives
  • Not related to education
  • Missing key details, such as a description of the event, contact information, etc.


For date-specific events, please fill out the form on the OPI Learning Opportunities Portal homepage by clicking "Submit to Calendar."  If you'd like to share an opportunity that is self-paced or available only by contacting the provider directly, please contact the OPI’s Professional Learning Data Specialist, Marjorie O’Rourke, at or 406-444-3538, or Professional Learning Coordinator, Carli Cockrell, at or 406-444-0769.


Due to COVID-19, professional learning opportunities may be cancelled. OPI staff will make every attempt to keep the OPI Learning Opportunities current and accurate. Please see for additional details impacting events. Providers should contact Carli Cockrell and Marjorie O'Rourke to remove cancelled events from the Portal.



OPI Learning Opportunities Portal


We're here to help!

Professional Development Providers should contact the Professional Learning team by email:

 Carli Cockrell, Professional Learning Coordinator

Marjorie O'Rourke, Professional Learning Data Specialist