Professional Development

A successful professional development program has rules, rules that remain pretty much ignored:

  1. Focused at the site – district defined autonomy.
  2. Provide time.
  3. Eliminate workshop-based PD. Boring! Instead: professional learning communities; coaching and mentoring; school and other classroom visits (peer observation).
  4. The largest struggle for teachers is not learning new approaches to teaching but implementing them. Focus on in-classroom observation and critiques. Studies have shown it takes, on average, 20 separate instances of practice, before a teacher has mastered a new skill, with that number increasing along with the complexity of the skill
  5. In order to truly change practices, professional development should occur over time and preferably be ongoing. Studies show that effective professional development programs require anywhere from 50 to 80 hours of instruction, practice, and coaching before teachers arrive at mastery.
  6. Coaches/mentors are found to be highly effective in helping teachers implement a new skill. Numerous studies have shown coaching to be successful at changing teacher practice and improving student learning. Before coaching, however, teachers need to get a solid foundation of knowledge about the teaching strategy. This presentation of knowledge should be active, not passive. Further, modeling by the coaches has been shown to be very effective at helping teachers grasp a new teaching approach before they attempt implementation.
  7. Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area. Teachers don’t find professional development on generic topics useful. Professional development that focuses on teachers analyzing the specific skill and concept they’ll teach in their discipline is not only well-received by teachers, but has also been shown to improve both teacher practice and student learning.
  8. Participate in or establish professional learning communities. Research shows that effective professional learning communities can change teacher practice and increase student achievement. Several studies have found that student achievement is higher in schools with strong professional communities, where collective responsibility, collaboration and collegiality among teachers are fostered
A quick overview of a technology-oriented PD effort:
  1. Long-term view – ongoing
  2. Administration’s vision – focus on skills
  3. PLCs – organized by content
  4. In coordination with Department Heads, identify lead teachers and technologically competent students within each content area.
  5. Define student & teacher needs.
  6. Define desirable learning outcomes.
  7. Develop learning activities:
    a. 10% workshops – active learning
    b. 90% collaboration, observation, coaching, modeling, mentoring, and research at individual and small group level
  8. Execute. & manage (schedule, resource.etc.)
  9. Assess, review, adjust.