Effective professional development (PD) programs strike a balance between providing teacher choice while still furthering the district’s agenda, Education Week reports.
Too often, educators participate in PD that is irrelevant to them, leaving them feeling disrespected and as if they've wasted their time and energy. PD that ignores best practices while featuring slideshows and lectures won’t have much of an impact on teaching methods, the article says.
Some administrators, such as Nicole Donato at Big Spring High School in Newville, Pennsylvania, are changing strategies. Donato launched “best practice groups” that allow teachers to select pertinent study areas within the district’s menu of options. That way, teachers are learning about relevant topics but districts’ agendas are still being met.
The “sit-and-get” style of professional development is rapidly being replaced by more relevant, teacher-driven professional learning and even micro-courses that give districts more of what they need.
Thanks to technology, districts’ have a plethora of PD options that are similar to blended learning used with students. By seeking teachers’ input, administrators can tap into educators’ interests and prompt them to take ownership of their development path. More interest by the teacher translates into better application for the student.
Participant-driven conference style “edcamps” are another approach, featuring topics that teachers feel they need the most. Teachers develop edcamp curriculums themselves and often run the breakout sessions. Teachers respect and relate to other educators who are in the classroom trenches. The sharing of best practices inspires everyone and improves the likelihood that teachers will apply lessons learned in their own classrooms.
Micro-credentials, which allow teachers an opportunity to focus on one topic based on their needs and interests, are also popular options. This is part of an overall trend to give teachers more ownership by encouraging their input and to move away from top-down decisions. Inspired teachers make great educators. Giving them the keys to unlock their own professional path will benefit the students.