- Making heating pads for seniors and turning plastic bags into jump ropes for children in Haiti are a couple of the ways that teachers at Bettie Weaver Elementary School, near Richmond, VA, spent a professional development session last year, Principal Lindsey Mottley and librarian Lara Ivey recently wrote for EdSurge.
- The finished products were part of the school’s project-based, service-learning approach to curriculum “in which students use academic knowledge and skills to address community needs,” they write, adding that after attending the National Service Learning Conference, they learned that other schools with the same approach were tying lessons and projects to the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
- The faculty even extended its focus on service learning to parents by turning the culmination of a traditional “school-wide family read” campaign into an opportunity to help other people, such as making non-slip socks for hospital patients and sorting food pantry donations.
While professional learning for many teachers has moved to a virtual environment, teachers do still gather for in-person sessions. Increasingly, teachers are participating in the same types of learning activities that they want their students to experience, whether that’s game-based learning, a blended-learning opportunity, a cooperative assignment, or, in this case, connecting service activities to lessons about local and international needs. Participating in some of the same lessons that are intended for students can help teachers anticipate questions students might have, test any technology tools and programs needed, avoid implementation problems, and get a sense for whether the lesson will be engaging for students.
Teachers are also more likely to use strategies presented in professional development sessions if they’ve had a chance to try them out before using with students. “If we want to make serious headway in teachers’ professional learning, we need to ensure that we’re integrating the principles of effective instruction into PD,” writes Natalie Saaris, a senior researcher for Actively Learn, a digital reading platform.