- Now is the time to rethink professional development and the ways teachers earn renewal hours, shifting a focus away from seat time to more self-directed and informal opportunities, Educators' Lab founder and educational consultant Michelle Blanchet writes for Edutopia.
- For example, Blanchet writes, teachers can submit collaboration logs that specify time spent learning, the learning source, what information was gained and how it helps in the classroom. Along these lines, a portfolio can also be submitted in a project-based learning style.
- More in-house learning can be offered for informal professional development, such as time spent on peer observation, running an inquiry-based professional learning activity to address a school-wide challenge, or running an EdCamp-style meeting that allows participants to learn from one another. She also suggests teachers create their own professional development challenges through QR code check-offs, similar to how some wellness challenges are run.
Like many other aspects of education, professional development is being examined under a new lens to fit new and evolving learning models. Like classroom learning, mindsets have shifted from one-size-fits-all, "sit-and-get" approaches to embrace more personalized and sometimes informal modes of PD. The coronavirus pandemic further pushed the need for new approaches when teachers and students alike shifted to a virtual learning model.
One method that has been eyed for rethinking PD in recent years has been delivering it via microcredential opportunities. This approach would allow educators, individually or in small groups, to focus on specialized areas in which they could gain additional training in the areas most relevant to their interests and classroom style. Once they earn those credentials, they could also then share their knowledge with peers through teacher-led PD programs.
A recent report from the Council of the Great City Schools found the highest quality PD programs focus on: content, support for collaboration, opportunities for feedback and reflection, and personalized support and coaching. Common challenges educators reported with PD included one-size-fits-all offerings, lack of focus on content, not enough coaching support, and programs that are disconnected or not aligned with course offerings.
The Maine Township High School District, near Chicago, has an all-in approach to PD, with Superintendent Ken Wallace supporting the notion that schools should pay close attention to the learning conditions for adults as well as students. When it comes to implementation, Wallace said only about 10% to 20% of teachers use what is learned through stand-alone training, but when coaching cycles are included, the implementation rates go up to 80% to 90%. Though outside experts are important, Wallace’s goal is to build an internally strong staff.
Other recent PD trends include “PL in Pajamas,” an informal approach to PD embraced by districts like Texas’ Arlington Independent School District, where on-demand PD opportunities can be accessed when teachers are ready for them, at any hour of the day.
Professional development is also being delivered in personalized, “bite-sized” portions, based on the idea that content delivered in smaller pieces increases the likelihood of engagement and participation. Teachers are also requesting help with how to encourage student engagement and create connectedness in virtual environments. And in some districts, like the School District of Manatee County in Florida, offerings have expanded to include PD for teachers on the business and operations side of the district.