Strategies for More Interactive Professional Development

For this module we took a deeper look at ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B – Design, develop, and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment. With the help of our guiding questions of What is an example of professional development that has worked for you? What is an example of professional development that has not worked for you? What does research say about designing professional learning? I wanted to know what strategies can be used to allow Professional Development to be more interactive for teachers and staff?

My Own Professional Development Experience

When looking for information to help answer the question I wanted to reflect back on my own experiences with professional development. As a teacher, we are put through many professional developments throughout the school year and some are better than others. I wanted to focus on the positives. In my own experience, I have found that PD for educational technology lead by teachers in my building have been the most useful for me. These training’s have been geared towards new technology that is being used with our staff.

What made these training’s work?

  • The Focus was on Teacher Needs
  • Lead by Teachers
  • Teacher Choice
  • Exploration Time

Each training was comprised of information or skills needed to properly implement our new educational technology. A highlight of these trainings is the workshop feel where staff members can pick different skills they would like to work on from a menu. Each workshop had an “expert” to help teach our staff how to use different features. These type of professional development also always had time for teachers to do their own explorations and then ask personalized questions when needed. This style of PD seemed to be 100% teacher driven and had every staff member highly engaged.

Professional Development Strategies

Ways that Professional Development can fall short

5 Strategies for better teacher profession development Joel Zarrow closely examined a National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education report which found that there are multiple factors that can make professional developments ineffective, these are stated below from Zarrow’s article.

  • Too many (and sometimes conflicting) goals and priorities competing for teachers’ time, energy, and attention.
  • Unrealistic expectations of how much time it will take schools and teachers to adopt and implement goals.
  • Professional development training events that are inappropriate in size, scope, or structure to support learning new ideas or skills. Gathering 100 teachers into one room for a training event will never give them the time they need to reflect on the material, ask questions, listen to their peers, or go through activities to enhance their comprehension.
  • Lack of support for teachers’ implementation of new instructional practices. Research shows there’s an implementation gap in teachers’ professional development. They may learn, understand, and agree with a new idea or technique presented in a workshop, but it’s hard for them to implement that idea without ongoing support.
  • Failure to provide teachers with feedback about how implementing new skills impacts student learning.

What are Effective Elements of Professional Development

After learning about some short coming that can happen in professional development I wanted to know what causes effective professional development for teachers and staff. Learning Policy Institute ran a study to find out that exact information. Through this study they gathers seven common used features for effective PD. These seven elements were PD is content focused, support collaboration, incorporated active engagement, uses models/modeling, provides support from coaches, allows for feedback & Reflection and sustains duration.

5 Strategies for Better PD

Knowing what the seven elements of effective professional development now we can look into what schools can do to improve their PD. According to an article on teachthought states that school districts can improve the effectiveness of their professional development for teachers by following these basic guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple. Each year, identify and focus on one or two instructional priorities effective instructional practices that the district wants teachers to learn, refine, or improve. Ideally, districts should select the priorities with input from the teachers themselves. They should clearly communicate these priorities and expectations throughout all levels of the organization. (Content Focused)
  2. Organize all available district support to help teachers implement these instructional priorities. Our organization believes that introducing teachers to a new way of teaching reading or writing without the proper follow-up support only confuses and frustrates the teacher. (Provides Support)
  3. School districts should make a deliberate effort to support teacher implementation of instructional priorities through training events, coaching, principal observation, staff and grade-level meetings, and evaluation systems. But ultimately, the best professional development comes from teachers teaching one another. If schools can establish a collaborative, intellectually stimulating environment for teachers, that’s a place where children will learn. (Collaboration & Active Engagement& Modeling)
  4. Create a feedback loop to help teachers monitor implementation. Once districts define the outcomes they want to achieve, they should use teacher observations and student data to provide teachers with information about whether changes are having an effect on student achievement. Teachers may need help learning how to conduct related assessments, analyze and interpret the data, and adapt their instruction in response to the data. (Feedback & Reflection)
  5. Realize that change takes time. Too often, districts work on something for a year, then revamp their priorities and launch a whole new set of goals for the next year. Administrators must realize that teachers will still need support when implementing changes in the second year. (Support & Sustain Duration)

These five strategies I believe will help shape professional development for teachers. Looking at what works in our own experiences and what experts have to say about the topic can help guide coaches, admininatraion, and even teachers to present high quaility profressional development that is interactive, engaging, and vaulable to teachers.

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