Thursday, November 10, 2011

Professional Development for Educators needs to change

Professional Development for Educators needs to change. I know many schools and districts that do it right. I know many educators who have organized EdCamps to provide excellent, teacher driven professional development. I also know, and have experienced first hand, professional development that is not effective.

Professional Development in many school systems is driven by administrators and run by outside consultants and sometimes even college professors. This is all fine and good if it meets the needs of the teachers. But how many times have you attended a professional development session, just to walk out thinking "that was a waste of time for me" or "how can I use that to improve teaching and learning?"

Professional Development has to change:

1. It should be driven by teachers. What do they need or want for training? Let them decide and even run it.

2. Schools have their own in-house experts on many topics. Use them.

3. The goal of professional development is to improve teaching and learning. If it doesn't address that, don't bother. Remember to always think about how what is being presented will help the students. If it doesn't help students, should we really be spending time on it?

4. The professional development has to give the teachers concrete things that they can go back and do in their classrooms. Having someone talk about brain anatomy and physiology for an hour without any insight or application to teaching and learning is not going to help anyone.

5. Is based on the best practices in teaching and learning. It should not be the same old thing over and over again.

6. This one is from the US Department of Education: "Is planned collaboratively by those who will participate in and facilitate that development". In other words, the teachers need to be involved in the planning and implementation of the PD.

7. It should not be passive, lectures. Teachers should be involved. It should be a discussion. It should involve everyone sharing ideas and resources, not just one person at the front of the room.

8. It should not be isolated. Any professional development should include a way for participants to get assistance and feedback when they implement what they have learned. Follow up sessions, classroom visits, and personal support are needed to ensure that what is learned, is applied properly.

Professional Development has to be timely, effective, engaging, applicable to the classroom, focused on improving teaching and learning, teacher driven, and relevant to the needs of the participants. Participants should be able to implement at least one resource or strategy from the professional development immediately in their classroom.

Discovery Education provides some excellent professional development opportunities, both live and on-line.

What are  your thoughts, experiences, and ideas about Professional Development?

UPDATE: 11/15/2011

There have been some great comments below, as well as on Twitter, regarding PD for educators. One comment that has come up more than once regarding teacher choice in PD, is that "teachers don't always know what they need for training." While this is sometimes true when there is something new out in terms of research, techniques, technology, etc., teachers do know what area they want help in. My colleagues tell me all the time that they want more PD on improving our students reading comprehension in all subject areas.  huge majority of our students read many grade levels below where they should be and that affects their ability and learning in every class. Teachers know where they need help. They need to be able to get PD in these areas.


Free Professional Development Resource - teacher PD sourcebook


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