NEW GROUP! Includes discussions from the Administrators and Professional Development groups. What will it take to move our schools into the 21st century? Please share your thoughts and leadership strategies here.

Professional Development

Eric Sheninger Principal at New Milford High School

Throughout my career as an educator I have been involved in many professional development workshops/seminars in which I took away very little from the experience. Today it seems harder than ever to motivate and engage staff in meaningful professional development. Even though I am satisfied with how I have planned my upcoming staff development day on 11/3, I am interested to hear everyone's thoughts about how teacher professional development should be structured. What are the essentials? What are the pitfalls? Is there a protocol that you or your district follows when making a decision on requests by teachers to attend off campus PD opportunities? Are teachers held accountable when they return from outside PD events?

Comments (19)

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Teacher training

Teachers' expectations

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I always make it a point to ask teachers what their needs, expectations, and assumptions are before beginning a professional development presentation. That way, I can make it clear if I am going to address them or not and to point them to some other resources if I can. This helps to cut frustration levels.

Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

Professional Development

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This topic speaks to me because on 11/3 I will be presenting my first professional development workshop (on the use of SmartBoards in social studies).

Because of my dissatisfaction with top-down PD I have been busy polling the teachers I'll be training to find out how much they want SmartBoard mechanics training as opposed to demo lessons using the IWB. I'm hoping that this will lead to a more useful expense of time than the usual rehashing of one tired topic or another.

When I have talked to my principal about the lack of differentiation in the PD we receive he said it was due to lack of planning time. He all but admitted that our in-house PD is thrown together, no doubt with good intent, but also with little effect.

I am sent to occasional off-campus PD. I'm in the middle of a three-session workshop on Project-based Learning which will continue on two days in November. I will offer to turn-key this training but I doubt that offer will be acted upon because of the expenses involved in covering my classes and the classes of the teachers who might attend.

As a result, the PD is likely to make me a better teacher, but its overall effect is spread thin.

I've read of proposals to have teacher PD follow the medical model in which each doctor is individually responsible for so many hours of continuing education in his specialty. This CE is available online, at conventions and in certain more local venues.

I support the idea of individual teachers having the responsibility for their own continuing education, but they must be given the financial and time resources to do so.


Steve Barkley

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Planning the follow up is essential. Without the accountability it is too easy to get back to business and forget the practice that the new learning requires. I just helped a high school principal plan for follow up from a reading across the curriculum workshop. One week later dept heads bring example of how they used it to dept chair meeting with principal,next week teachers take example to dept meeting, next week teachers share examples with cross curriculum groups, throughout the process teachers are asked to share problems or questions.... that is the topic of the next month's faculty meeting.

Gifted Coordinator

Two resources to share on the

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Two resources to share on the topic:

Change Terms for Teacher Learning (Michael Fullan)

Designing Powerful Professional Development (Dennis Sparks)

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It is something I am alsways seeking to improve. This current year, I feel we are getting on reasonbaly well at my High School. Teachers and other staff have been asked to state which PD sessions they will attend (we have weekly one hour sessions and threex3 hour sessions during the year). If they are applying for accreditation, they need to write a short evaluation of each and also a 2000 word piece at the end of the year. It's accredited through the College of Teachers ( Some of them are blogging thier evaluations - I'd like to expand that. Off site PD - they should write evaluations but don't always - trying to get that on the blog too. They publish their longer writing on our private staff wiki. Alos see for more.

I would really like to have each member of staff have a formal PLN - at them moment it's very informal, but that's always a good start.

Principal at New Milford High School

You hit on a great point in

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You hit on a great point in regards to PLN's. So many of us now see how important these can be for professional growth. The question now becomes, how can administrators/schools implement formal PLN's within schools and for specific staff members?

Assistant Superintendent / West Clermont School District / Cincinnati OH

Thanks, Mgilb, for the great

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Thanks, Mgilb, for the great articles.

We changed "PD" in our district to "professional learning" this year. Nicely compliments PLC and PLN.

Here are the essentials in our district:
1. Use our internal experts. Enhances credibility and authenticity.
2. Keep it focused. Stay on goal/topic for extended sessions.
3. Everyone learns. Expect admins to participant fully.
4. Always model good teaching. What we expect in the classroom, we expect of our presenters.
5. Follow up!

Not perfect, yet. So much still to learn, esp using Web 2.0 and creating authentic PLCs and PLNs.

Ed Tech Consultant, SMART Board Trainer, Author of Online CEU Courses

Incorporating Online and Onsite PD

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Many of the problems of onsite training such as scheduling, tracking learners' progress, one-size-doesn't-fit-all, can be addressed by incorporating online training. New technology tools are changing the rules about how training can be delivered– resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness. There is a free eBook that shows how teachers and administrators can benefit from these new rules at

Principal, consultant, adjunct college instructor

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PD in education has always been tough. I have been an administrator for over 20 yrs. and have always found it tough to present PD that meets the need of all staff members. We devote so little time in educ to PD, we need to follow example of the business world. I have taught online classes and thus have developed online PD for educators. I feel this is a very reasonable approach to PD allowing educators the chance to hear from other educators from many different areas. Using Rick Wormeli's books makes for some very interesting discussion. Rick will even log in when available to make comments. I am trying to encourage schools to use more technology w/book studies online and offer free "Kindles" for group registration. See more info

Instructional Coach, Leadership Coach, Math Specialist

The Case for Coaching

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My response to Anthony Rebora's recent blog post,Save Professional Development! (Or Maybe Not ...) applies to this conversation too. So here it is:

As a former teacher and administrator, and current PD provider, I reject the usual cookie-cutter PD for one reason: it doesn't work.

Sure it makes sense to standardize certain best practices, and provide teachers training accordingly. But to get the biggest bang for their shrinking PD buck, schools need to allow for the type of collaboration Caoilhe is asking for.

They also need to provide individualized coaching, which we know from research, including Joyce and Showers' study showing that new ideas are far more likely to be implemented with fidelity when learned through coaching than through workshops or classes. And education economist Eric Hanushek found student learning gains from classroom coaching to be six times greater than those from class-size reduction!

So when it comes to PD, let's focus less on cloning teachers and more on coaching them and letting them collaborate.

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